Imagery in the plays Oedipus Rex and Othello
In any literature, themes and images play an important role in the reader’s understanding of what the literature would be discussing. Some images and symbols have universal meanings and these help readers relate the meaning of these images with the theme of a specific literature (Blue 2001). In many known literature, images and symbols are known to be the central theme of the story. The plays Othello and Oedipus Rex evidently make use of recurring images to reveal the central theme of the play.
Oedipus Rex reveals blindness as a recurring symbol throughout the play.
Usually, the Greeks associate clear vision to wisdom and insight (SparkNotes Editors. ). But in the story of Oedipus Rex, blindness is the main reference to the theme of the play. The image of blindness is famously associated to the scene when Oedipus blinds himself at the end of the play. The reason why he blinded himself is revealed in the lines: “You, you’ll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused! Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen, blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind from this hour on!
Blind in the darkness-blind! ”(“Shows”).
It is through these lines of Oedipus that readers see that the reason he blinded himself is because his eyes served primarily as the one that deceived him from all the truth about his past. This blindness could also mean his blindness from the truth for so long (“Novel Guide”). Though blindness is often associated with the character of Oedipus, there is also another character to whom the image of blindness is depicted. This is seen through the character of Tiresias, a blind prophet.
Though Tiresias is literally blind, he could see farther than others can (SparkNotes Editors). He is said to see beyond what others can see because even though he is blind he sees the truth about Oedipus. But Oedipus does not believe Tiresias and Tiresias reveals to Oedipus what he knows about his past: “So, you mock my blindness? Let me tell you this. You with your precious eyes, you’re blind to the corruption of your life, to the house you live in, those you live with-who are your parents? Do you know?
All unknowing you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood, the dead below the earth and the living here above, and the double lash of your mother and your father’s curse will whip you from this land one day, their footfall treading you down in terror, darkness shrouding your eyes that now can see the light! ”(“Novel Guide”). These lines of Tiresias show that even though he is physically blind, he sees the truth, unlike Oedipus though he sees “light” he is blinded by the darkness that surrounds the truth about his identity. The image of darkness and blindness as opposed to sight and light could be seen through Oedipus and Tiresias.
Literally, the prophet Tiresias is blind and has been seeing the dark for so long, but though he is blind he “sees” the truth about the true identity of Oedipus (“GradeSaver”). As for Oedipus, he only truly “sees” or gains sight after knowing the truth about his past (“GradeSaver”). This enlightenment leaves Oedipus to blind himself because he could not face his family after knowing all about his past (“Study Guides and Teacher Resources”). Therefore the person that before sees the light now sees darkness because he was blinded by the truth.
The recurring images of darkness and blindness are used in the play not only for the development of the readers’ understanding of the play, but also as a means of foreshadowing the tragedy that is about to come to Oedipus’s life because of his “blindness” to the truth which ironically in the end, results to his physical blindness. Truly, these images served a high purpose in letting the readers figure out the fundamental idea that is depicted throughout the play. The play Oedipus Rex makes use of the recurring images of blindness and darkness and light and sight and reveals that the theme of the whole story revolves around these images.
The main theme is focused on one image that is used in this play, and that is blindness. This blindness does not necessarily mean physical blindness, rather it means being blind and ignoring the truth (SparkNotes Editors). This is seen through the blindness of Oedipus of the truth that he was the one who killed his own father, married his own mother and had a child that eventually became his siblings. He blinds himself from all these truths and pretends that he does not recognize what that has already been presented to him by the prophet Tiresias (SparkNotes Editors).
This willingness of Oedipus to accept the awful truth about his past is the play’s overall theme. The recurring images of blindness shown by the characters and the exchange of lines among the characters served as a connection for readers to figure out the theme of the play. Aside from Oedipus Rex, Othello is another play that makes use of recurring images to let the readers immediately know its overall theme. Othello makes use of animals and monsters as images and metaphors to convey further understanding of the play.
Animals are usually used by the characters in the play to compare their feelings and their views about a person or a situation. Monsters or beastly images are usually used in Iago’s speeches. In one line, he enrages Brabantio when he says that his “daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. ” Iago makes use of the monster imagery of fornication to let Brabantio arouse his feeling of anger (Laymopun). It could be seen here that the use of the image of a beast to compare with a human being could bring about a strong emotional response from the other characters in the play and makes it more effective.
Another use of monster or beastly image by Iago is seen in his soliloquy: “It is engendered. Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light. ” Here, the image of giving birth to a monster is used as a metaphor to portray the birth of Iago’s evil plot (Laymopun). Here, it could be seen that the use of the image of a monster or a beast is associated with being evil; in this case, the evil becoming of Iago. Not only do monsters and beastly images appear in Othello, animal images are also used by the characters. Othello is the one that makes more use of animal imagery.
Some of his lines such as: “exchange me for a goat,” and “I’d rather be a toad! ” evidently makes use of animals such as goat and toad to say that he despises the act of being jealous (“Example Essays”). He also makes use of these animals as imagery when he was convinced that his wife was unfaithful. Being convinced that his wife was really unfaithful he loses control, saying: “goats and monkeys” (123HelpMe. com). Othello made use of the animals such as goats and monkeys because traditionally these animals are considered lustful (123HelpMe. com).
