How is Othello portrayed in Act 1?

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The first we hear of Othello comes from Iago and Rodrigo in Act One Scene One. In a heated discussion, Iago decides to cause havoc in Brabintio’s family and decides to disclose his knowledge of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage.

‘…to tell you that you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. ’ Here, we see Iago expressing what he knows to Brabantio in a particularly crude and disrespectful way; being disrespectful to both Brabinto and Othello.He uses the term ‘making the beast with two backs’ in sexual congress. It is said by Iago to form the idea that Desdemona and Othello are two becoming one, and in result ‘making’ a beast.

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This is extremely two-faced of Iago as he is supposed to be Othello’s trustworthy ensign. This behaviour from Iago foreshadows to the audience how his character may affect Othello later on in the play, and the level of disrespect and slyness we see in his character, allows us to question his motives towards Othello.To also describe the couple as making a beast suggests that this is his opinion upon Othello, that he is beast like and ruins a good, innocents woman by almost infecting her with the label he is being given too. Iago goes on to further describe Othello in his speech to Brabintio, ‘To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor.

’ The phrase ‘gross clasps’ suggests that Desdemona is being clasped and taken by Othello, it suggests that their relationship is extremely controlling on Othello’s part and gives the representation that Othello has taken Desdemona against her will.This makes Othello sound evil and like he only has negative intentions towards Desdemona. The adjective ‘lascivious’ also suggests that Othello is sex crazed and focussed. This represents him as an antagonist who is out to take advantage of and ruin Desdemona, who is represented as a vulnerable, innocent woman who knows no better.

In some ways, this could allow the reader to consider Othello as animal like, with what is described as an uncontrollable desire for sex. In Act One Scene Two, we meet Othello in a conversation between him and Iago.From what he says and from the way he speaks, here is where we can begin to question our first impressions that we accumulated of him in Act One Scene One. Othello talks of Desdemona in a way that is very different from how he is perceived to treat her in the previous scene.

‘But that I love the gentle Desdemona. ’ The significance of what Othello says here is that he claims to love Desdemona. This is the first time that we hear him speak of her, and by referring to her as ‘the gentle Desdemona’ we see that Othello is representing the level of respect he has for her.He also sounds very genuinely fond of Desdemona, which allows the audience to wonder if he really does only have a desire for sex with her, or if he actually does have deeper feelings which would validate their marriage.

Soon after saying this, Othello also insists upon staying to face up to Brabintio and allows himself to be confronted about the situation. ‘No I must be found, my parts, my title and my perfect soul. ’ We see here that Othello is a brave character who respects himself and also seeks the respect of others.This statement also shows us that he is well suited to his role as a general because of his bravery and instincts to put himself in confronting positions in order to gain respect.

Later on, after Rodrigo arrives and he and his men threaten violence, we see Othello remaining extremely calm, ‘keep your bright swords, for the dew will rust them,’ the way in which he stays level and calm in this situation, contradicts how he was described in Scene One. Here we can begin to gain quite a high level of respect for him.His calmness towards his wife’s father also proves that he cares for Desdemona by attempting to keep the difficult and questionable situation as low key and the least violent as possible. In the next scene of Act One, we see Othello explaining the situation to the Duke and Brabintio.

He addressed the men in a very formal manner, which shows his respect he hopes to gain from the men and potentially then receive back from them. ‘Most potent, grave and reverend seigniors, my very noble and approved good masters. This shows us that Othello has no intentions of disrespecting the men, and that he is starting what he is about to say in a calm manner which may help to calm the situation. The phrase ‘very noble and approved’ shows that Othello shows respect and a genuine interest in the position’s the men hold.

The word ‘noble’ shows us that the men are of a high rank or position and this allows us to see how much courage it may have taken Othello to be confronted by them in an attempt to gain their respects.Although, later on in what he says, Othello refers to marrying Desdemona as winning her. ‘I won his daughter. ’ This shows us that although Othello is much more reasonable than the other men, he still goes along with the general stereotype of the time to ‘win’ a female, rather than just marrying them because of mutual love.

We see here that despite the fact Othello does really love Desdemona, he still lives up to the social stereotypes of her being a prize. When Desdemona enters the scene in Scene 3, we get an idea of how Othello feels towards her.When she suggests coming with him to Cyprus, he promises that she will not distract him, ‘I therefore beg it not to please the pallet of my appetite,’ this is where we see that Othello is not only interested in Desdemona for his personal or sexual interests. He shows that she is more than just an object to him, and again continues to try and convince the other characters that there is real love felt between him and Desdemona.

Ania Loomba’s opinions in her analysis upon Othello are similar to mine.Ania says ‘Othello yokes together and reshapes available images of ‘blackamors’ and moors. ’ I agree with this because I believe that in the Shakespearian period, people’s view upon people with darker skin would’ve been extremely similar to that of some of the characters in the play. Othello’s attitude helps to, as Ania said, reshape this stereotypical opinion and perhaps even change the way some of the audience then and now may and may’ve looked at people with darker skin, or even just people with basic differences.

Othello throughout the act is made to come across as very negative by other characters. He spends most of his time trying to convince the others that he is not as they say he is. He attempts to prove that he is not with Desdemona for anything but the fact that he loves her and she loves him, which foreshadows how tragic this play could become if he is unable to live happily with Desdemona as his wife, without the lies and conflict caused by the other characters.

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