Othello, the noble Moor of the Venetian state
Othello, the noble Moor of the Venetian state, is the plays protagonist and is of central focus throughout the course of the play. Othello is powerful character by nature and uses his hierarchal position as the general of the armies of Venice to rule with pride and integrity, all those close to him are respectful of his status and are humbly invigorated by his stature as a warrior. The extent of Othello’s importance to the Venetian army , with which he holds true with firm allegiance, is first supported by his arch enemy and antagonist, Iago, who mutters: “With safety cast him”.
I. i. 147).
Clearly Othello has some influence as military character and further more his capabilities as a warrior are trusted by his fellow colleagues. “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them”. (I. ii. 59). At this point Shakespeare appeals to Othello at the height of his power. He illuminates his positive character traits portrayed in his eloquence, his moral strength, and kind disposition.
He is the embodiment of an idealized male figure, and outward projection of confidence and high self-esteem.
However, Othello’s premises are put to the test when forced to play the part of judge in distinguishing perpetrator, from victim in the “brawl” scene between Cassio, Othello’s long serving lieutenant, and Montana. Othello’s honest nature and social status persist in controlling the situation but his judgment is put under some scrutiny when faced with Iago’s sly trickery, using misdirection to feign Cassio’s blame, consequently leading to Cassio’s expulsion from the position of lieutenant, and ironically Iago is reinstated as Othello’s new lieutenant. II. iii. 229).
It is Othello’s “free and open nature” that allows Iago’s underhand approach to pass by unhindered and exposes an existential flaw in Othello’s judgment of character. (I. iii. 381). Additionally , there is a concurrent motif prevalent in the play in relation to sight or apparent blindness. When Iago reputedly reports Cassio wiping his beard with the handkerchief he gave to Desdemona as a symbol of their undying love, out of revulsion Othello demands “ocular proof” as evidence of this calamitous act. (III. iii. 442-444).
Othello has a tendency to make premature assumptions about things he has not yet seen and tends to act irrationally when faced with a decision of dire circumstance. His quickness to react, often with ill consideration exposes his susceptibility to be manipulated by the truth, and often plays into the hands f Iago. Othello, uses the words: “Rude am I… set phrase of peace” to indicate his unsophisticated, simplistic reasoning associated with a stereotypical warrior and is in stark contrast to the shrewd, devious and overbearing nature of his adversary Iago.
Iago , Othello’s ancient, is a vile man interested only in his own greedy desires. His mastery of the art of manipulation coupled with his innate ability to interweave his hidden agenda’s into his tainted use of language makes him a most feared and venomous character, his cold and cunning capable of exerting his will on any that crosses his path. “Defeat thy favor with an usurped beard” in context is a command instructing Roderigo to foresee his will and “act like a man”, however it may also be a self revelation and precursor to Iago’s behavior at later stages of the play. Read how does Othello change over time
Translated, it means: “change completely your appearance for want of something that is not one’s own”. This is indicative of Iago’s sheer hatred of Othello and is clear that he pursue any lengths to obey his lust for power, even if it means sacrificing certain aspects of his personality to satisfy a desired effect of his ill-fated will. In case, Iago uses his newly acquired social position to gain Othello’s assurances and become his trusted right hand man.
Iago uses Othello’s conceptions about his race, age , career as a soldier and relationship with his wife Desdemona as prerequisites to the inherent insecurities that ever tamper with his thoughts, allowing their accumulation to pervert Othello’s imagination , twisting his insecurities into fears, and his fears into a relentless and treacherous jealousy. For example, Iago uses his tone and utter disregard of Othello’s social position paired with his manipulation of time to reduce Othello’s language, a self-proclaimed strength, to mere groans of agony and distress. “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! . (III. iii. 169). Here Othello’s imagination begins to believe the generalizations constructed by Iago about Cassio’s interactions with Desdemona, his suspicions fueled by Iago’s cruel slight.
As Othello’s use of language deteriorates so does his internal coherence, however Iago is not phased, and with his vast knowledge of the psychology of the human state, continues to probe at the core of Othello’s being with references to his fundamental flaws, with lines such as: “I know our country disposition well”, referring to Othello’s insecurities with being Black and an outcast to a white majority. III. iii. 205). “In Venice they do let God see the pranks”, appealing to Othello’s patriotism and faith as a Christian , while simultaneously undermining his feelings about adultery. (III. iii. 206). And, “she did deceive her father marrying you”, suggestive of her ability as an independent woman to possibly deceive Othello. These thoughts torture his conscious mind as their weight bear witness to his emotions.
Its effect is made blatantly evident as his thoughts leak out in his confession of mistrusting Desdemona with, “I do not think but Desdemona’s honest”. (III. iii. 229). Othello’s spirit is showing signs of strain as his misgivings about Desdemona resemble his likeness to a “forked plague”, implicating his “cuckolded” state. (III. iii. 279). Iago’s snide commentary and harshness of judgment lull’s Othello into a state of submission, internalizing all he hears and sees.
His threshold for pain has been found wanting as his resistance against theses evil machinations are defenseless but to reside to their fate. Out of depraved desperation, “All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven… ‘Tis gone”, Othello proclaims his rampant revenge against Desdemona. He further pledges his allegiance to the Devil i. e. Iago, “Now, yond marble heaven, In the due reverence of a sacred vow I here engage my words”, and has only to be driven to destroy Desdemona and himself, as she destroyed his integrity.
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