Othello by William Shakespeare: Illusion Or Reality
There is a fine line between illusion and ideals and reality and truth. This line is easily manipulated. Ideals give the individuals drive and allow them to set goals for themselves. These goals provide purpose to each individual and, consequently, allow each individual to achieve their own sense of personal happiness. Being pragmatic, on the other hand, gives individuals a chance to look at the task from all sides and allows them to identify what is achievable, it grounds their aspirations. If individuals do not maintain their ideals, they will have nothing to strive toward. If they do not recognize reality, their goals and decisions will be misdirected and not be attainable. Ironically, if individuals neglect either ideals or truth, they will be dissatisfied and, consequently, will not achieve purpose or happiness. However, due to the limits of human perception and the abstract nature of this balance, individuals may fail to recognize the necessity of maintaining their ideals when responding pragmatically to the world around them, leading to a lack of personal contentment. Consequently, it is vitally important for individuals to recognize that the world around them may fail fail to live up to their ideals, but they must use their ideals regardless to facilitate both personal and social growth. The character of Othello in Othello, by William Shakespeare, illustrates the danger of what happens when the line between illusion and reality distorts so greatly that ideals and emotion are all that are acted upon. There is a neglect of rationality or balance, which ultimately leads to a lack of contentment from anyone.
When Othello first appears on scene, he is presented as a character disliked by others. He has secretly married the fair Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio, a venetian general and is criticized by others before appearing on scene. As the play continues, the audience is shaken by seeing his good qualities. He is good, and calm. What is most striking about Othello in the first act is his natural charisma and his skill in communicating with the Venetian elite. His speech is long and flowing, using complex sentences and courteous language to convey intelligence and sophistication. when addressing certain figures within the court, he uses flattering formal references such as ‘Most potent, grave, and reverend signors. ’ This shows that, although his primary business as general is battle, he knows a lot about the way Venetian society works, and uses his knowledge to gain the favour and respect of his peers, which is also shown by his discussions with the Duke. Othello also shows wisdom in his clear perception of people’s characters in the first and second act, a talent which will later fail him (with honest Iago). He has gained wisdom from years of experience out in the field, it is this that initially attracts and interests Brabantio, the people of venice and eventually his bride Desdemona. Othello and Desdemona have a love that is pure, deep and vital to the contentment of either party. After winning desdemona’s favour over her father, Othello is warned by Brabantio that she has betrayed her father and will to him do the same. He takes this warning and declares defiantly “My life upon her faith!” This absolute trust and loyalty with love between Othello and Desdemona in the first acts of the play show the true love shared between the two, which is a defining part of both characters. There is a void between the second and third acts wherein Othello begins to undergo significant changes. These changes are very noticeable, and important to understand as they show Othello unraveling from the characterization we had previously been introduced to. The audiencebegins to change their perception of Othello as he begins to breakdown; acting and speaking inversely of how he used to.
There is a main cause to this of course, Iago. Othello’s most trusted advisor, ‘honest Iago’, shows how one’s take on reality can be completely fabricated and how one’s perception and foresight is truly limited. Othello and Iago are very alike, we see this in Iago’s feral power hungry nature and Othello’s rage fuelled spirit of revenge. Given that Othello can read the Venetian people exceptionally well as he is detached from them and shared few similarities, Iago is in a very powerful position as Othello can’t quite seem to get a read on people on a similar mind field as him. Othello gets approached by Iago with the idea that his dearly beloved wife Desdemona might be having an affair with his former lieutenant Cassio. This alone at first plants the seeds of doubt in Othello’s almond and enrages him because Iago has presented no proof at this point of anything and he would rather know the whole story or nothing. So, ‘honest Iago’, to save his own skin, recounts to Othello a tale where Cassio confessed in his sleep and kissed Iago thinking he was Desdemona. Othello is livid at this point and enters a fit. This is where Othello is shown to have really lost his grip on reality and himself. He is incredibly susceptible to Iago’s claims and Iago pulls off the perfect play that both wis Othello’s trust and ensures Cassio’s downfall. He sets up Othello in a cell, hidden from view but able to overhear a conversation between Cassio and Iago. In this conversation, Iago manages to talk about Bianca, a woman Cassio is involved with, while having Othello think the conversation is about Desdemona. As the conversation unfolds, Othello gets more and more enraged, and bent on revenge, communicating this through brief monologues to the audience. A big win Iago gets is the arrival of Bianca with a handkerchief Othello had given to Desdemona as a symbol of love. This, in Othello’s mind, proves that Desdemona and Cassio are involved as that handkerchief was a very important symbol for their love.
At this point, after seeing this reality, where his wife and best friend have betrayed him, Othello’s character does a complete turn and becomes one like Iago, suspicious, bent on revenge, and disregarding of others (women, help, others). Othello is affected greatly by Iago and the facade he creates throughout the play. We see him at the start as a respected, revered general transform into a fallen, cynical, shell of a man, due to the unfortunate sequence of events caused by coincidence and the doings of Iago. Contradicting his earlier tendencies, Othello judges Iago’s character very naively constantly calling him ‘honest Iago. ’ Reading Iago very wrongly as opposed to how he approached Brabantio and others. He misjudged Cassio and his wife, Desdemona ‘O, that the slave had forty thousand lives. One is too poor, too weak for my revenge. ? ’ referring to either of the two, showing his focus completely on revenge. Iago has found Othello’s Achilles heel and made a great impact on it, believing whatever Iago says unquestioningly and not pausing to rationalize his own thoughts. In earlier scenes, Othello takes great care with his speech and conduct. However, at this point, all pretences are dropped. His speech is wild and erratic, and his points aren’t as precise. When speaking before, he made sure there was reason to his words. Now, he places blame on others without reason. In his current temperament, he is blind to considering other options. Othello reveals that he has made his love for Desdemona the most important aspect of his life, turning it into another fatal flaw for Iago to abuse. Whereas, before, when they shared a beneficial, pure love, where both parties respected each other, Othello now views this love as a weakness, a trap that brought him down. Emphasizing the radical change in othello’s character is his sudden change in morals and his position on various issues. His view on justice, once fair, is skewed. In Venice, before the duke, he expected a fair and just trial, expecting the furious Brabantio to hear his side of the story. “The very head and front of my offending Hath this extent, no more. ” This is what he declares, that he loves desdemona, but was involved in no witchcraft. However, when the seeds of doubt and the illusions of Iago are placed on his mind, he takes them in immediately, not pausing to question or rationalize whether Desdemona would actually betray him. He sentences the woman he loves to death without question, angry as brabantio with noone to calm him, only Iago to throw fuel onto the fire. It is ironic that he so easily believed iago’s rumours and took direct action on them when pausing to inquire around could have averted the whole tragedy. This impulse action on the illusion of reality led to Othello’s downfall and loss of his status, psyche and true love. In conclusion, Othello, by William Shakespeare illustrates the danger of allowing illusion to take over reality. Othello faces many tough decisions but neglects to follow his ideals and gets manipulated very easily by Iago due to his deep love for Desdemona. It is important for us to learn from this neglect. As humans it is very easy to get caught up in the emotions and think erratically. We forget our basic personal morals, principles and beliefs and act out off primal emotions.
These emotions, while beneficial to our responses, often result in decisions that lack foresight or logic. They end up hurting people that we care about and while we may not go as extreme as Othello, can still create situations that are just as dire. It is essential to maintain and follow our ideals and system of beliefs when deciding and pragmatically responding to situations to ensure accomodation for lack of foresight and that the best outcome can unfold for all.
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