Shakespeare’s play, Othello, deeply explores the effects of jealousy on a person. Shakespeare also portrays the different types of jealousy and alludes to the causes of them. Othello is a tragic play written by William Shakespeare around 1603, about a man, Iago, who plots to take revenge on a Moorish soldier, Othello, for he has “done my (Iago’s) office”. The deaths of several people, including Othello’s wife Desdemona, Iago’s wife Emilia, Othello and Iago’s companion Roderigo, were all directly linked to Iago’s actions. Othello illustrates that jealousy often leads to revenge, jealousy can prevent a successful relationship, and jealousy leading to one’s downfall.
The animalization of Othello by Iago because of his race is ironic because, as pinpointed in an article by Alexander G. Gonzalez, Iago takes advantage of Othello’s vulnerability by surpassing his own animalistic identity. Within Iago is a dangerous creature, “like a beast”, wildly obsessed with sex (Gonzalez
He thinks of himself as no one, someone on the periphery of social and political power. Furthermore, he also believes that being black will impact his interactions with people, especially his relationship with Desdemona. The critics who believe that Othello’s skin color is important for the character and for the interpretation of the play also suggest that this is in fact the reason why he experiences lack of confidence. Racism is a powerful issue as Shakespeare presents the color and ethnicities as social constructs that can be made to havoc with one’s own sense of self. The author shaped his character in that way in order to assert that race and implications of being an individual in the position of power push Othello’s into his own self-destruction nature rooted in doubt and fear.
William Shakespeare, the 16th to 17th century English playwright, dwelt on themes dealing with human nature: love, hate, power, jealousy, humour, discrimination and self-respect. He made the often-quoted observation that “our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we might oft win by fearing to attempt”, voicing the danger of doubt which could ultimately lead to loss of self-esteem. In his play, Othello, the moor, who was perceived as a courageous military hero, met his downfall due to the erosion of his self-esteem, and as a result, tragedy ensued. In the play, Othello trusted Iago unconditionally, to the extent that he came to seriously question himself and the trustworthiness of Desdemona, his wife, whom he genuinely cared
The plot most definitely includes racist characters and racial undertones, initially, but soon proves itself to be a typical heroic tragedy, not unlike other Shakespearean plays. Although Othello, was written during a time where racial minorities were entirely ignored and deemed irrelevant by the majority of society, race has nothing to do with the tragic outcomes of the play as a whole; the story could just as well have been told if Othello were a white man. Shakespeare, being way ahead of his time ethically, portrayed a black man, Othello, as educated and valiant. Contrasting the overwhelming beliefs of his time, he wrote the plot establishing white man as the enemy, rather than the minority. Iago, a white man, went against and betrayed his leader, Othello, essentially giving “The Moor” the power in the story.
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
As a tragic hero, Othello must have a high position to fall from, but his high position must not keep him from being likeable. He must be noble in position and personality. The audience must be able to recognize his humanity, feel sympathy for him, in order to experience the catharsis a tragedy offers. When Othello is forced to defend himself before the duke and senators against Brabantio’s accusation that he used witchcraft to seduce Desdemona, his noble personality is clearly established. Details of his speech, specifically diction, syntax, repetition, imagery, and figurative language, characterize Othello as noble, one worthy of both admiration and sympathy.
Humans often destruct themselves as a result of the stress they experience from an intense self-conflict or multiple self-conflicts. This stress with-in themselves is caused by a struggle in their confidence and self identity as a person. William Shakespeare brings this idea of self-destruction and self identity to reality using his play Othello. In this narrative the preeminent character faces the challenge of being a black male who becomes a high ranking military official in the army during a 16th century Italy. Even though the senate entrusts him with a powerful position, he still struggles with his self identity as a leader, a husband, and as a black man.
The play Othello is, at its core, a tragedy defined by the weakness of men and their complete vulnerableness to an (imaginary) anxiety over women, the male characters presented in the play present men in a degrading way. Men in the play view women’s value as reliant on how effectively they meet gender role because of this they see women as objects and extension of themselves. When women behave in a ‘not appropriate way’, it tears away the manhood of each character. Men crippled by this fear, turn into monsters swept away by their vicious jealousy. In this day and age, these inaccurate depictions of men help to continue the cycle of sexism by telling boys that machismo and hyper-masculinity are things to be desired.
In Cohen’s elucidation of Othello, he comments on the strong and prominent theme of white supremacy. Othello has pushed aside most, if not all, of his cultural characteristics in favor of adopting Venetian traits. He does this as a way to earn back some respect that he lost because of his skin color. Throughout the whole play, Othello is the victim of racial slurs that would demand serious punishment if they were directed at a white man. Cohen contradicts himself in this article when he says that Othello’s suicide “proclaims the triumph of the white civilization”(325) while demeaning himself, but then comments on how Othello reasserts his value with a simple statement.