Analysis of “Othello” by William Shakespeare

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Othello is a Venetian tragedy based on love and jealousy, and eventually destroyed by murder and revenge. Originally from a collection of Italian tales by Giraldi Cinthio, published in Venice in 1556. Shakespeare took one of his stories, called ‘The Story of Disdomona of Venice and The Moorish Captain’, and used his extraordinary talent to adapt Cinthio’s subtle and long-winded story into a radical parallel of its original to become a sensational, dramatic play.

Cinthio’s version allowed several months for the moor to become suspicious, but Shakespeare sped up the process into weeks to add dramatic effect and make the story-line more plausible. In the Italian version, Iago kills Othello because of his love for Disdomona, but Shakespeare made it so that Iago manipulates Othello into killing her, framing Cassio as her lover, because Othello gave Cassio the job Iago wanted. In Shakespeare’s play, the main problem was with the effects of jealousy between a moor and his wife.Othello’s marriage was already vulnerable after eloping to marry in secret due to harsh racism of the times.

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Iago and his devious tactics make an already bad situation worse. He is resentful that although he has all the skills and experience to be Othello’s lieutenant, Cassio is chosen instead, and Iago begins his deceitful plan to make Othello question Desdemona’s allegiance. On their belated wedding night, Iago gets Cassio very inebriated with the intention of weakening Othello’s reliance in him.Iago then steals a handkerchief from Desdemona of particular sentimental value into Cassio’s lodgings, and inevitably, Othello finds out and assumes Desdemona gave it to Cassio as a sign of their lust for each other, and decides to kill her so she wouldn’t be able to betray another man in the way he had betrayed him.

Shakespeare’s Othello was first published six years after his death in 1622, although the first play was performed in 1604, two years after Shakespeare wrote it. At the beginning of Act 1, Iago and Roderigo are talking about Othello.I know my price; I am worth no worse a place. ‘ Iago believes that he is the best man for the job as Othello’s lieutenant, and is irate that Cassio was hired instead.

‘I follow him to serve my turn upon him. ‘ Iago tells Roderigo that the only reason he is still serving Othello at all is to get his revenge. Iago says ‘I am not what I am. ‘ Iago is trying to frighten Roderigo, expressing that he has the ability to manipulate people by being two-faced and by saying that he won’t hesitate to show a side of him that Roderigo hadn’t seen, should he not follow instructions.

First of all he introduces Roderigo to his plan to tell Desdemona’s father about their secret marriage. He intends to use Roderigo to do his dirty work to ensure that should anything go wrong, the blame cannot be brought on him. They go to the father’s house together and Iago uses derogatory terminology to horrify and embarrass Brabantio. ‘An old black ram is tupping your white ewe.

.. the devil will make a grandsire of you. ‘ This is an example of Pathos, because Iago is using derogatory terminology and imagery for dramatic effect and to provoke a reaction.

Iago uses such sordid language for effect, to get the point across to Brabantio about their surreptitious relationship and to destroy the relationship between Brabantio and Desdemona. Brabantio decides to confront Othello, and Othello confesses about their unorthodox marriage and Brabantio accepts his answer, but replies ‘Moor, if thou hast eyes to see she has deceived her father and may thee. ‘ Brabantio is trying to warn Othello that if she’d lie to her father whom she’d known all her life, then what would stop her lying to a man whom she had only known a few months.However, Othello has to leave unexpectedly and gives Iago the responsibility of making sure no harm comes to her.

‘My life upon her faith. ‘ This is dramatic irony because he is saying that his life is reliant of her faithfulness, and eventually Othello kills himself when he believes that Desdemona is being unfaithful, he commits suicide. ‘Honest Iago, my Desdemona must I leave thee. ‘ This is also dramatic irony, because the audience would know that giving Iago the responsibility to look after Desdemona is the worst thing Othello could do, but Othello doesn’t know that and trusts this man with her life.

At the end of Act 1 Scene 1, Iago supplies us with a soliloquy to add dramatic effect and to attract the audience. His soliloquy tells us of how he wants to bring revenge on Othello, using the excuse that Othello had been corrupting his wife, Emilia. ‘Twixt’ my sheets, he’s done my office. ‘ Iago explains that he plans to manipulate both Cassio and Roderigo in order to get Cassio’s position as Othello’s lieutenant and to break up Othello’s marriage with Desdemona.

‘To plume up my will in double knavery’.To do so Iago tries to make Othello think that Desdemona and Cassio are having some kind of love affair when in fact they are just close friends. Iago refers to Othello as ‘an ass’ for having so much trust in him. Referring to Othello in such a way is derogatory terminology, laughing in the face of Othello’s fatal flaw.

