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Shakespeare's Othello - Essay Example

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At the end of Act 1, Scene 3, Iago characterizes Othello as "of a free and open nature,/That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,/And will as tenderly be led by the nose/As asses are" (393-396). Othello begins with a wealth of assumed history in regards to Iago: that Iago and Othello are time-tested friends, that Iago has long had a reputation for honesty, (for had he lied as freely in the past as he has now given himself license to do, he would have been found out before now), that Othello trusts Iago implicitly (no doubt, when Iago comments that Othello 'thinks men honest that but seem to be so', he refers to himself)…
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Download file to see previous pages So when, convinced by Iago that Desdemona has indeed deceived him with Cassio, and after accusing Desdemona and hearing her reply of innocence, Othello is able without any doubt to attack with the sarcastic retort, "I cry you mercy then/ I took you for that cunning whore of Venice/That married with Othello" (4.2. 89-91).
A long and established friend might be able to place doubt upon a new marriage, particularly in a culture where free exchange between the sexes is not allowed, and a new wife will necessarily be almost a stranger. But why such a sudden and violent response The answer there lies in several places: the culture of the time, Othello's character and Desdemona's character.
When Othello begins, Iago reveals to Rodrigo his hatred of Othello. Othello had seen fit to elevate Cassio above Iago in the ranks of the military they both served. It was a position Iago thought should have been his. As Iago tells Rodrigo, Othello's own "eyes had seen the proof/At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds" (1.1 26-27) of Iago's worthiness, and yet not elevated him to the position he deserves. Iago views Othello's decision both as a betrayal and a trap: he sees himself forever the Moor's servant, and impotent. He stays with Othello only to exact his revenge: "I follow him to serve my turn upon him" (1.1. 40).
Iago's revenge is to destroy Othello, as Othello has destroyed him, not just to kill him; and perhaps to cuckold Othello, as he feels cuckolded by Othello, though via power, not sex. But where is Othello vulnerable In his position as a military leader No, Othello is the Hero-Warrior: his reputation is known far and wide; all who served with or under him hold his military prowess in the highest regard; a stranger to Venetian society due to his background, Othello has risen to a renowned, entrusted rank. Othello is the good soldier, through and through; and Desdemona-a woman of high status in Venetian society, beautiful and wealthy--is the mirror in which he sees himself.
Othello, as the good soldier, followed orders and expected others to follow his. Othello came to Venetian society as a slave, kidnapped, and ended by converting, and rising within the new society, almost literally, by tooth and nail. Desdemona, on the other hand, had the opposite response to her treatment as property at least in respect to her marriage: she simply behaved as would a free woman; she loved whom she chose, and married when she chose. In this way, Desdemona rejected her casting in life as property. She had in fact shown no interest in marriage before: "So opposite to marriage that she shunned/The wealthy curled darlings of our nation" (1.2. 66-67). Does it not hint to Othello of a dangerous sense of freedom Desdemona has not acted according to convention; Desdemona has done what she will: what else is Desdemona capable of that defies convention Othello says of Iago: "This fellow's of exceeding honesty/And knows all qualities with a learned spirit/Of human dealings" (3.3, 258-259). Suddenly, Othello begins to suspect depths, complexities, dishonesties, nuances, that ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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