Othello of Shakespeare Essay

Pages: 9 (3576 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Othello, the villain, Iago, is able to convince Othello that his wife, Desdemona has been unfaithful, with no substantial evidence to back up his claims. He is able to do so despite the fact that, prior to Iago's involvement with Othello, there is no evidence in the play that Othello has been an unreasonably jealous man. Therefore, one who is only familiar with the bare outline of the play might wonder how Iago is able to accomplish his treachery. However, reading or viewing the play, one comes to realize how the unique personalities of all of the involved characters all play a role in allowing Iago to convince Othello that Desdemona has been untrue. Othello, while not an unreasonably jealous man is insecure, not perceptive, vain and naive, which makes him a good candidate for manipulation. Desdemona is far too trusting. Cassio is so concerned about what other people think of him that he is a prime object for manipulation. Even though she does not admire her husband and he does not treat him well, Emilia is loyal to Iago and unknowingly provides him with physical he can use to prove that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. Finally, Iago lies easily and without regard to the pain it will cause other people. Combined with Iago's jealousy, which has caused him to seek revenge against Cassio, Iago's lies contribute to Othello's murder of Desdemona, even though it is clear that Iago's real issue with the promotion is with Cassio.

Generally in Shakespeare's tragedies, there is something heroic about the protagonist. However, while there are hints at heroic behavior in Othello's background, one would be hard-pressed to describe anything heroic in how Othello behaves during the course of the play.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Othello of Shakespeare Assignment

When one examines Othello's character, what one finds rather than a hero is a man most notable for the contradictions in his character. Othello is considered an almost-noble hero of war, but is subject to the same frailties of character that beseech the common man, a possibility that the other characters seem to ignore, with the exception of Iago. First, Othello is naive; prior to Iago coming to Othello with suspicions that Desdemona has been unfaithful, it appears that Othello has not even contemplated the possibility that any of the people that he trusts will betray; therefore, when he is confronted with the idea of betrayal, it is simply as if it never seriously occurs to Othello that Iago may not be telling him the truth. In addition, Othello is basically imperceptive; he only pays attention to those things that Iago indicates deserve attention. Finally, Othello is vain; he fails to consider the possibility that he is fallible.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Othello is that he is naive. Given that Othello is a decorated war hero, one would expect him to be cynical and untrusting. However, he seems willing to accept information at face value. The first time this becomes apparent is when one sees Othello's relationship with Desdemona. Othello idealizes Desdemona, consistently referring to her in terms of purity. However, the information that he actually has about Desdemona's character belies such a characterization. Desdemona has deceived her father about her relationship with Othello, instead of being honest with him about that relationship. In fact, it is Brabantio who first warns Othello that Desdemona may be untrustworthy, when he cautions Othello, "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: / She has deceived her father, and may thee" (Othello, I.iii). However, at this time, Othello is convinced that Desdemona would never deceive him and responds, "Othello responds "My life upon her faith!" (Othello I.iii, 294). That statement makes it clear that Othello at least professes to believe that he would give his life rather than suspect Desdemona has been untrue, which is, in and of itself, a naive statement. To assume that he would not respond with jealousy and anger if confronted with suspicions that his wife had been unfaithful left him wholly unprepared to deal with that issue.

In fact, Othello's naivete about the nature of love leaves him very vulnerable to Iago's manipulation. From his statements and the descriptions given by the other characters in the play, it is clear that Othello is not romantically experienced. He seems to believe that love has some type of supernatural power, as evidenced by his telling Desdemona, "Perdition catch my soul / but I do love thee! And when I love the not, / Chaos is come again" (Othello, III.iii, 90-92). Othello seems to have the genuine belief that Desdemona's love is what is keeping him from descending into chaos. It is almost as if Othello, weary of the life of a soldier, found Desdemona's love to be the thing saving him from himself, and he simply cannot contemplate life without her. In fact, when confronted with Iago's evidence that Desdemona has been unfaithful, Othello does not act as a jealous man would. As pointed out by Bradley, "No doubt the thought of another man's possessing the woman he loves is intolerable to him; no doubt the sense of insult and the impulse of revenge are at times most violent; and these are the feelings of jealousy proper. But these are not the chief or the deepest source of Othello's suffering. It is the wreck of his faith and his love" (2004). Othello has made Desdemona into his salvation, so that when he thinks he has lost her love and fidelity, he also loses his sense of himself.

Naivete is not Othello's only weakness; he is also painfully imperceptive. He fails to see the things that are actually occurring, but is, instead, busy looking for hidden meanings and secret subtext. After Cassio has lost his position as an officer, Desdemona intercedes on his behalf with Othello. Of course, Othello sees this as a sign that Desdemona has feelings for Cassio, instead of taking her words at face value. However, those words are important, because they reveal the truth. Othello knows that Cassio is, as Desdemona describes, "one that truly loves" (Othello, III.iii, 48). Instead of what he has personally seen or experienced, Othello substitutes Iago's judgment and perception for his own, which leaves him vulnerable to Iago's schemes.

Even the audience's introduction to Othello is not a flattering one. Rather than revealing Othello on the battlefield or during a tender moment with Desdemona, the audience sees that Othello is overly boastful, suggesting the insecurity that will contribute to his downfall. Brabantio, Desdemona's father, is coming to find Othello, having discovered that Desdemona and Othello are being intimate. Iago urges Othello to hide from Brabantio. Othello refuses, replying that, "My parts, my title and my perfect soul / Shall manifest me rightly" (Othello, I.ii, 35-36). This statement makes Othello appear very confident, but, when placed in the context of his later actions, reveal that he is actually very insecure. The initial impression of insecurity is bolstered by examining Othello's reasons for loving Desdemona. "She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd / and I loved her that she did pity them" (Othello, I.iii, 182-183).

In addition, Othello seems obsessed with the idea of Desdemona's purity. Rather than having fallen in love with a flesh and blood woman, Othello appears to have fallen in love with the idea of a perpetual virgin. In fact, while the play is not absolutely clear on the matter, there seems to be a suggestion that the marriage between Othello and Desdemona has never been consummated. Othello's statements about Desdemona's pity of him and her shock and fascination with his tales of bravery and tragedy make it clear that he has fallen in love with her because he perceives her as something pure and unsullied, while he perceives himself as something dirty. Part of this is, of course, attributable to the fact that, as a Moor, Othello is a racial minority who is viewed with contempt by many of his contemporaries, in spite of his success on the battlefield. Although a Moor could have Arabic or African, Othello would have been much darker than the other characters in the play; a black to Desdemona's white. What is the most interesting is that even when Othello is making his plans to kill Desdemona because of her infidelity, he continues to speak of her in terms of purity and whiteness, as if he is unable to view her as anything other than a foil to his image of himself.

Unfortunately, all of Othello's flaws would be merely incidental, if Desdemona were not so trusting. It is important to realize that, unlike most of the play's other characters, Desdemona absolutely recognizes that Iago is a villain who is up to no good. Upon witnessing Iago's horrible treatment of Emilia, Desdemona tells Emilia, "Do not learn / of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband" (Othello, II.i, 175-176). However, even though Desdemona knows that Iago is a villain, that Iago has gained Othello's confidence, and that Othello… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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