Othello Dramatis Personae Duke of Venice Othello: Moor, married to Desdoma Iago: Soldier in Othellos army Cassio: Lieutenant in Othellos army
Desdemona: Othellos wife Emilia: Iagos wife Rodreigo: Solider, love Desdemona Act I Scene 1 Read I.1.113-114 Othello begins in the city of Venice, at night Roderigo is having a discussion with Iago, who is bitter at being passed up as Othello's lieutenant. Though Iago had greater practice in battle and in military matters, Cassio, a man of strategy but of little experience, was named lieutenant by Othello. Iago says that he only serves Othello to further himself, and makes shows of his allegiance only for his own gain He admits that his nature is not at all what it seems.
Iago is aware that the daughter of Brabantio, Desdemona , has run off with Othello, the black warrior of the Moors. Brabantio knows nothing of this coupling Iago decides to enlist Roderigo, who lusts after Desdemona, and awaken Brabantio with screams that his daughter is gone. Watch movie scene Act I Scene 1 At first, Brabantio dismisses these cries in the dark He realizes his daughter is not there, he gives the news some credence. Roderigo is the one speaking most to Brabantio, but Iago is there too, hidden, yelling unsavory things about Othello
Brabantio panics, and calls for people to try and find his daughter Iago leaves, not wanting anyone to find out that he betrayed his own leader Brabantio begins to search for his daughter. Analysis: Friendship The relationship between Roderigo and Iago is somewhat close Roderigo shows this in his first statement: Iago "hast had [Roderigo's] purse as if the strings were thine," he tells Iago (I.i.2-3) The metaphor shows how much trust Roderigo has in Iago, and also how he uses Iago as a
confidante Does Iago share the same kind of feeling? As far as Roderigo knows, Iago is his friend Appearance is one thing and reality another, as Iago soon will tell. Analysis: Trusting Appearance Iago tells several truths about himself to Roderigo He trusts Roderigo with the knowledge that he serves Othello, but only to further himself. How ironic that after Iago's lengthy confession of duplicity, Roderigo still does not suspect him of doublecrossing or manipulation. Iago seems to do a great deal of character analysis and exposition for the audience
He divulges his purpose in serving Othello, and the kind of man he is. Appearance vs. Reality is a crucial theme in Iago's story He enacts a series of roles, from advisor to confidante He appears to be helping people though he is only acting out of his twisted self-interest. Analysis: Metaphors and Paradox
"These fellows" that flatter for their own purposes "have some soul," Iago says There is a double irony in this statement that Iago passes off as a truth People who act one way and are another are duplicitous, and scarcely deserve the credit that Iago is trying to give them. Iago, though he is one of those fellows, seems to have no soul He never repents, never lets up with his schemes, and never seems to tire of damaging whatever he is able to. "In following [Othello] I follow but myself," Iago also professes
This is a paradox in terms, but is revealing of Iago's purposes in serving Othello. His language is revealing of his dark character; He uses the clich "I will wear my heart upon my sleeve" to convey how his heart is false, and his shows of emotion are also falsified He turns this clich into something more dark and fierce, when he adds the image of the birds tearing at this heart He has foreshadowed the great deceptions that he will engineer, and the sinister qualities that make up his core. Analysis: Parallels The key to Iago's character is in the line "I am not what I am Roderigo should take this as a warning, but fails to.
