Dualities in Othello

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Shakespearean Othello continues to engage audiences through its dramatic treatment of grand and challenging ideas. In the light of your critical study, does this statement resonate with you? Make specific reference to the text. Shakespeare explores numerous grand and challenging ideas throughout the play Othello. One such Idea Is the concept of dualities and the way In which they are manifested in people. In the play, there is no exploration of the ambiguities of life, everything is divided into black and white.

Throughout the play, for every concept hat Shakespeare highlights, the direct opposite is also made known. These dualities Include black and white, good and evil, and appearance versus reality. Shakespeare presents these through the complexity of the characters and the language and plot antitheses. Black and white Is a binary opposition that Shakespeare develops throughout the play. The most obvious evidence of this is In the characters. Othello Is characterized as a black man and it is this aspect of his persona that evokes the sense that Othello is an outsider.

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Desman is a privileged, white lady and it is this coloring that homebodies her innocence and angelic nature. There are numerous racial slurs throughout the play that suggest that being of colored descent Is not a desired characteristic. With the constant repetition of slurs, negative connotations are developed and suggest that the audience agree with the character’s racial attitudes. Ago delivers the line, “an old black rams tipping your white ewe. ” Associating the black symbolism with annalistic Imagery, suggests that a black man Is savage and lustful, and creates the sense that Othello Is a bad, evil person.

Similar Imagery Is seed throughout to align black with evil and white with good. In a moment of heightened tension in Act Three, Othello cries, “All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven. Dolt’s gone. C]Arles, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell! ” The word vengeance has extremely negative connotations and once again black Is aligned with that Image to develop the idea that being fair is far more desirable than being black. When Abrogation has learnt that his daughter has run off and married the general Othello, he tries to convince himself that Othello must have used magic, “black magic”.

This just be so because “a maid so tender, fair… ” Would not “Run… To the soot bosom. ” The obvious juxtaposition of fair and soot and the context in which the words are spoken elicit the emotion that there Is a large social difference between black and white. Generally characters apart from Othello use this racist discourse however when Othello himself expresses disgust at the Idea of blackness, the audience more intensely abhors the idea. Othello name, “that was as fresh;As Din’s visage,” is now, because of Adhesion’s supposed infidelity, “begrimed and black;As mine own face.

In articulating this he aligns his good reputation with the goddess of the pale moon and now that he has been cuckolded It Is black or stained. The Importance of this moment is that Othello seems to have accepted all of the racist Ideologies of the different characters who have constantly been referring to him in such racist ways. 1 OFF However, he tries to placate Abrogation, stating minor son-in-law is far more fair than black. ” This is intended to be a compliment however Shakespeare manipulates the language to illustrate that blackness must have negative connotations for the tenement to be a compliment.

It also is another example of the Juxtaposition that Shakespeare uses to arouse the division between black and white. Another interesting duality is presented in Othello title. Most characters throughout the play refer to him as the Moor of Venice. The title is symbolic of a dualistic identity. At the beginning they are inextricably bound and it is difficult to separate. However over the course of the play each aspect is revealed and the audience can come to understand the dual parts of Othello character represented through his title. Othello identity as the Moor represents a noble birth in an uncivilized, unknown wilderness.

However the Venice half represents his powerful reputation in white Italian society. The “Moor” is an employee of Venice, not a native son. He is the barbarian to many in the ‘civil’ state. Othello is a literal example of a dualistic character, and through his history we can see that ‘he is constituted by different and contradictory cultural formations; African and European, slave and General, non- Christian and Christian, wanderer and defender of Venice. ‘ 1 The effect this dualistic tauter can have on a person’s sense of identity is another discussion altogether.

The paradox creates a ‘principal of wild disorder lodged in the heart of civilization. ‘ 2 Through Shakespearean use of this paradoxical title, the audience comes to realism that not all the characters are what they seem. Another dualism presented in Shakespearean Othello is good versus evil. This opposition is represented through a culmination of images as well as the juxtaposition of Ago and Desman. Shakespearean choice of setting, a part of the culmination of images, highlights this specific duality of good versus evil.

Venice is the reputable, principled city, in which everything is good and that is the opposite to Cyprus, the war-torn city, the epitome of the destructive power of evils. The play represents the eternal battle between good and evil and, in this case, the audience witnesses the ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil. Desman is representative of innocence and purity, an angelic figure in the middle of lies and deception, “the more angel she,” and Othello is “the blacker devil. ” This clear distinction between good and evil, angel and devil is repeated many times throughout the course of the play.

However, while Othello cannot always be classed as the “devil”, Ago never has anything but the blackest of intentions. And through these two stark opposites, Desman and Ago, the audience comes to understand the nature of the duality. Lagos evil nature is explicitly stated late in the play, “My medicine works! Thus credulous fools are caught, And many worthy and chaste dames even thus, All guiltless, meet reproach. ” His immorality is depicted in his utter lack of regard for the feelings of other human beings, even the “guiltless… Dames”. In contrast, Desman is often referred to as, “divine, the grace of heaven.

This image is repeated throughout to emphasis the contrast between good and evil. Reality, perception against true nature. 3 Shakespeare has created a play which deals with many grand and challenging ideas, specifically the concept of dualities in society and human nature. The dualities expressed are black and white, good and evil, appearance and reality. These are treated in a dramatic manner through Shakespearean very skilful manipulation of language, his complexity in characters, the plot and the setting. It is these elements that continue to engage audiences today.

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Dualities in Othello. (2018, Feb 06). Retrieved from


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