‘The Moor is of a free and open nature, that thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will tenderly be led by the nose as asses are. ‘ At the end of the soliloquy, Iago uses rhyming couplets to show he is sophisticated because he is using sophisticated language.I haven’t: it is engendered: hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to light’. Iago is using ‘monstrous birth’ to describe his callous plan.

Othello is called away on military work and leaves Iago in charge of Desdemona’s well being. ‘My ancient; a man he is of honesty and trust. To his conveyance I assign my wife. ‘ By trusting Iago si much, Othello is endangering Desdemona’s life.

Iago’s obsession for revenge means that he is not bothered that he will hurt or kill people; all he wants to do is obtain revenge by any means required.Iago expresses his lack of respect and hatred for Othello in the following. ‘I hate the moor. My cause is hearted; thine hath no less reason.

Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him. ‘ At the beginning of Act 2 Scene 1, after the request of Othello’s assistance is no longer necessary, Iago observes Cassio’s elaborate comforting of Desdemona while Othello is stuck at sea in a storm. Iago talks with Desdemona about his wife Emilia in her presence. ‘She puts her tongue a little in her heart and chides with thinking.

Desdemona doesn’t hesitate to protect her friend Emilia ‘O fie upon thee, slanderer! ‘ This is dramatic irony, because although Desdemona sticks up for Emilia, later on in the play when Othello wrongly accuses her of adultery, she doesn’t even stick up for herself. It is now that Iago forms his plan to deceive Othello into believing that there is an affair between Desdemona and Cassio.In a soliloquy, Iago tells of his scheme to frame Cassio. ‘With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.

.. uch tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry. ‘ At this point Iago is using imagery; the web representing himself and his plan, and the fly being Cassio, and Iago plans to catch Cassio in his web of lies and deceit.

Othello’s return breaks the silence, and a loving and heart felt speech is said from him to his wife Desdemona. ‘It gives me wonder great as my content to see you here before me o my soul’s joy! ‘ Desdemona replies ‘The heavens forbid but that our loves and comforts should increase, even as days do grow. This is irony, because Iago’s whole intention is to cut short their marriage by increasing Othello’s suspicions of Desdemona and Cassio’s relationship. Later on in this scene, Iago says, ‘I’ll set down the pegs that make this music, as honest as I am.

‘ What Iago is doing is using imagery again, using the pegs to show how a musical instrument cab be so easily un-tuned, and that that is what he wants to do to Othello and Desdemona’s marriage; he wants to un-tune it so much that in the end the damage is irreversible.This is an example of Pathos because Iago is using imagery to add dramatic effect. Shortly afterwards, during a conversation with Roderigo, Iago expresses that Othello has never been with a woman in a sexual way and that he is inexperienced in that kind of situation. ‘When the blood is made dull with the act of sport, there should be.

.. a fresh appetite, loveliness in favour..

. sympathy in years…

all which the Moor is defective in. ‘ Iago is articulating that he thinks Othello lacks the qualities needed to keep Desdemona faithful, and he plans to use this against Othello.After supplying Roderigo with this interesting information, he supplies us with yet another soliloquy, this time to reassure himself that he is doing this evil and conniving thing against his best friends for the right reasons. Speaking about his behaviour towards his own wife, he tries to convince himself that it is true that Othello had taken advantage of his wife Emilia.

‘I do love her too; not out of absolute lust… but partly led to diet my revenge for that I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat.

.. nd nothing I can or shall content my soul till I am evened with his, wife for wife. ‘ Iago is rectifying his plan saying that Othello has had his wife, so Iago should ruin Othello’s.

At the beginning of Act 2 Scene 3, Iago reveals his plan to get Cassio dismissed by embarrassing the Moor. On the night that Othello and Desdemona are consecrating their marriage, Cassio is supposed to be guarding their room, but Iago campaigns to manipulate Cassio with wine. ‘Come lieutenant, I have a stoup of wine. ‘ Although Cassio tries to resist temptation, Iago’s proposals persist.

In a soliloquy, Iago expresses his determination to make Cassio ‘as full of quarrel and offence’ as a dog. Following this, at the end of the soliloquy, Iago once again uses rhyming couplets to add to the sophisticated image he is attempting to portray. ‘If consequence do but approve my dreams, my boad sails freely both with wind and stream. ‘ Cassio eventually gives in, and Iago succeeds in getting Cassio very drunk and unaware of his actions.

Following this, Iago takes the intoxicated Cassio to see Montano, Othello’s superior, in an act to embarrass Othello further still.The sight of Cassio and a few well-chosen words from Iago are enough for Montano to think that Othello surely can’t be a very good judge of character for appointing such a man as his lieutenant. ‘I fear the trust Othello puts him in. ‘ This is an example of Ethos, because Iago is using his authority to influence Montano’s opinion of Cassio.