Everything which Iago presents himself as is a false show This first scene represents the peak of Iago's honesty about himself with another character. Iago is parallel to another character, Richard III, in his self-awareness about his villainous character He is parallel in lack of remorse and use of false representations of himself. Analysis: Racism Racial issues and themes which are at the core of Othello's story and position are beginning to surface. When Roderigo refers to Othello, he calls him
"the thick lips This singles out one prominent characteristic of Othello's foreignness and black heritage It displays a racial distrust of Othello based on his color. Roderigo and Iago are not the only characters to display racism when referring to Othello Racism is a pervasive theme within the work, spreading misconceptions and lies about Othello by tying him to incorrect stereotypes. Analysis: Juxtaposition Another element that surfaces repeatedly in the play is the use of animal imagery; "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe," Iago yells to Brabantio
The use of animal imagery is used in many places in the play to convey immorality and illicit passion, as it does in this instance. Iago also compares Othello to a "Barbary horse" coupling with Desdemona, and uses animal imagery to reinforce a lustful picture of Othello Iago's statement is doubly potent, since it not only condemns Othello for his alleged lust, but also plays on Brabantio's misgivings about Othello's color The juxtaposition of black and white, in connection with the animal imagery, is meant to make this image very repellent, and to inflame Brabantio to anger and action. Analysis: Devils Iago especially mentions the devil many times in
the text The first time here in the first scene to make Othello sound like a devil with: lust indiscretion strangeness The irony is that Iago is so quick to make others out to be evil The devil often takes disguises, just as Iago does embodying the theme of appearance vs. reality He is the one who looks least guilty. Analysis: Imagery and Setting
Important to this scene is the fact that it is held in darkness Like the beginning of Hamlet, things are unsteady and eerie, and disorder rules. With Brabantio's call for light, there is a corresponding call for some kind of order: darkness vs. light order vs. disorder Both important juxtapositions within the play they highlight the status of situations
These themes will appear again at the end, as the play returns to darkness, and chaos Act I Scene 2 Read I.2.1115-1116 Iago has now joined Othello, and has told Othello about Roderigo's betrayal of the news of his marriage. He tells Othello that Brabantio is upset, and will probably try to tear Desdemona from him. Cassio comes at last, as do Roderigo and Brabantio Iago threatens Roderigo with violence, again making a false show of his loyalty to Othello. Brabantio swears that Othello must have bewitched his daughter, and that the state will not decide for him
in this case. Othello says that the Duke must hear him, and decide in his favor, or all is far from right in Venice. Watch movie scene Analysis: Janus Iago continues his deliberate misrepresentation: Swearing to Othello that he could have killed Roderigo for what he did. Iago is a very skilled actor: He is able to successfully present a contrary appearance Ironically, Iago alludes to Janus, the two-faced
god, in his conversation with Othello. Since Iago himself is two-faced Janus seems to be a fitting figure for Iago to invoke. Analysis Iago's duplicity is again exhibited in this scene as his tone swings: friendly to backbiting as soon as Othello steps away back to his original friendliness when Othello returns. Iago acted supportive of Othello's marriage to Desdemona Cassio enters and Iago uses a rather uncomplimentary metaphor to tell what Othello has done: "He tonight hath boarded a land-carrack"
Iago tells Cassio: His diction and choice of metaphor make Othello into some kind of pirate stealing Desdemona's love Cassio reduces Desdemona into a mere prize to be taken. Iago will soon want Cassio to think of Desdemona as an object to be taken, and to believe Othello to be less honorable than he is. Analysis: Pride Othello's pride first becomes visible here He is exceptionally proud of his achievements and his public stature Pride is a huge theme of Othello's story.
He is proud of Desdemona's affection for him He would not give her up "for the seas' worth," he says (l. 28). Othello is very confident in his worth, and in the respect he commands If the leaders of the city decide to deny a worthy man like him his marriage to Desdemona, then he believes: "bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be." This statement of paradox betrays Othello's faith in the state and in the Duke's regard for him; hopefully, neither will fail him. Analysis: Racism and Magic The issue of race comes to the forefront, as Brabantio
confronts Othello about his marriage to Desdemona. Desdemona never would have "run from her guardage to the sooty bosom of a thing such as thou," Brabantio says (l. 71-2). Brabantio assumes that Desdemona must have been "enchanted" to marry Othello merely because Othello is black Brabantio ignores all of Othello's good qualities, and gives into his racist feelings. Magic is another recurrent theme, and here is linked to stereotypes of African peoples as: knowing the black arts of magic being pagans being lusty
The theme of magic does not always play into the theme of race within the play Analysis: Stereotypes and History At the time Shakespeare was writing, there were in fact free blacks in England However, racism was even more pronounced in Shakespeare's England than it is in Othello A character like Othello could not have risen to such ranks in England at the time Shakespeare's play is much more progressive than the time in which it was written. Othello even manages to avoid stereotype more effectively than another Shakespearean character like Shylock
Stereotypes are linked to Othello by other characters, but he manages to evade them through his nobility and individuality. Act I Scene 3 Military conflict is challenging the Venetian stronghold of Cyprus There are reports that Turkish ships are heading toward the island, which means some defense will be necessary. Brabantio and Othello enter the assembled Venetian leaders, who are discussing this military matter Brabantio announces his grievance against Othello for marrying his daughter. Othello addresses the company, admitting that he did marry Desdemona, but wooed her with stories, and did her no wrongs. Desdemona comes to speak, and she confirms Othello's words:
Brabantio's grievance is denied Desdemona will indeed stay with Othello. Othello is called away to Cyprus, to help with the conflict there Othello and Desdemona win their appeal, and Desdemona is to stay with Iago, until she can come to Cyprus and meet Othello there. Act I Scene 3 Read I.3.1120 Roderigo is upset that Desdemona and Othello's union was allowed to stand He lusts after Desdemona. Iago assures him that the match will not last long, and at any time, Desdemona could come rushing to him.
