Othello: A Close Reading This is an analysis of the lines 260-279 of the third scene of the third act of Shakespeare’s Othello. In an attempt to fulfill the incessant need for comfortable dichotomies, societies tend to be divided into two groups: the ‘in-crowd’ and the ‘others’. These strict dualities, constructed upon the inherent need for adversaries, are often as arbitrary as they are false and based on nothing but fear. Regardless of their invalidity, however, simply the belief that these divisions are warranted is enough to render them truth, having a lasting impact of the health of a society and the individuals within it. In his work Othello, Shakespeare explores this concept—focusing on the city of Venice and the prejudices against the Moor. By the end of the …show more content…
The protagonist of the play is ostracized from his own audience. The severity of the irony in this first assertion and in his sheer ignorance intensifies Iago’s betrayal and solidifies his position as an antagonist in this story. One way that Shakespeare uses his language to amplify the dramatic irony of the situation is by using the words “exceeding” and “all” in Othello’s assertion. These words exaggerate Othello’s confidence in Iago. It is almost as if in this first part of the soliloquy, Othello is still trying to convince himself that Iago’s suspicions could be an accurate reflection of reality. This perhaps lack of confidence, however, does not persist throughout the rest of the soliloquy. Another prominent feature of this passage is that it is utterly inundated with bestial imagery. The first image comes in lines 162 to 165, where Othello states, “If I do prove her haggard, / Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings, / I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind/ To prey at fortune.” Here, Desdemona is the falcon and Othello is the falconer. The falcon-falconer image
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This encounter takes place earlier in the play, right after Iago and Roderigo have convinced Brabantio into believing the scandalous and provocative gossip they have fed him. Othello speaks these words in an attempt to placate Brabantio, who has just stormed into the Duke’s council, agitated by Iago’s claims concerning his daughter. Additionally, his monologue is addressed to everyone present in the chamber so that he may prove his innocence more widely. He confirms that he has married Desdemona, but denies the allegations that he has won her through trickery and that this is the extent of his “crime.”
Identity is a crucial element of Othello, as the characters' perceptions of themselves and others lead to misunderstandings, mistrust, and violence in the play. Othello’s battle with identity is driven by his own insecurities and the manipulation of those around him. Othello is a Moor, a member of a group that has historically been marginalized and discriminated against. As a result, Othello is aware of his identity as an outsider and feels he needs to prove himself to those around him. His desire for acceptance and validation is exploited by Iago, who manipulates Othello into believing that his wife, Desdemona, is unfaithful.
In the beginning of the tragedy Othello tells Brabantio to “Keep up your bright swords signior, for the dew will rust them” (1.2.72-73). This statement gives the reader insight to Othello’s level-head and smart decisions, before he allowed jealousy to cloud his vision. Othello becomes convinced that Desdemona has cheated on him with Cassio; therefore, he is angered and beings to seek revenge for a crime that was never committed. Iago tells Othello “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (3.3.187-189).
When people of one race believe themselves to be superior to those of another, only catastrophe can result. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, racism was extremely prevalent, and white supremacy was much more pronounced. In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, both covert and overt racism, assimilation, and jealous dispositions all foreshadow the untimely death of Desdemona and Othello. Most characters in Othello display both covert racism and overt racism towards Othello.
For Shakespeare’s plays to contain enduring ideas, it must illustrate concepts that still remain relevant today, in modern society. Shakespeare utilises his tragic play Othello, to make an important social commentary on the common gender stereotypes. During early modern England, Shakespeare had to comply to the strict social expectations where women were viewed as tools, platonic and mellow, and where men were displayed as masculine, powerful, tempered, violent and manipulative. As distinct as this context is to the 21st century, the play exposes how women were victimised by the men who hold primary power in the community in which they compelled women to conform to the ideal world of a perfect wife or confront an appalling destiny for challenging the system. Moreover, Shakespeare utilises the main antagonist, Iago, to portray how men are desperate to achieve what they want and to indirectly fulfil the stereotype of masculinity and power through manipulation.
With the laws of Venice miles behind them, the characters of Othello seem to have entered a Hobbesian state of nature where anything is permissible so long as it furthers the individual interest. Indeed, upon arriving in Cyprus, the majority of the characters have lives that are “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes 76). Othello is the perfect illustration of the dangers of rhetoric. Iago exemplified the type of rhetoric that made the Greek demagogues threatening.
This extent of hostility and aggression coming from several other sources in the play was enough to ruin Othello. Thus, Othello’s downfall was more of a result of his race being that the main underlying motive behind the characters’ efforts to destroy him was racism. It is inadequate to bypass the sociology behind racism, the concept of race, prior to defining what racism actually is. The common understanding of race suggests the division of groups based upon the color of one’s skin, hair, eyes, etc. “Although biologically meaningless when applied to humans – physical differences such as skin color have no natural association with group differences in ability or behavior – race nevertheless has tremendous significance in structuring social reality” (Clair).
A fully developed professional theatre that emerged in England in the 1580s had a “profound effect on the ways the gendered body was staged” (Michael Billing, 16). Early modern constructions of the gendered body were “viewed as along a continuum” moving in one direction or the other (Will Fisher, 6). This idea can suggest the performativity of gender rather than its ontological core on the early modern stage. Shakespeare’s comedies may suggest that masculinity on the stage is like “a suit of clothes” that could be put on or taken off at will (Bruce R. Smith, 3). While dramatists of this period question the validity of female stereotypes .
Throughout history, societies have succumbed to the toxic concepts of racism, causing an unthinkable amount of chaos and devastation. While racism on its own can lead to many societal evils, racism coupled with jealousy can create a truly catastrophic force that can only lead to pure destruction. When someone of a different race and culture is placed in this kind of society, this destruction will only naturally follow. In the play Othello, William Shakespeare focuses on the tragic outcomes of Othello, a Venetian general and black Turkish Moor, and Desdemona, his white Venetian wife. Throughout the play, both covert and overt racism, assimilation, and jealous dispositions all foreshadow the untimely death of Desdemona and Othello.
The common aim of playwrights of any time or location is to capture and hold the attention of their audience; this is what Shakespeare has clearly done. The tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, is one of Shakespeare 's most renowned plays. Through construction of intriguing characters, exploration of universal themes, use of comic relief and a well-written script featuring a compelling plot, Shakespeare ensured the tragedy of Othello would hold the interest of the audience; despite being over four centuries old. It possesses so many conditions that can be accentuated to hit nerves with both a Shakespearean and modern audience. The entire plot of Othello is very much like the attitudes and methods of our modern day society.
As a scheming villain, Iago begins to ensnare Othello into his trap of vengeance by echoing in Othello’s mind prospect of an affair between Cassio and Desdemona. Iago begins his insinuations by reminding Othello that Cassio served as their go-between during their courtship through a rhetorical
These two villains slander Othello to the point of eradicating any pity the audience could have developed towards Othello. The Venetians also have a hidden fascination for Othello and his foreign qualities but, they mask feelings with negative slurs. The audience also affected by the portrayal of Othello, and are persuaded to feel pity for him because of his circumstances; being betrayed by his ensign and being looked down upon because of his Moorish descent. Shakespeare also uses racism as a creative apparatus to generate a metaphor between Desdemona and Othello.