What do you learn about Othello’s changing character and personality through an analysis of language style and structure? Essay
During the play Othello is often referred to as the ‘moor’. Due to the fact that he is black he is considered as an outsider. He is influenced by his surroundings and this reflects in his personality and language. At the beginning his speeches are eloquent but this deteriotes in Act 3 and 4. However by the end of the play his language reappears.In this essay I will analyze Othello’s language and see how it changes.
In Act 1 Othello’s personality mirrors the attributes of Venice. Othello is confident, self-assured, calm important, noble and honorable. You could even say he is egotistical.
‘My part, my title and my perfect soul, shall manifest me rightly’
In this quote Othello visualizes himself as a noble, an honorable, honest and perfect person. Even though people might find him like that, you can say he is egotistical. The Duke of Venice calls for Othello for two reasons. One of the reasons was that Othello was a general and he was needed to fight the Turks, the other being the fact that Brabantio accused Othello for using witch craft to seduce his daughter Desdemona. However Brabantio see him, as a great leader and fighter but does not trust him due to the colour of his skin. Brabantio used to love listening to Othello’s stories and always used to invite him around.
‘Her father loved me, oft invited me,
Still questioned me the story of my life’
This quote shows that Brabantio used to admire Othello but now he is accusing him of witchcraft because Desdemona has married him. During this trial we see Othello as a charismatic and expert speechmaker. You can see this in his speech in Act 1 scene 3. He uses flattery, rhetoric techniques, interesting nouns and personification.
‘ Most potent, grave, and revered signiors
My noble and approved good masters’
This illustrates the rhetorical technique, it is written in three’s therefore it has triple the emphasis. He starts off with using flattery to show the duke and signiors he knows his place and that he is talking to his superiors. He also uses interesting nouns in his speech such as ‘ Wherein of antres vast desert idle. This makes his speech interesting. His speech also has interesting personification such as ‘Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven’. This makes Othello’s stories gripping and exciting. This was one of the reasons Desdemona fell in love with him. An example of his cleverness and excellent speech making techniques is;
‘ …………………………Rude I am in speech
And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace’.
This is clever ,as he is using contradiction in his speech. Even though he says he is ‘Rude in speech’ the choice of his word and poetic language contradicts this. He also reminds them that ‘ these arms of mine had seven years’ of pith’, he is cleverly reminding them of all the wars he has fought on behalf of them and their country. Othello uses iambic pentameter during his speech. This means he uses 5 beats, 10 syllables and that he is calm assured and confident. During Othello’s speech we see that although Brabantino sees Othello,as a great leader he does not trust him when it comes to his daughter.
He feels that Othello does not fit into the society and that he has used witchcraft as he is from another culture, ‘ thou hast enchanted her…with drugs or minerals’. He is accusing Othello of using magic and ‘drugs’ to seduce and win his daughter. He also believes that Othello has used witchcraft because he does not believe that Desdemona could ‘ Run from her guardage to a sooty bosom’.
During Act 2 the scene moves from Venice to Cyprus. Cyprus reflects chaos and disorder, which is the opposite of Venice. Othello is at his highest point here. He has just won a war with the Turks without lifting a finger and he is reunited with is one true love Desdemona. For the first time you can see Othello’s love and feeling for Desdemona, he calls her ‘my fair warrior’, ‘O, sweet’ and ‘Honey’.
‘If it were now to die
T’were now to be most happy’
This tells us how content and happy he is and his feelings toward Desdemona. He really loves her and you can see the extremes of his happiness. We can also see that Othello is very emotional as well. This indicates that his being really emotional and happy might lead to downfall.
Othello decline starts in Act 3. Iago, manages to manipulate Othello, his language deteriorates
in this Act. His language changes from an iambic pentameter to shared lines. He no longer uses poetic and charismatic language he uses strong and hellish language. ‘Death and damnation’, I’ll tear her to pieces’ and ‘perdition catch my soul’. He is using strong and hellish words, his beautiful language is lost in all that hate and anger. This is due to the fact that Iago has convinced Othello that Desdemona has been corrupted. This is ironic, he is the one that has been corrupted by Iago not Desdemona. He is threatening to kill Desdemona. Othello is confused and you feel pathos for him.
‘ I think my wife be honest, and think her not
I think thou art just and think thou art not’
Othello is confused he does not know whether to believe Iago or not. He is in two minds, one minute he thinks Iago is true the other he is not. Othello still loves Desdemona but also trusts Iago. He asks Iago to ‘prove my love is a whore’, in hope that it will sort it out. You can also see reputation means everything to him. You can tell he is an idealist, he wants everything at the level of perfection almost like himself and he does not like flaws in people’s reputations. However him being corrupted means he is not as perfect as he would like to think.
‘Her name that was as fresh as Dian’s visage is now
Begrimed and black.’