Iago wants to break up the couple, using Roderigo as his pawn, out of malice and his wicked ability to do so. Watch movie scene Analysis: Brabantio Brabantio again accuses Othello of bewitching his daughter, and airs his racism-based views. He is not against the match because of any incompatibility of the couple His metaphor of his grief as a flood, that "engluts and swallows other sorrows, and is still itself," means that he feels very strongly on this issue. His strong objection foreshadows a confrontation between him and his daughter
If Desdemona does choose to stay with Othello, it seems likely that she will risk her father's love. Analysis: Tragedy Othello's appointment to Cyprus marks the true beginning of his tragedy He will be much more vulnerable to Iago's vicious attacks on his love and jealousy. This battle between order and chaos is a theme running throughout the play As Othello sinks deeper into distrust of Desdemona and is more consumed by his jealousy, chaos increases and threatens to devour him.
Analysis: Verse vs. Couple The Duke's words of advice to the couple also mark the beginning of their tragic story The Duke foretells trouble between the couple if they do not let grievances go, which ends up being a reason for Othello's fall. The change of the verse into couplets signals the importance of the advice being offered. The words of the Duke, and Brabantio's words that follow, are set off from the rest of the text and emphasized by this technique The reader is notified, through the couplet rhyme, which hasn't appeared before in the text, that these are words that must be marked.
Analysis: Othellos Tragic Flaw The only magic that Othello possesses is in his power of language. His language shows his pride in his achievements Othello portrays himself as a tested, honorable warrior, and indeed is such. This view of himself will prove troublesome when he is hard pressed to recognize his jealousy and his lust His inability to reconcile himself with these two aspects of his personality means that his comeuppance is almost certain. Othello's lack of self-knowledge means that he will be unable to stop himself once Iago begins
to ignite his jealousy Analysis: Allusions Othello's speech before the assembly shows what he believes Desdemona's love to be: He thinks that Desdemona's affection is a form of hero-worship She loves him for the stories he tells, and the things he has done. He believes it is his allusions to strange peoples and places, like the "Anthropophagi," that fascinate her Indeed, his powers of language successfully win the Duke over, and soften Brabantio's
disapproval. Analysis: White and Black Light and dark are again juxtaposed in the Duke's declaration to Brabantio, that: "if virtue no delighted beauty lack/ your son-in-law is far more fair than black." Black is associated with sin, evil, and darkness; These negative things are also associated to black people, merely because of the color of their skin. The Duke's statement is ironic, since Othello is black, but truthful, because his soul is good and light. Light/white/fairness all convey innocence, goodness, any symbol that is white has these
qualities. The juxtaposition of black and white, light and dark shows up again and again in the play, as the colors become symbolic within the story. Analysis: Origin of Chaos "Our bodies are our gardens," Iago tells Roderigo his speech recalls Hamlet's first soliloquy, though with a more kind appraisal of human nature. Iago is a very good judge of human nature, and easily able to manipulate people in ways that will benefit him most This cleverness also means that he is a source of wisdom in the play Iago's metaphor is particularly applicable to many in this
play, himself excluded; characters do have vices that they allow to grow in themselves They also have aspects of themselves which balance these vices out. Iago's knowledge of this allows him to do away with this balance and set chaos into motion Analysis: Cross Purposes Iago's purpose becomes plain: He sees that Othello and Desdemona's marriage is less than solid He seeks to use his powers to break this marriage apart. Iago is again "honest" about his intent, but only
to a person whose involvement will help him greatly. The words "honest" and "honesty" appear repeatedly in the play, and are usually used by Iago, or in reference to him Ironically, Iago is the only person in the play whom Othello trusts to judge who is and is not honest Act II Scene 1 A terrible storm has struck Cyprus, just as the Turks were about to approach. This might mean that the Turkish attack will not happen; but it also bodes badly for Othello's ship. A messenger enters, and confirms that the Turkish fleet