Here, it can be seen that Othello made use of such animals to compare his wife to these animals and to show how he sees his wife and how he views things, especially jealousy. It is not only Othello that makes use of animal imagery, Iago also made use of such animal images to address Othello. In one part, Iago addresses Othello as “Barbary horse” and “old black ram” (SparkNotes Editors). Here, Iago makes use of animals to reflect how he sees Othello. Specifically, the “old black ram” does not only compare to Othello but is also one of the themes that is dominant in this play, that is, race (SparkNotes Editors).
In the line “old black ram”, it is specified that Othello is black and Iago makes sure to include the “black” to the animal image to see which race Othello belongs to. It is through this that the relationship of the images with the theme of the play could be clearly seen. The theme of Othello could clearly be seen and understood through the use of animal and monster images. The use of the image of monsters imply that the fundamental idea that this play is presenting is the evil side of a person. This could be concluded because Iago often makes use of the monster or beastly image to refer to an act that is evil.
It could also be seen that most animal images are used to refer to something negative. The idea of jealousy, infidelity, and corruption creates a negative and an evil atmosphere which shows the fundamental theme of the play (“GradeSaver”). Aside from the evil theme seen through animal and monster imagery, race is also another theme discussed in this play. It is mentioned earlier that Iago’s address to Othello as an “old black ram” shows not only the imagery of an animal but also how race was an issue in this play.
It shows the contrast between the blacks and the whites through the character of Othello and that of the Venetian society (123HelpMe. com). Aside from the animal imagery of Othello as “an old black ram”, he is also referred to as “far more fair than black”. Both shows how Othello is always viewed with reference to the color of his skin and that even though he holds the position of a general, it still could not be ignored that he is black and the color of his skin still makes him an outcast in the Venetian society dominated by whites (123HelpMe.
com). Here, the theme of race and the issue between the blacks and the whites, are clearly presented by using animal images. The use of animal and monstrous imagery by Shakespeare makes an impact on the audience by making them recognize the fundamental idea and the tragedy that Iago faces all because of his treachery. The use of imagery to portray the themes evil and race makes it easier for readers to make meaning out of the play Othello. An image in literature is best described as a mere representation of something that is not present (“Answers.
com”). Images are used in literature to present a clear description or portrayal of a character and or a situation (“Answers. com”). In both plays, recurring images are seen and these images served as an instrument of figuring out the main focus of the entire play. Both Oedipus Rex and Othello make use of images that make it easier for audience and readers alike to explore their fundamental themes. The images used in both plays serve an essential purpose for the readers’ concept development and understanding of the plays.
In Oedipus Rex, the image of darkness and blindness as opposed to sight and light is dominantly seen because of the representation of the blind prophet Tiresias who embodies not only blindness but also sight because even though he is physically blind, he “sees” the truth unlike Oedipus who is physically able to see but is blind about the truth of his past. In Othello, animal and monster or beast images are used so that readers and audience would be able not only to see but also feel its evil atmosphere. Not only do these images portray evil but also the issue the issue between the blacks and the whites.
The use of images of animals as compared to persons and to the emotions that the characters have in the play makes it effective not only in addressing its theme but also in letting readers and audiences feel the atmosphere of the play. It is only right to conclude that the images used in both Oedipus Rex and Othello play an important role in the understanding of the theme of the plays. Looking at the relationship of the images and the theme of both plays, it could be said that images play an essential role in forming meaning by the readers.
This could be supported by both the plays discussed because of how each image was rendered useful to the formation of meaning and identification of fundamental ideas discussed in both Oedipus Rex and Othello. Works Cited 123HelpMe. com. “Free College Essays – Use of Imagery in Shakespeare’s Othello”. Web. 06 June 2010 <http://www. 123HelpMe. com/view. asp? id=2953>. Answers. com. “Image: Definition”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 7 Jun 2010. <http://www. answers. com/topic/image>. Blue, Tina. “Traditional Themes and Motifs in Literature”. 2001. n. pag. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://tinablue. homestead. com/motifs. html>. Example Essays.
“Animal Imagery in Othello”. N. p. , n. d. . Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. exampleessays. com/viewpaper/33491. html>. GradeSaver. “Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King Study Guide”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. gradesaver. com/oedipus-rex-or-oedipus-the-king/study-guide/major themes/>. GradeSaver. “Othello Study Guide:Major Themes”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. gradesaver. com/othello/study-guide/major-themes/>. Laymopun. “Othello: Imagery – TermPaper”. Research Papers and Essays. N. p. , 20 07 2002. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. oppapers. com/essays/Othello-Imagery/16225>. Novel Guide.
“Oedipus the King: Metaphor Analysis”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. novelguide. com/oedipustheking/metaphoranalysis. html>. Shows. “Themes—Oedipus”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://shows. vtheatre. net/oedipus/themes. html>. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Othello. ” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 2 Jun. 2010. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Oedipus Plays. ” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 2 Jun. 2010. Study Guides and Teacher Resources. “Oedipus the King Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory”. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Jun 2010. <http://www. shmoop. com/oedipus-the-king/symbolism
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