Othello, the Moor of Venice
December 13, 1999
Iago (Othellos ensign) uses love against Othello (general of the Venetian army) to cause him to experience jealousy. He not only utilizes the Moors love for Desdemona, but also his love for Iago and their friendship My lord, you know I love you(1.3.117) Funny enough, Iago gives warning to Othello of the very negative emotion that he hopes to inflict upon him! (1.3.166).Oh beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyd monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on
The first time that Iagos plan is seen is (3.3.33). Iago: Ha! I like not that! Othello: What dost thou say? Iago: Nothing my lord: or if-Know not what. Othello: Was not that Cassio parted from my wife? Iago: Cassio, my lord! No, sure, I cannot think it, that would steal away so guilty-like, seeing you coming. He continues his manipulating of his friend (3.3.95). Iago: Did Michael Cassio, when you wood my lady, know of your love? Othello: He did, from first too last: why dost thou ask? Iago: But for a satisfaction of my thought; no further harm. Othello: Why of thy thought, Iago? Iago: I did not think he had been aquatinted with her. Othello: O, yes; and went between us very oft. See how he makes it almost seem as though Othello discovered this out on his own and Iago seems as a mere friend when the find is made. Iagos true nature is seen at this point.
Iago refers to himself as a devil, but to say that he is bad because he is bad doesnt explain why he is repeatedly explains himself to himself. Your honest friend is one who is always there for you and who will always tell you the truth. Iago has a reputation for honesty and uses it for dishonest purposes. His nature is ugly in the way that compares others to animals, especially when referring to their sexuality. Othello is a military man who is often looked at with respect in this category. However, when taken away from the military eye where he offers so much safety, he is constantly mentioned by his color in a degrading way. Brabantio, Desdemonas father uses Moor as a derogatory name for Othello, but Othello is called other things, including my lord and general. After the first two scenes of the play, Othellos color is rarely mentioned, so we may forget that when the play is seen Othellos blackness always makes him different from everyone else. Reference to him as the Moor emphasized that difference, but it is emphasized in other ways, as well. He is strong and firm in character but also has a loving side where Desdemona ( Othellos wife, Brabantios daughter) comes into play. He came from a loving mother and father which was mentioned in the importance of the handkerchief In Shakespeares time obedience was though to be one of a womans primary values, and Desdemona thinks herself to be as obedient, but as in the case with her father, she seems to have her own interpretation of what that means. She is beautiful, both in body and spirit. Its not something she mentions, or even seems to be aware of, buy it affects how others treat her and think of her. Desdemona spends much of her time making a case, for herself, for Cassio, and finally for Othello.
Iagos devilish character is seen throughout the play. Towards the end of scene two in which Iago brings about Cassios downfall, he persuades Cassio to appeal to Desdemona, and plans to make Othello believe that Caossio and Desdemona are having an affair. Then he says, By the mass, tis morning;Pleasure and action make the hours seem short (2.3.378-379). In other words, hes been having so much fun during his busy night, so the time has just flown by. In the last scene of the play, after Iagos treachery has been proven, Othello says to Lodovico, Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devilWhy he hath thus ensnared my soul and body? (5.2.300-302). Iagos reply is famous. He says, Demand me nothing: what you know , you know:From this time forth I never will speak word. (5.2.303-304). Iago is ready and willing to explain himself to Othello,Roderigo, and to us. So then why does he choose to silence himself now? Maybe he cant think of another lie.
In the characterization of Othello, no one describes him best than his wife and unfortunate victim. In the Venetian Senate, Othello tells the story of how he and Desdemona fell in love. Brabantio urges that Othello used magic and drugs on Desdemona, and that she be brought to testify; he says to her, Do you perceive in all this noble companyWhere most you owe obedience? (1.3.179-180). In reply, Desdemona affirms her duty to her father, who gave her life and education, but asserts that she has a higher duty to Othello, because he is her husband. She says, My noble father, I do perceive here a divided duty: To you I am bound for life and education; My life and education both do learn me how to respect you; you are the lord of duty; I am hitherto your daughter: but heres my husband, and so much duty as my mother showd to you, preferring you before her father, so much I challenge that I may profess due to the Moor, my lord. (1.3.180-189). Further in the act, she says, My hearts subdued even to the very quality of my lord: Saw Othellos visage in his mind, and to his honor and his valiant parts did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. (1.3.250-254). Subdued means in harmony with and Othellos quality is both his character and his profession as a warrior. Desdemona asserting that she is very much like her husband and belongs with him, even in war. She shows tat she understands and rejects the bigotry that is directed at him. A persons visage is his face, and she understands that most Europeans consider black to be ugly, but she saw past his face to his honor and courage, which she adores. Her charter is well described here as beautiful both inside and out.
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