was broken apart by the storm, and that Cassio has arrived, though Othello is still at sea. They spot a ship coming forth; but Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia are on it, not Othello. Cassio greets them all, especially praising Desdemona; somehow, Iago and Desdemona enter into an argument about what women are Iago shows how little praise he believes women deserve. Othello arrives at last, and is very glad to see his wife arrived Act II Scene 1 Read II.2.1123-1124 He and Desdemona make public signs of their love, and then depart.
Iago speaks to Roderigo, convincing him that Desdemona will stray from Othello, as she has already done with Cassio. He convinces Roderigo to attack Cassio that night, as he plans to visit mischief on both Othello and Cassio. Watch movie scene Analysis: Storms Storms are always of greater significance in Shakespeare: the storm is a symbol of unrest The storm marks the end of the peaceful part of the play, and is an act of fate it is a signal that Iago's mischief is about to begin.
Shakespeare's characters that comment on the storm are mariners, alluding to Ursa Minor and stars used for navigation This is a testament to Shakespeare's incredible ability to form credible language for a great diversity and range of characters. Analysis: Cassio Just as every character has their own manner of speech and expression, Cassio has a very polished, courtly way of speaking, especially of ladies. He describes Desdemona as one who "excels the quirks of blazoning pens"; he calls her "divine Desdemona" As Iago finds out later, he has no love for her, though
much respect; so it is with much irony that Cassio is charged as being Desdemona's lover Othello sees Cassio as a model Venetian, all poise and polish, which is something Othello wants to be, but thinks he is not. Othello's insecurities mean that Cassio is promoted over Iago, but also lead Othello to hold Cassio at a distance. Analysis: Women Though Iago is married, he does not have as favorable an impression of women as Cassio does. Women are "wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries, devils being offended He even declares that they "rise to play, and go to bed to work
Iago's perception of women as deceptive, dominating, and lusty colors the way he portrays both Emilia and Desdemona; both are good women Desdemona exceedingly so, yet he is able to convince other men that they are anything but what they are. Analysis: Misrepresentation Misrepresentation is a theme that surfaces often through Iago's villainy He makes Desdemona seem like a fickle, lusty woman, which he will soon try to convince Othello of as well. Iago's speech plays on Othello's insecurities perfectly He speaks of Othello's age, race, and manners
as reasons why Desdemona will grow tired of him, which are also reaons why Othello fears he might lose her. Iago is also a master of temptation, another theme in the story He is able to figure out exactly what people want, and then drive them to it. Analysis: Motives Though Iago seems grieved by Cassio's promotion over him, this does not seem to be his main motive. Iago also cites his suspicions that Emilia and Othello have had an affair as another reason for his enmity. Iago is not a man to be consumed with sexual jealousy; though rumors about his wife may hurt his pride, they
seem but an excuse for the misery he is about to cause. Shakespeare leaves the root of Iago's malignancy unexplained, while showing the fruits of his evil in full. Act II Scene 2 Othello's herald enters, to proclaim that the Turks are not going to attack All should be joyful, and Othello is celebrating the happiness of his recent marriage. Act II Scene 3 Iago gets Cassio to drink a bit, knowing that he cannot hold his liquor at all. Iago also tries to get Cassio's feelings about Desdemona, but his
intentions are innocent Iago hopes to cause a quarrel between Cassio and Roderigo Iago wants to see Cassio discredited through this, so that he might take Cassio's place. Cassio fights with Roderigo Montano tries to hinder Cassio, but Cassio ends up injuring him. The noise wakes Othello, who comes down to figure out what has happened. Montano tells what he knows of it all, and Iago fills in the rest making sure to fictionalize his part in it all. Cassio is stripped of his rank, and all leave Cassio and Iago alone. Act II Scene 3 Read II.3.1127-1128
Iago tries to convince Cassio that a reputation means little Iago suggests talking to Desdemona, maybe he can get her to vouch for him with Othello. This will help Iago get the impression across that Desdemona and Cassio are together Iago then gives a soliloquy about knowing that Desdemona will speak for Cassio, and that he will be able to turn that against them both. Analysis: Honesty "Honest" emerges as a key word in this scene It is a term laden with irony, and a constant reminder of the dramatic irony inherent in Iago's dealings.