This basically means that her reputation that was completely pure is now dirty and black due to this accusation. He no longer calls her ‘O, sweet’ he calls her ‘Fair devil’, ‘lewed minx’ and ‘whore’, which tells you that he believes Iago over Desdemona, even though he said ‘My life upon her faith’ in Act 1 this means he does not know himself completely. Othello also has a soliloquy in this Act, this is the first time he has one this means he is confused and no longer speaks his mind as he did in the previous Acts. During this soliloquy Othello doubt his marriage regrets the fact that he is black and he also doubt in himself. ‘Haply I am black’, ‘ I am declined into the vale of years’ and ‘O curse of marriage’. You can tell he is no longer self-assured and confident as he once was.
In Act 4 Othello becomes violent, evil and savage, which is what Brabantio accused him of in Act 1. As Othello is a soldier he is used to solving problems with violence, and that is exactly how he deals with this problem ‘I’ll chop her into messes..’, ‘ Hang her’ and ‘let her rot and perish and be damned tonight’. He is highly confused and is easily controlled by Iago. Even though Othello hates Desdemona, there are times where you can see he still loves her.
‘Hang her, I do but say she is; delicate with her
Needle, an admirable musician……..’
In this quote you can see that Othello hates her but at the same time loves her. His mind rages from one extreme to the other. Othello is in extremes of emotions and he has lost his control. He also experiences a fit where he looses his language completely for a little while.
‘ My lord is fallen into epilepsy.
This is his second fit; he had one yesterday.’
This quote shows the extent to which Iago as corrupted Othello. Othello who once was a great speechmaker is loosing his speech.
Othello’s poetry returns in Act 5. He is speaking in blank verse once again. Othello uses beautiful and descriptive words during his soliloquy, while looking at the beautiful, sleeping Desdemona. We find Iago does poison Othello’s mind but he can’t break his love for Desdemona. We see Desdemona asleep and at her most innocence.
‘…………………Yet I’ll not shed her blood
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow
And smooth as monumental alabaster-‘
These words used by Othello show us the purity of Desdemona. We can see that Desdemona brings out the good side of Othello. He describes how pure she looks by using the words ‘whither skin of her than snow’ and ‘ as smooth as monumental alabaster.’ This describers he fairness and purity which he sees in her while she is asleep. As soon as Othello sees Desdemona asleep his poetry returns and he compares her to a ‘Rose’, ‘monumental alabaster’ and he also calls her ‘cunning’st pattern of excelling nature’. This contrasts with what he was calling her in Act 3as he was calling her a ‘strumpet’, ‘whore’ and ‘whore of Venice’. Another factor that tells us that he still loves her is the fact he could not stop kissing her.
‘……………..One more, and this the last.
So sweet was ne’er so fatal. I must weep.’
He also says ‘I will kill thee and love thee after.’ This means Othello is still in love with Desdemona but is killing her because of his pride, which means a lot to him. Before killing, Desdemona, Othello acts like a priest and uses legal language aswell. He acts like a priest by saying ‘Have you prayed tonight Desdemona?’. It’s as if he is concerned about Desdemona’s spirit, he does not want her to burn in hell forever. He has twisted love for her, he wants to kill her but he wants her soul to go to heaven.
Othello is acting arrogant by doing this, as he seems to be saying even though you are going to be killed by me, I don’t want you to rot in hell. He is trying to himself forward as a good man. Another example of his arrogance is that he uses legal language such as, ‘perjury’, ‘confess’, ‘conception’ and ‘articles’. He feels he represents the embodiment of justice and that he is in control. He also thinks he is doing the right thing and this is another example of him having a big ego. He is stubborn and believes Desdemona is really corrupted when it is him who is corrupted.
When Othello finds out about Iago’s plan, his language returns to iambic pentameter. Othello reappears as the great, heroic speaker and the poetic storyteller, although he is more sombre now. Othello sees himself as an ‘honourable murderer’. Othello is egotistical as he sees him self as a romantic, glamorous, and even a tragic hero.
‘……………………………..Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well
Of one not easily jealous but being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme;’
Othello speaks as if he is writing his own obituary. Again he is trying to restore his reputation by trying to make them see him as an equitable individual. Some parts of his final speech reflect his speech in Act 1, like
‘ I have done the state some service’. He is saying this so people remember him as a good person. Also so people remember him for not just killing Desdemona but for the good things he has done as well. Even now Othello is concerned with what people might think and say as he remarks
‘Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate
Nor set down aught in malice’
We can see Othello still has pride and gives it number one priority. Before Othello dies he says his final words which uses lyrical poetry,
‘ I kiss thee ere I killed thee: no way but this,
Killing my self, to die upon a kiss.’
His words are symmetrical and have rhetorical technique. Once again we see that it is Desdemona that bring beauty in his language. Now that he has found out that Desdemona was innocent his beautiful language has returned to him. This shows Desdemona is the beauty in his language.
We can learn a lot about Othello’s changing character and personality through an analysis of his language. Othello tends to mirror the attributes of his surroundings. He is a completely different person in Venice than in Cyprus. We could almost say he does not know himself well. Othello is an egotistical and arrogant person and this can be seen through out the play.