What do we learn of Othello’s character through an Analysis of his language? Essay
Throughout this classic tale, Shakespeare has used Othello’s language and phrases to portray his emotional state during his triumphs and turmoils. The opening scene of Othello and Desdemona’s secret marriage is soon invaded by the news that their matrimony is no longer a secret. Backstabbing and jealousy has lead to the priceless arrest of Othello and it is before a council explaining the apparent theft of Brabantio’s daughter we first see Othello making a speech. He begins, “Most Potent, grave and reverend signiors” to flatter the council before he puts forward his argument.
Using adjectives and imagery he has to find a way for his audience to favour him. The exaggerated words, “Most” and “My very noble” communicate his politeness to reveal his well-mannered qualities. Such vocabulary conveys the image of a lawyer yet he declares, “Rude I am in my speech” indicating that he is a soldier not a statesman. The soldier-like qualities such as authority, innocence and balance are emphasised, almost boasted by the repetition of, “true” in, “It is most true; true I have married her”.
Othello has used stereotypical images of a noble warrior, “Fearless and confidant” and the, “broils and battles” he has faced to exaggerate that he is still a strong warrior. However his calm controlled and measured state is echoed in the phrase, “Alternate stress”. By flattering the council he illustrates that he is not taking the opportunity to argue his case to the council for granted, “your gracious patience”. In his words, “round, unvarnished tale” he finishes the speech with a short dramatic climax and breaking the iambic pentameter he declares himself to have, “won” Brabantio’s daughter.
Othello’s second speech in which he is still addressing the council has now altered from the flattery of the council and exaggeration of himself to the love for his new bride. The first words of his speech speak of Brabantio; “her father loved me conveying how Othello is blaming him for his mistrust. This is followed with the words, “year to year” using alliteration, which immediately alters the speech to a melodic flow as he tells the council the features that Desdemona admires about him.
To exaggerate the wonders of his personality Othello matches opposites with alliteration, “flood and field” and shows off the quality of his words, “sold to slavery”. Alliteration is again used when he speaks of the, “hills whose heads touch heaven” when describing the vast landscapes he has seen along his life. He uses a clever form of repetition with his audience oblivious to the message by using two different words for the same meaning, “Anthropophagi” and, “cannibals” in order to stress the meaning.
An alternate method that has been used to emphasise certain words is repetition in every phrase, “‘Twas” which has been repeated four times, “Twas passing strange” and “’twas wondrous pitiful” are two examples to explain to the council how he feels that Desdemona is trustworthy. This repetition is used to show how Desdemona finds Othellos stories amazing and her wonder of knowing his secret to tell them herself. Indeed his compliments to his wife are perhaps not only out of his love for her but also to weaken the council’s case against him.
Othello publicises his deeper love when he makes Desdemona the innocent party by placing together different structures of various lines in the quote, “she loved me for the dangers I had passed and I loved her that she did pity them”. Towards the last lines of the speech Othello concludes with an accusing word: “witchcraft” speaking to the audience as the lawyer in control. He is then not afraid to state, “Here comes the lady” using the most ordinary words in this evocative piece and allowing himself to be brave enough to let the lady witness his speech. Othello has to take on various roles in Act two Scene one.
His attitudes can be seen to change towards different people in order to fulfil his duty. His feelings for Desdemona, when he about the vastness of emotions, “It gives me wonder great as my content”, are seen as the sympathetic and romantic half of his personality. The superlative description, “be most happy,” suggests that he would like to hand over every ounce of love in the world. For a brief moment or two the phrase, “too much of joy” takes away Othello speech before he addresses her goodness, “sweet powers! ” to show how her love has granted him with a better nature for life.
His love is even pictured as, “Olympus-high” the mountain of the Greek gods on the verge of the mountain and creeping into heaven itself. Although his powers of speech and imagination for his wife are extraordinary almost as immediately when he is faced with news of war his role alters considerably. Othello’s commanding role is revealed, “Go to the bay and disembark my coffers;. ” His direct orders convey that he is the leader, the one with control: “Bring thou the master”, “Come, let us to the castle” he is sending out the message that he is in power.
Like any true leader Othello makes his job look simple, “News, friends our wars are done; the Turks are drowned” and makes the news public as a true the hero speaking. I have learnt in these speeches how Othello’s personality has to change according to the various duties he must take on. He embodies many roles, from the romantic hero who named Desdemona, “O my sweet the idol of his soldiers. As the play progresses, Othello becomes vulnerable. Also his powerful status as the General of Venice deteriorates.
With the use of repetitive questions, Iago begins to echo Othello’s words until the lead of the iambic pentameter is no more Iago following Othello but Othello following Iago, “Nothing, my lord; or if I know not what” the iambic pentameter has split. Iago has set out a trap for his victim to fall into. As Othello’s status lowers he uses religious imagery, “Chaos has come again” portraying how his degraded status has lead him to think that Satan’s face is starting to show. As Iago repeats words or phrases from Othello they both start to share the iambic pentameter again, Othello: “What dost thou think? Iago: “Think, my lord! ” but Othello finally loses his control, “By heaven, he echoes me”. It is unusual for Othello to lose his temper, as it is evident that he remained calm when Brabantio accused Desdemona of being a witch. Iago has achieved the first part of his plan. Othello’s words carry much irony, “as if there were some monster in his thoughts” and are also true but Iago only knows this as a previous speech made by him revealed his plan and his thoughts were devilish, “Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to light”.