Following this get-together with Montano, Roderigo follows some orders Iago previously gave him and starts a fight with Cassio, which, in his alcohol-influenced frame of mind, is less than difficult. ‘I’ll beat the knave into a twiggen-bottle…

I’ll knock you o’er the mazzard. ‘ By the time the fight really gets going, Othello is disturbed and comes out to find out what happened. ‘Give me to know how this foul rout begin. ‘ When Othello asks Iago what went on, Iago refuses to say.

‘I had rather had this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offence. ‘ This is dramatic irony, because Othello then thinks that Iago is really trustworthy and loyal, when in fact he is totally the opposite; only pretending to be a friend as to keep up the act and to make sure his plan of revenge succeeds.At the beginning of Act 3 Scene3, Cassio seeks Iago’s advice in how to go about getting his job back, which is quite ironic, seeing as it is Iago that lost him the job in the first place. Iago recommends that he speak, to Desdemona, because she would be more sympathetic towards his situation.

When Cassio asks if she could ask Othello for his job on his behalf, she agrees, saying, ‘assure thee, if I do vow a friendship, I’ll perform it to the last article… for thy solicitor shall rather die than give thy cause away.

This is dramatic irony, because eventually she does die when Othello confronted her and she refused to tell him what was going on.Othello enters and Cassio leaves, so that Desdemona can ask him about the job, but Othello is suspicious, and when he asks Iago for reassurance that all is innocent, Iago uses reverse-psychology to manipulate his thoughts and make the situation seem more unusual and dubious than it really was. Iago says ‘Cassio, my Lord? No, sure I cannot think it that he would sneak away so guilty like, seeing you coming. This comment places a seed of doubt in Othello’s mind, which Iago comes back to over and over, to feed it with manipulation and lies.

Following Cassio’s departure, Desdemona starts asking Othello to reinstate Cassio, by complimenting Cassio and saying how regretful he is. ‘Your lieutenant Cassio. Good my Lord, if I have any grace or power to move you, his present reconciliation take. ‘ When Othello makes excuses, still concerned about Iago’s comments, Desdemona continues to ask when he will do the deed of giving Cassio his job back.

Why then, tomorrow night, or Tuesday morn, On Tuesday noon, or night, on Wednesday morn; I prithee name this time, but let it not exceed three days. ‘ This persistence to get Othello to take back Cassio just makes Othello more suspicious; he thinks that her continuing moans about hiring Cassio again are because of an affair, that she can’t live without Cassio.After Desdemona leaves with Emilia, Othello makes some revelations to Iago about his feelings for Desdemona. ‘Excellent wretch.

.. I do love thee; and when I love thee not, chaos is come again. This is dramatic irony, because when Iago’s plan is complete, and Othello no longer loves Desdemona, convinced of her adultery, chaos is come again because he kills her, then he kills himself in a love sick, jealousy-provoked frenzy.

Iago begins to see how Othello is easily led by the words of his supposingly trustworthy ancient, and Iago plays upon this. He begins asking Othello questions about Cassio’s involvement earlier on in his relationship with Desdemona. ‘Did Michael Cassio, when you wooed my lady know of your love?A few questions later, Iago starts using mocking, almost sarcastic language to suggest that something could have been happening between Desdemona and Cassio. When Othello expresses that Cassio ‘went between us very oft’, Iago says ‘Indeed? ‘ almost to suggest knowledge that he knows something Othello doesn’t.

Othello picks up on this and the pair have a long conversation about how Iago refuses to speak about other peoples business; reinforcing the fact that Othello thinks Iago is very trustworthy, although he is not, and greatly increasing the seed of doubt and suspicion rapidly growing in Othello’s mind.Iago continues to torment Othello, firstly implying and then stating that he had heard Cassio boasting about having had sex with Desdemona. Unable to cope with the thought, Othello has a frenzied fit, blurting out his innermost feelings to Iago. This is shown in the form of non-verse colloquial language.

His mind is no longer the organised mind of an army general, and that is shown in the way that the disorganised text is printed. ‘To confess and be hanged for his labour…

nature would not invest herself in such shadowing passion… nose ears and lips.

Is’t possible? ‘ By this point, Othello is in absolute mental chaos and turmoil due to the over-whelming sense of betrayal and jealousy. Othello is deeply disturbed by the supposed confession of an affair, and though he wants to be able to trust his wife, all the evidence is going against her innocence, and he collapses in a state of utter confusion. Iago sticks by Othello even though this state of dillusion. When Othello calms down Iago tells Othello that he is going to question Cassio about Desdemona, but he is really going to talk about Cassio’s whore, Bianca.