None of the characters in the play have any idea of Iago's plans and evil intentions: Othello and Cassio are especially innocent of this knowledge. The audience knows exactly what Iago is up to, and is able to see his deceptions for what they are Iago's words interest the audience because of how much dramatic irony they are laden with Curiosity to find out whether Cassio and Othello will come to know as much as the audience does about Iago's deviance. The word "honest" draws attention to how Iago's motives are hidden from the characters onstage Analysis: Juxtaposition
Iago and Cassio are juxtaposed in this scene to bring out Cassio's flawed honor and courtliness and Iago's manipulativeness and deceptiveness. Cassio stands in especially sharp contrast to Iago when Iago speaks lustfully of Desdemona Cassio is full of honor when it comes to women, and the ideals of a courtier as well. "He's a soldier fit to stand by Caesar," Iago says, the allusion to Caesar stating the fact that he knows Cassio's true quality. Iago strikes gold when he figures out Cassio's weakness for drink "He'll be as full of quarrel and offense as my young mistress' dog," Iago metaphor shows that he knows how liquor can
separate even the best man from himself Iago's metaphor reinforces his perceptiveness, and the light/dark imagery Analysis: Know the Audience Iago's homage to "sweet England" in his song of this act: though this play does not take place in England features no English characters Shakespeare throws this in to amuse his audience. He does the same in plays like Hamlet, in which a little nod to England is thrown in
for comic effect, and as an audience pleaser. Analysis: Reputation Reputation is a theme in the book that obviously holds some resonance for Cassio Iago also knows the importance of reputation, which is why he makes sure that people see him as "honest" before anything. "Reputation is a most idle and false imposition," Iago says: this statement is meant as false consolation to Cassio, and is filled with great irony. Reputation is always of concern when
individuals are involved Analysis: Devil Cassio is so grieved that his reputation has been hurt that he sees fit to find a villain in all that has happened Ironically, Cassio misses the identity of the real devil in this situation, Iago. "Devil" becomes a key word in this play, as people try to seek out what is poisoning everyone Good vs. evil is a major theme in the play There is a great deal of gray area: Iago is the villain Everyone else has some blemish of their natures
No one entirely deserving of the label "good". Act III Scene 1 Comic relief: a clown is mincing words with a few musicians, then has a little wordplay with Cassio Iago enters, and Cassio tells him that he means to speak to Desdemona, so that she may clear things up with Othello. Emilia comes out, and bids Cassio to come in and speak with Desdemona about his tarnished reputation. Analysis: Othellos Uniqueness
Othello is unlike other Shakespearean dramas for two reasons: the scarcity of comic relief, which only appears briefly at the beginning of this short scene. there are no subplots running through Othello as there are in most Shakespearean plays as a whole. Both of these differences make Othello one of Shakespeare's most focused, intense tragedies. Act III Scene 2 Othello gives Iago some letters that need to be delivered back to Venice Iago is in turn supposed to give the letters to a ship's pilot who is sailing back to
Venice. Act III Scene 3 Read III.3.1130-1132 Desdemona decides that she wants to advocate for Cassio. She tells Emilia so, and that she believes Cassio is a good person, and has been wronged in this case Iago seizes on this opportunity to play on Othello's insecurities, and make Cassio seem guilty Othello then speaks to Desdemona, and Desdemona expresses her concern for Cassio She is persistent in his suit, which Othello is not
too pleased about. Act III Scene 3 Iago then plays on Othello's insecurities about Desdemona, and gets Othello to believe, through insinuation, that there is something going on between Desdemona and Cassio. Othello seizes on this, and then Iago works at building up his suspicions. Othello begins to doubt his wife, as Iago lets his insinuations gain the force of an accusation against her. Othello begins to voice his insecurities when it comes to Desdemona, and himself as well. Desdemona enters and Othello admits that he is
