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The Use Of Animal Imagery In Othello

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    In William Shakespeare’s play “Othello” the use ofanimal imagery was evident throughout the telling ofthe story. Shakespeare explained several charactersactions by comparing them to similarities in animals. The characters in “Othello” were often depicted ashaving animal-like characteristics. Some characterswere even compared to animals by other characters inthe play. By defining characters in terms of thesecharacteristics one can get a clear description of whatthe character is doing or saying as compared to certainanimals. In this paper I hope to give examples of animalimagery used in “Othello” that assist in explaining theplay. The specific examples I present will describe acharacter either as seen by himself or by a fellowcharacter. The first use of animal imagery I noted occurred came in Act One when Iago, Othello’s standard bearer,has awaken Brabantio, who was a Venetian senator andthe father of Desdemona, to tell him that Othello hastaken his daughter Desdemona, and as they speak ismaking love to her. Iago was attempting to instigate afight between Othello and Brabantio, using Desdemona asthe bait. Iago stated, “Your heart is burst. You havelost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, and oldblack ram is tupping your white ewe” (p. 13). In thatstatement Iago was comparing Othello to an old blackram by comparing Othello’s skin color to that of theblack ram’s, and the white ewe, a young female sheep,to Desdemona. Shakespeare was trying to illustrate inhis writing the act of and old black man making love toa young white woman. The use of a black ram and awhite ewe to compare Othello and Desdemona helped inthe visualization of their affair. Shakespeare displayed animal imagery again in ActTwo when Cassio was explaining to Iago that if he hadas many mouths as Hydra, a many headed monster slain byHercules, he could silence the many questions asked ofhim. In this Shakespeare presented Cassio as beingburdened by many questions that he could not answer allat once, but if he had as many mouths as Hydra it wouldbe more accessible for him to do so. Cassio said, “Iwill ask him for my place again; he shall tell me I ama drunkard! Has I as many mouths as Hydra, such ananswer would stop them all” (p.101). Cassio wasexplaining to Iago that if he went to Othello now tospeak with him, Othello would call him a drunk becausehe had been drinking all night. This is exactly whatIago wanted. His plan was to get Cassio drunk and havehim mutter words of hate and disgust to Othello, aperson who Cassio had great respect for, until he wasdrunk and then fed him lies told to him by Iago. Shakespeare’s animal imagery in this paragraph helpsone to understand Cassio’s burden of having too manyquestions and not enough answers. In using thecomparison of Hydra, the many headed monster, to Cassioexplained how Cassio’s burden would be lifted if heonly had more mouths to explain everything he had tosay at one time.

    In Act Three Iago once again tries to manipulateanother character in the play. This time he toldOthello of an alleged affair that Cassio and Desdemonawere having. The affair that Iago spoke of was acomplete lie, for the two were nothing more thanfriends. Upon hearing of this alleged affair though,Othello went into a fit of rage yelling, “Arise, black vengeance, from hollow hell! Yieldup, O love, thy crown and hearted throne Totyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thyfraught, for tis of aspics’ tongues” (p. 149). Shakespeare was attempting to illustrate a man, who wastorn between his good friend, someone who he respected,and his lover. Shakespeare portrayed a man goingthrough an almost metamorphosis of emotions into thisanimal that he could not control. Othello yelled forthis side of him to rise from hell, which had aspics’tongues, a tongue from a poisonous snake. Shakespeare’sdepiction of a man changing from good to evil provideda very vivid description of animal imagery. One canonly imagine Othello, who is generally of calm andcollective nature, turning into this ravaging beast. Finally, in Act Four Othello slapped Desdemonabecause he felt that she had wronged him. Desdemonabegan to explain to Othello that she had not wrongedhim and thus does not deserve this treatment. Othellonevertheless, yelled at her and continued to call herthe devil. Othello believes that her tears are not oftrue nature, and that she is only crying to coversomething up. He believes that she was crying to makehim feel that she was truly sorry, or that she had notdone anything wrong. Othello proclaimed, “O, devil,devil! If that the earth could teem with woman’s tears,Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile” (p. 189). The crocodile was a creature thought to shedhypocritical tears. This statement that Othello madereferring to a crocodile meant that the tears she shedwere deceptive tears. Desdemona, in the eyes ofOthello, was not sorry, but was rather hiding somethingfrom him. Shakespeare’s use of animal imagery here wassimilar to his earlier uses. Shakespeare was trying todisplay a woman, who in the mind of her husband, wascrying tears of deception. Othello had let his mind beso altered by Iago’s lies, that he had even began tobelieve everything he said. This action of Othello wasfueled by his earlier animal-like change caused byIago. In conclusion, Shakespeare’s use of animal imageryin “Othello” was crucial to the description of thestory. In “Othello” certain scenes would have beenharder to understand or relate to if it was not for theanimal imagery related to it. Shakespeare’s comparisonof characters to certain animals is unlike any other’s. Shakespeare’s portray of a character’s emotions andthoughts through animal imagery helped in theunderstanding of that particular scene. Lastly,without the vivid comparisons of animals andcharacters, this play would undoubtedly have been morecomplicated to both interpret and understand.

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    The Use Of Animal Imagery In Othello. (2019, Feb 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-use-of-animal-imagery-in-othello/

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    How are animals used in Othello?
    When he describes Othello's match with Desdemona he uses crude animal imagery, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe he informs the senator (I. 1.87–8); his daughter has been covered with a Barbary horse (I. 1.110); the couple are making the beast with two backs (I.
    How is imagery used in Othello?
    Iago uses a lot of animal imagery to describe Othello. In Act 1 Scene 1, he calls him a 'Barbary horse' and an 'old black ram', using these images to make Desdemona's father angry and telling him that Othello and Desdemona 'are making the beast with two backs'. This continues in Iago's soliloquies.
    What does animal imagery suggest?
    In literature animal imagery is used to define the characteristics of a human using animal instincts and behaviors. It's another way of symbolizing animals in a way that humans can relate to.
    What does Barbary Horse mean in Othello?
    “Barbary horse” is a vulgarity particularly appropriate in the mouth of Iago, but even without having seen Othello, the Jacobean audience would have known from Iago's metaphor that he meant to connote a savage Moor.

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