Iago tends to complete gaps in Othello’s thoughts and we can see emerging again how Othello follows Iagos’ lead “Would be what they seem” and “Should be what they seem”. By doing so Iago uses the break in the iambic pentameter to reduce any feeling of security that Othello has left behind. From Othello’s grand and descriptive pieces his sentences have degenerated to one-word answers, “Ha”. One might even describe it as an outburst of his emotions and his confusion of the matter.
As they discuss Desdemona, Othello states, “I had rather be a toad, and live upon the vapour of a dragon”. Using animal imagery, Othello explains that losing Desdemona would reduce him to this creature, the lowest creature on earth. If he is reduced his warrior status and commanding roles may be affected and he could eventually suffer defeat. Iago has manipulated Othello’s thoughts so deeply that his own thoughts and personality are leaking through Othello’s words. “I have a pain upon my forehead here” meaning the horns of Satan are now growing out of Othello’s head.
The word play and riddles that Iago has used to confuse Othello are now the same techniques used by Othello himself. He has picked up Iago’s character. As the conversation develops Othello’s military vocabulary either relates to warfare or recalls it, “Plumed troops” and “pioneers” to convey that he has begun a war with his wife. The repetition of, “Farewell” portrays how his life will be lost if he loses Desdemona. As the speech concludes, “Othello’s occupation gone” the depression of losing his world is becoming more apparent.
The scene shows Othello’s feeling of guilt even before a death has occurred. If the crime of killing were to be committed he may as well lose his own life as he needs her life to survive. From the second speech Othello made to the current one there has been a drastic change. Trust for Desdemona has vanished. To prove Othello is unsure of his wife’s behaviour “think” has been repeated from earlier speeches, “I think my wife honest and think she is not; I think thou art just and think thou art not”.
Due to his lack of knowledge about her actions his anger builds and again we can see emerging how Othello has been brainwashed, “I’ll tear her all to pieces”! he is using only exclamations and no longer recognises the stupidity of his words, “Fair devil” the oxymoron. The view that he had before of Desdemona, “O my sweet” is now a, “slave” and pictures her moving from a godlike being to the lowest creature on Earth, “Tis aspects of tongues”. His description, “Lewd minx” of Desdemona, he no longer sees the beauty in her, only the image of an animal.
As Othello’s status degenerates the reader can see how his evil thoughts, “Ay let her rot and perish” have come from Iagos’ manipulation. The effect has been exaggerated by using a list of two verbs. The use of the verb here is extremely graphic, “I’ll chop her into messes” and detailed. The use of an ellipse is an affect used to separates the halves of the sentence. He begins vividly; “O a thousand, thousand times” but uses an ellipse indicating that he has not finished his sentence.
Not being able to or wanting to finish it he ends in a gentle manner, “and then of so a gently condition! He addresses either himself or Desdemona, “O Devil” here the audience is unsure of their interpretation, as the spell, which Iagos has placed on him, could have had the effect of confusion. Meaning slander or sleeping with Desdemona the two questions, “lie with her? ” and “lie on her” have various meanings and puns which do nothing more then add to Othello’s confused emotional state. From a brainwashed dishonoured man, Othello’s status climbs but there is an arising tension when the thought of Desdemona’s death become unbearable.
The iambic pentameter has returned to his sentences, “it is the cause, it is the cause my soul” using repetition he emphasises the cause, infidelity. His terminology has been restored and Othello’s speech is as strong as a lawyer once more. As the seconds of Desdemona’s life are ticking away Othello knows that if he were to kill her he would kill apart of himself and so he tries to keep her pure. Although he believes her death will serve justice, the strain in his emotions increases as he speaks of her beauty, virginity and purity, “whiter skin of hers than snow”.
This is ironic as his words are true but the truth is only known to Iago. The use of ellipses is more common in his language as he finds it harder to let go of her. The death of Desdemona is portrayed poignantly, “put out the light”. This may refer to her eyes and, in the process shutting them. Her light. This imagery is represented by the use of the Greek myth “Promethean Heath” also meaning light. Othello realises that there is no turning back. Her body is now lifeless and soon he tries to convince himself that he has served justice, “plucked thy rose”.
However much Othello’s sentences are restored to their original standard the madness of killing without trial has proved Othello’s mind frame is still in the hands of Iago. In his last speech Othello successfully deludes his audience into assuming that he is the hero in his original status once more, “and smote him thus”. Convinced that Desdemona is, “a pearl he threw away”, a pure woman for the last time he has reclaimed his love for her. The use of his vocabulary contains many adjectives, “malignant” and “circumcised”.
Such a varied use of adjectives produces an image of a master storyteller. This is ironic as the master storyteller was the exact thing that drew Desdemona towards Othello. As the audience assumes a grand story is about to be told once again judging from the imagery and strength of vocabulary he uses, the real feelings of depression and guilt is hidden. Using actions to convey his story he administers the coup de gri??ce by stabbing himself and watched by an unsuspicious audience, “and smote him thus”.