troubled, though he will not state the cause. Watch movie scene Act III Scene 3
Read III.3.1132-1134 Desdemona drops the handkerchief that Othello gave her on their honeymoon Emilia knew that her husband had wanted it for something, so she doesn't feel too guilty about taking it. Emilia gives it to Iago, who decides to use the handkerchief for his own devices. Othello re-enters, and tells Iago that he now doubts his wife Othello demands proof so Iago sets about making stories up about Cassio talking in his sleep He says that Cassio has the handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona. Othello is incensed to hear that Desdemona would give away something so valuable, and is persuaded by Iago's insinuations and claims to believe that Desdemona is guilty.
Othello then swears to have Cassio dead, and to be revenged upon Desdemona for the non-existent affair. Watch movie scene Analysis: Desdemona Desdemona's choice of words to describe Cassio is unfortunate: she calls him a "suitor," not meaning it in a romantic sense, although Othello could certainly take it that way. Desdemona binds her reputation to Cassio's in an unfortunate way She says that if Cassio is wrong, "I have no judgment in an honest face".
Of course Desdemona means well, but she gambles too much on another person's honor. Analysis: Jealousy Jealousy is soon addressed specifically by Iago. "It is the green-eyed monster," Iago tells him The "green-eyed monster" becomes a symbol representing Othello's dark feelings, a specter lurking in his mind and beginning to steer his behavior. Iago's speech is also deeply ironic, since it points out Othello's flaws, and the root of his tragedy Othello has no idea of the significance of these statements, and so neglects to take them to heart. Analysis: Insecure
Othello is deeply insecure about his personal qualities and his marriage Insecurity becomes a theme that weakens his resolve not to doubt Desdemona. Othello uses his black skin as a symbol for how poorly spoken and unattractive he thinks he is. All of his claims are very much beside the point; his words are actually more complex and beautiful than those spoken by any other character in the play. Because he begins to believe that Desdemona cannot love him, he starts to believe her guilty of infidelity. The leap is great, but it is all a product of Othello's own insecurities and his incorrect conception of himself, another theme of the play. How Othello sees himself directly influences how he
views Desdemona's love Analysis: Imagery Othello begins to use the black/ white imagery found throughout the play, to express his grief and rage at Desdemona's alleged treachery. "My name, that was as fresh as Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black as mine own face," Othello says. Although the allegations against Desdemona are personally hurtful to him, Othello focuses more on the public ramifications, rather than the private There is great irony in this concern, since this rumored betrayal is a private one, and also since Othello's name is highly regarded, because nothing has really happened. Iago's "proofs" also rely on the animal imagery which has run
throughout the play he makes Desdemona and Cassio seem like lustful lovers, by describing them as "prime as goats, as hot as monkeys" (400). This comparison is calculated, since Iago knows that thinking of Desdemona as lusting after another man disturbs Othello greatly. Analysis: Handkerchief The handkerchief, the most crucial symbol and object in the play. The handkerchief, to Desdemona, symbolizes Othello's love, since it was his first gift to her. Othello thinks that the handkerchief, quite literally, is Desdemona's love When she has lost it, that must clearly mean that
she does not love him any longer. The handkerchief also becomes a symbol of Desdemona's alleged betrayal Analysis: Proof "Proof" is a key word in this scene Othello demands that Iago prove Desdemona unfaithful by actually seeing evidence of her guilt. Iago manages to work around this completely; he plays off of Othello's jealousy, telling him stories that damn Cassio and mention the handkerchief Othello trusts Iago's words to convey proof, and is thwarted by Iago's dishonesty Othello only realizes later that he has been tricked and has seen no proof, when it is too late for him to take his
