Types of Love in Othello by Shakespeare

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Through out the tragic play Othello, Shakespeare illustrates many different types of love. In many cases however, this love proves to be misguided or false. Because a plethora of imprudent relationships control the characters; Shakespeare utilizes mistaken love to derail the one true love in the play between Othello and Desdemona. Ultimately the tragic ending of this play evolves from a culmination of misguided love between: Iago and Roderigo, Cassio and Bianca, as well as Iago and Othello.

The play opens with a dialogue between Iago and Roderigo. Although we know little about the context of the conversation, Shakespeare utilizes the syntax of speech to give character traits. Almost every time Iago speaks to Roderigo, Iago addresses him with prose. At the time, prose was considered less sophisticated than the complexity of iambic pentameter. By using this device, Shakespeare hints that Iago may think of Roderigo as a fool that can be easily manipulated. After Roderigo tells the reader he would rather die than not be with Desdemona, Iago says, “If thou dost, I shall never love thee after.” (1.3.309). Iago manipulates Roderigo while he is vulnerable and tells him, “Make all the money thou canst” (1.3.356-357). Iago manipulates Roderigo’s foolish nature to not only gain riches but also to go along with his plan. The reader can infer Iago has been deceiving Roderigo all along when suggests Othello, “goes into Venice and takes away with him the fair Desdemona” (4.2.232-233). However, Roderigo, believing in Iago’s love, continues to assist him in his dastardly plan. In the final act of the play, Roderigo attempts to kill Cassio because Iago,Iago “hath given me satisfying reasons. / ‘Tis but a man gone. Forth my sword! He dies” (5.1.8-10). The reader can assume that Roderigo acts not out of his own will but because Iago told him to. HoweverIn the end, Roderigo is betrayed by his “lover” in the end when Iago stabs and kills himIago betrays Roderigo’s love and stabs him. Through out the play, the reader has seen the falsity of the love between Iago and Roderigo; Iago killing Roderigo solidifies the fallacy of Iago’s love to Roderigo. Although Roderigo’s love for Iago doesn’t directly cause the demise of Othello and Desdemona’s relationship, he blindly assists Iago in destroying the relationship.

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Another form of misguided love in Othello occurs between Bianca and Cassio.
Early in the play we see Cassio “[kiss Emilia]” in front of Iago and address Desdemona as, “divine” (2.1.97; 2.1.75). Cassio explains that, “’tis my breeding, / That gives me this bold show of courtesy” (2.1.100-101). At this point, the reader can see Cassio loves the attention from women not necessarily the women themselves. However, when he and Bianca are together, Cassio refers to her as, “Sweet Bianca” (3.4.180). Although Bianca sees his treatment as affection, Cassio, being a womanizer, complements her to get attention in return. He uses Bianca’s affection to his advantage and asks her to, “take [the] work out” of the handkerchief that Bianca assumes is from a, “newer friend” (3.4.181; 3.4.182). From what Bianca says about a “newer friend,” the reader can infer that Bianca is one of many women that Cassio fools around with. Because Cassio courts multiple women through out the play, the reader understands that Cassio will not have a true relationship. Viewing his relationship with Bianca as convenience, he laughs when Iago tells him Bianca “gives it out that you shall marry her” (4.1.118).

Although the reader knows the two men are talking about Cassio and Bianca, Othello overhears the conversation and believes it to be about Cassio and Desdemona. Looking at Bianca and Cassio’s relationship from afar, the reader may miss the importance of their relationship. Iago twists the “love” between Desdemona and Cassio to derail Othello’s relationship with Desdemona. The strongest evidence of misleading love in the play occurs between Othello and Iago. In order to sort out the adulterous situation, Othello confides in his long time friend Iago. We know of Iago and Othello’s relationship from their extensive battle resume, “At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds” (1.1.30). Fighting alongside Iago for so long, Othello has built up camaraderie with Iago and his decision-making. Because of the trust Othello places in Iago, Othello believes everything Iago says to be true. When Iago tells Othello to, “Look at [his] wife; observe her well with Cassio,” Othello believes what Iago tells him to be the complete truth because of he and Iago’s past together (3.3.211). Due to all of the dramatic irony in the play, the reader knows Iago tells a bold-faced lie to Othello. However, Othello has no reason to believe Iago would lie to him. Believing what Iago has told him, Othello begins to question his relationship with Desdemona.

Shakespeare introduces Othello and Desdemona’s relationship when Othello tells Brabantino, “The battles, sieges, fortunes / That I have passed… These things to hear / Would Desdemona seriously incline” (1.3.132-148). The reader learns Desdemona fell in love with the Moor, Othello. Brabantino believes only, “spells and medicine,” could allow a moor to take his daughter from him (1.3.63). At this point the reader understands the young relationship forming between Othello and Desdemona. The reader views a fledgling relationship based more on Othello’s actions in the past and not his personality as of late. Because of this fact, Othello still lacks trust in his wife. Iago tells Othello, “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (3.3.219). Iago tells Othello that his wife may not be faithful. Because of Desdemona’s past deceit, we see Othello’s struggle between his love for Desdemona and endearment for Iago. However in Act four, Othello’s trust in Iago overcomes his new found love for Desdemona. The reader understands Othello trusts the misguidance of Iago when he says, “Get me some poison” (4.1.206). At this point, Shakespeare illustrates what I believe to be the greatest tragedy in the play: misguided love overtaking pure love.

From the fourth act forward, Othello trusts everything, “brave Iago,” tells him because Othello believes him to be, “honest and just” (5.1.32). Iago takes advantage of Othello’s trust by implying Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. Through out the play, Iago plays on Othello’s jealousy by telling him his wife has been cheating on him. Because Othello’s relationship with Iago outdates the love with Desdemona, Othello begins to question the purity of his bond with Desdemona. The reader can see an internal struggle form in Othello when he goes to kill Desdemona. This struggle becomes more apparent when Othello keeps telling himself, “One more and that’s the last” (5.2.19). The reader can visualize the struggle between pure and misguided love inside Othello. In kissing Desdemona, Othello shows his affection towards Desdemona and how he has grown to care for her. However, Othello trusts the erroneous advice from Iago and brings himself to kill his true love. However, Iago’s words take hold of Othello and he tells Desdemona, “confess thee freely of thy sin; / For to deny each article with oath / Cannot remove nor choke the strong conception… Thou art to die” (5.2.57-60). At this moment, the reader understands Iago’s falsities have taken hold of Othello.

Shakespeare strengthens the argument when Desdemona cries out, “Oh, falsely, falsely murdered!” (5.2.120). Shakespeare utilizes Desdemona’s dying cries to signify not only her death, but also the death of the only true love in the play. By having this love “falsely murdered,” Shakespeare suggests that false love between Iago and Othello has destroyed the only pure love in the play between Othello and Desdemona. Through out the play, Shakespeare illustrates many different types of love. Although the love between Iago and Roderigo as well as Cassio and Bianca play a role in proving that misguided love overtakes true love, the strongest example of misguided love occurs between Iago and Othello. Othello’s trust in the manipulative Iago, blind him from any outside reason to Cassio and Desdemona’s relationshipsurpasses his love for Desdemona. Overall, Shakespeare utilized deceptive love to undermine derail the only pure love in the play Othello.

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. Othello. 1604. Ed. David M. Bevington and David Scott. Kastan. New York: Bantam Classic, 2005. Print.

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Types of Love in Othello by Shakespeare. (2016, Jul 04). Retrieved from


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