William Shakespeare’s Othello Review
William Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragedy of a Venetian army general, Othello. Highly respected by many but played for his insecurities. Ultimately he’s forced emotionally into a downward spiral which ends in the tragic death of his wife, whom he killed out of poor judgment and his inevitable suicide. Othello’s last words are immensely important to the rest of the text as they irrevocably construct an explicit image of Othello’s genuine character to be obsessed with reputation and how he needs to be remembered as a soldier who served for the state of Venice and not a loving husband struck by jealousy, even after his destruction and demise. Ultimately making Othello’s last words fall into the universal theme of identity. Shakespeare conveys this final image using impactful words and subtle literary devices to better help explain the bewildered multitude of thoughts in Othello’s mind.
These specific lines also gradually expand from doing a service to Venice as an army general and dramatically declining into the betrayal of Venice. He begins to try softening his actions by stating that “I have done the state some service, and they know’t.”(V.ii.398-399) He assumes that his contribution to the welfare of Venice can somehow justify his monstrous actions. After saying that he soon realizes that his actions shouldn’t be seen as less than what they are as he says “Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,”(V.ii.402) “Extenuate” being an archaic term for making light of a situation emphasizes that Othello understands his wrongdoings and should not be treated differently than any other criminal. As Othello’s speaking, a form of motif being the human senses starts to appear in the ends of his sentences as he says “Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak” (V.ii. 403) “Perplex’d in the extreme; of one whose hand,” (V.ii. 406) and “Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes, Albeit unused to the melting mood,” (V.ii. 408-410). The literary device motif is significant to this passage as it creates a symbolic recurring theme to not only this passage but throughout the entire play, Othello references human senses and it exemplifies how humans are all the same but emotion can drastically affect those same senses. Also, Othello’s use of repetition as he goes on is a major form of anaphora as he states “Of one that loved not wisely but too well; Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought” (V.ii. 404-405). His use of “of one” is a state of deliberate repetition which creates an artistic effect and greatly emphasizes those specific lines. The reader will unintentionally remember those lines as his last because of their rhythmic appeal by the use of repetition.
The turning point of this passage is when Othello uses the word “perplex’d” in the line “Perplex’d in the extreme; of one whose hand,” (V.ii. 406). At this point, Othello is unable to clearly grasp what he has done and why he has done it but what he does know is that it was done by him, a soldier. Othello also compares himself to a particular type of person with the use of similes. One major comparison he makes is to a “base Indian” as he says “Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away” (V.ii. 407). His self-comparison to a “base Indian” is vital because it means that Othello’s aware that his acts were savage which was the meaning for the term “base Indian” during that era. The fact that he was a savage that threw away a pearl being symbolic to Desdemona, as he killed her not understanding what she was worth. Shakespeare also chooses to use imagery to convey Othello’s mood and state of mind in the lines “Albeit unused to the melting mood, Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees, Their medicinal gum. Set you down this;” (V.ii. 410-412). These lines refer to his tears which drop as fast as the medicinal syrup that flows from an Arabian tree and it puts an emphasis on Othello’s emotions at that moment since he isn’t a very physically emotional man.
The imagery helps the reader understand Othello’s feelings without having to see him cry which would take away from his alpha male identity of a soldier. The ending of Othello’s last passage is very important in understanding where he lays with his identity. He chooses to use the words “malignant” and “traduced” which translate to evil in nature and betrayal. He uses them in his very last sentences, “Where a malignant and a turban’d Turk, Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,” (V.ii. 414-415). In the end, he has come to realize that what he has done was wrong and it betrayed the state of Venice and his crimes shouldn’t go unpunished, as he sees himself as an enemy of the state. He supports this idea by the use of metaphors at the end of this passage along with the words he used. He refers to himself as a “turban’d Turk” and a “circumcised dog” these metaphors are very significant in the understanding of this passage since he’s referring to himself as a “turban’d Turk”, meaning he sees himself as an enemy. The term “turban’d Turk” is most definitely a racial slur since ninety-eight percent of turkey is Muslim in religion and they wore turbans. The racism towards Muslim people also refers to the term “circumcised dog” because at the time Muslim men must be circumcised and he refers to the men as dogs. Ultimately this passage is significant to the rest of the play since the audience finally has a solid understanding that Othello’s genuine identity is a soldier till the very end. Not a loving husband struck by jealousy or a murderer. He saw himself as an enemy so he makes himself and everyone else know that he died a soldier, serving his state by killing that enemy.
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