actions back. Analysis: Language This act represents the beginning of Othello's giving up language From this point forward, notice how Othello's use of imagery and story become less and less frequent, and how he begins to rely upon Iago for speech and explanation. Othello is reduced by Iago and his own jealousy to single lines of speech, monosyllabic utterings of "O!" and the like. And just as language is the power with which Othello was able to woo Desdemona, his loss of it is a resignation of this power which attracted her to him. Othello suspects his wife's language, and Cassio's as well; he is distracted from suspicion of Iago
Othello begins to lose his power over himself, and over others, when he loses his beautiful language This resignation marks a huge shift in the balance of power between Othello and Iago Iago becomes more dominant in the relationship, and begins to steer Othello. Analysis: Chaos vs. Order In the battle between order and chaos, chaos seems to be winning out. Othello abandons his reason in judging Iago's "proofs," and his abandonment of language also marks a descent into chaos. Although it is a chaos controlled by Iago, order and reason are on the losing side
Raging emotions and speculations begin to rule Othello's fate, as he comes closer and closer to his tragic end. Act III Scene 4 Desdemona asks the clown where Cassio is; the clown goes off to fetch him. Desdemona is looking everywhere for the handkerchief, very sorry to have lost it; she knows that her losing it will upset Othello greatly Othello enters, and asks for Desdemona's handkerchief; she admits that she does not have it, and then Othello tells her of its significance and alleged magical powers. Desdemona does not like Othello's tone; he seems obsessed with this object, and Desdemona is so
frightened by him that she wishes she had nothing to do with it. She interrupts Othello's inquiry by bringing up Cassio's attempt to get back into Othello's favor; Othello becomes angry, and storms out. Act III Scene 4 Cassio then enters, with Iago and laments that his suit is not successful, and that Othello does not seem likely to take him back. Desdemona is sorry for this, since she knows that Cassio is a man of worth She tells Cassio and Iago that Othello has been acting strange, and is upset, and Iago goes to look for him, feigning concern.
Emilia thinks that Othello's change has something to do with Desdemona, or Othello's jealous nature Act III Scene 4 Read III.4.1136-1137 Bianca comes in, and Cassio asks her to copy the handkerchief that he found in his room It is Desdemona's handkerchief, though Cassio has no idea. He claims he does not love her, and gets angry at her for allegedly suspecting that the handkerchief is a gift of another woman. Bianca is not disturbed, and leaves with the handkerchief.
Watch movie scene Analysis: Double Meanings Othello's words often have a double meaning When he is describing Desdemona's hand, he says it is "moist" and "hot an allusion to a lustful nature. He says she is of a "liberal heart"; this could mean a generous heart, but could also be indicating Desdemona's supposed licentiousness. "Here's a young and sweating devil here, who constantly rebels," Othello says; the metaphor speaks badly of Desdemona, and betrays his distrust of her. In the next breath, he says, "tis a good hand"; the juxtaposition of the two statements shows Othello trying not to betray his disappointment
He is deeply disturbed, and seems to be questioning and examining her to prove that she really is the harlot Analysis: Magic Hanky Here, Othello finally elaborates upon the handkerchief's importance for Desdemona. "There's magic in the web of it," Othello says; he language is full of mystical, dark images Othello reveals that he believes the handkerchief to literally symbolize Desdemona's affection The irony is that although the handkerchief is lost, Desdemona still loves him. The theme of appearance vs. reality appears
Analysis: Bianca Cassio's behavior toward Bianca is in sharp contrast to the courtly politeness he shows Desdemona and Emilia. This is because of Bianca's station as a courtesan; not regarded the same respect as ladies Bianca proves to be as perceptive as Emilia and Desdemona, and even more realistic about matters of love. The change in Cassio's tone and behavior around Bianca betray a cultural bias of the time toward women of certain stations His behavior would not have been thought mean at the time, because of Bianca's lowly status. Act IV Scene 1