Lago tells us this is a soliloquy. ‘Now will I question Cassio of Bianca…

it is a creature that dotes on Cassio. ‘ When Cassio arrives and start’s talking about Bianca, Othello is out of sight but making comments about the conversation Iago and Cassio are having to the audience. However, Othello thinks they are talking about Cassio’s relationship with Desdemona, but they are actually talking about Cassio’s prostitute, Bianca. Othello hears Cassio laughing at the idea that Bianca loves him, but Othello thinks they are laughing about Cassio’s affair with Desdemona.

When Iago asks if there is a chance that Cassio and Bianca might marry, Cassio laughs very loudly and refers to a prostitute, or someone that has customers. This is a big wake up call for Othello because he thinks that that’s what they are calling Desdemona, and starts to believe that that’s all she is, a whore. ‘I marry her? What? A customer! Prithee bear some charity to my wit; do not think it so unwholesome. ‘ Shortly after these comments, Bianca arrives to argue with Cassio in front of Iago and the concealed Othello.

She is clutching a handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona as a symbol of love, and he is confused as to how Bianca got it. ‘What did you mean by that handkerchief you gave me…

this is some minx’s token. ‘ Othello is horrified, he thinks that Desdemona must have given it as a gift to Cassio, but in fact, Iago had stole it from Desdemona’s room and placed it in Cassio’s lodgings. Cassio, not knowing whose it was, gave it to Bianca. Therefore Iago was using Logos; by stealing the handkerchief he is backing up his argument that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair, and making it easier for Othello to believe.

After this out burst, Cassio leaves with Bianca, and Othello is thoroughly convinced of his guilt of the affair with Desdemona, and Othello shares his confusion and upset with Iago, whom he thinks is really trustworthy and concerned for him, but is actually succeeding in breaking up his marriage. Iago takes advantage of Othello’s honesty and frankness, and when he considers murdering Cassio, Iago doesn’t try to discourage him like any concerned friend would. Instead, he makes Othello more angered by Cassio and Desdemona.’Did you perceive how he laughed at his vice? And when Othello asks if the handkerchief was sure to be his, Iago replies ‘Yours by this hand.

And to see how he prizes the foolish woman your wife; she gave it to him and he hath given it to his whore. ‘ This enrages Othello more still, to such an extent that he considers murdering his wife, Desdemona. ‘Ay, let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. ‘ He tells Iago that he plans to poison Desdemona, but Iago encourages him to strangle her instead.

‘Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed… the bed she hath contaminated.

‘At the beginning of Act 5 Scene 2, Othello enters Desdemona’s room while she is asleep in bed. He makes a speech to her peacefully sleeping body. He tries to lessen the guilt on his conscience by rectifying his actions with himself first. ‘She must die, else she’ll betray more men.

Put out the light, and then put out the light. ‘ Talking about the light, Othello is referring to putting out the actual light, and then putting out Desdemona’s light by killing her. He kisses her, and knows that he still loves her, but kills her because he cannot forgive her for what she thinks he has done. ‘I must weep, but they are cruel tears.

This sorrow’s heavenly, it strikes where it doth love. ‘ Desdemona wakes, and tries to convince him of her innocence, but its to no avail so she lets him smother her in her bed. Eventually, Emilia comes to speak with Desdemona, and realising Othello’s crime, she alerts others and the truth of Iago’s scam is revealed. By this time, Roderigo went to kill Cassio, and he stabbed him, to which Cassio retaliated, and they both bleed to death.

Iago kills Emilia after she alerted everyone of his guilt, and Othello kills himself after knowing that his wife was innocent after all, and that he killed her for a crime she did not commit.This just leaves Iago, whom is dealt with by Lodovico, the kinsman of Brabantio. Lodovico makes an angered speech to Iago, the only one left following Othello’s suicide. ‘O Spartan dog.

.. look on the tragic loading of this bed. This is thy work.

.. to you..

. remains the censure of this hellish villain; the time, the place, the torture. ‘ For his part in the downfall of Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Roderigo, and his wife Emilia, Iago is sentenced to a lifetime of torture. To conclude my coursework, Iago used manipulation and deceit for the most part of him contributing to the tragedy.

Although Iago must have had a highly intelligent and complex mind to be able to control the thoughts and reactions of so many people without his plan being discovered, he used his intelligence for the wrong reasons and was ignorant to the consequences of his actions. His obsession about a position as lieutenant rapidly came an obsession for revenge, and he made no attempts to control himself and his actions, and made no attempts to right his wrongs any step along the way. I think that once Iago was sucked into the complexity of wanting revenge on Othello, it didn’t matter to him what he had to do to get it or who he destroyed by doing so.

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