Read IV.1.1137-1140 Othello is trying, even after swearing that Desdemona was unfaithful, not to condemn her too harshly. He is talking with Iago about the handkerchief still, and its significance in being found Iago whips Othello into an even greater fury through mere insinuation, and Othello takes the bait. Othello falls into a trance of rage, and Iago decides to hammer home his false ideas about his wife. Iago calls Cassio in, while Othello hides Iago speaks to Cassio of Bianca, but Othello believes that is talking of Desdemona This is the last "proof" he needs before declaring his wife guilty. Bianca comes in, and gives the handkerchief back to
Cassio, since she swears she will have nothing to do with it. Act IV Scene 1 Othello is incensed by Cassio, still believing that he was speaking of Desdemona, rather than Bianca. Othello is resolved to kill Desdemona himself, and charges Iago with murdering Cassio. Ludovico, a noble Venetian whom Desdemona knows, has recently landed; Desdemona and Othello welcome him there. When Desdemona mentions Cassio, Othello becomes very angry and slaps her in front of everyone Ludovico especially is shocked at this change in Othello, and has no idea how such a noble man could act so
cruelly. Watch movie scene Analysis: Othellos Transformation Othello's trance also marks his descent into the savage Ironically, he becomes the passion-stirred, wicked pagan that others had accused him of being, merely because of his skin color. Iago notes that Othello "breaks out into savage madness" in this fit; indeed, the primal seems to be taking over the more civilized aspects of Othello. Othello refers to himself as a "horned man," ashamed of this descent
Analysis: Othellos Confusion "O, the world hath not a sweeter creature," Othello declares of Desdemona he still decides that she shall not live for what she has supposedly done. There is great irony in this scene, as Othello declares that Desdemona is of a soft and kind nature, yet condemns her for being lustful and immoral. Note Othello's reticent tone, even when he is condemning Desdemona to death Chaos and jealousy have triumphed over reason, still there is a part of him that knows Desdemona is good
Analysis When Othello strikes Desdemona, he shows the severity of his change. Just her mention of Cassio sends him into an unreasonable rage Although one of his greatest fears regarding Desdemona's alleged infidelity was that it would blacken his name and reputation The irony is that Othello is doing that himself Savagery is taking over his civility, he continues to become the cruel, jealous, passion-spurred "savage" that Brabantio accused him of being. He is beginning to become a stereotype by his own doing, as he falls farther and farther from
himself. Act IV Scene 2 Othello questions Emilia about Desdemona's guilt Emilia admits to having seen nothing, though Othello does not believe her. Emilia swears that Desdemona is pure and true. Othello believes that Emilia is in on all this too Othello leaves, and Desdemona and Emilia try to figure out what has happened to Othello Emilia thinks that someone has manipulated Othello into accusing Desdemona, and has poisoned his mind Act IV Scene 2
Read IV.2.1142-1143 Iago is there to dispel this opinion, so that Emilia does not inquire further into her theory. Iago comes across Roderigo; he is not pleased with how Iago has handled things, and knows that although Iago is promising him Desdemona's favor, he has done nothing to indicate that he has worked to achieve this. Iago quiets him by making him believe that if he kills Cassio, then he will win Desdemona Watch movie scene Analysis: Emilia Emilia, ever perceptive, knows that someone has done this to Othello which is
the truth. It is ironic that Emilia thinks of this, and condemns the man who must be manipulating Othello, since the one who has devised this whole thing is her own husband Iago is there to hush this suspicion, but they know something is awry Analysis: Foreshadowing Roderigo, at last, is the one to accuse Iago of treachery He has discovered the truth, that Iago's "words and performances are no kin together." Iago does his best to deny this, and convinces
Roderigo to kill Cassio in order to win Desdemona Roderigo's accusation means: Iago will be revealed by Roderigo if Roderigo is not satisfied Roderigo will have to die so that Iago's plans will go through. Othello is a tragedy and this confrontation foreshadows Roderigo's death. Act IV Scene 3 Othello tells Desdemona to go to bed, and dismiss Emilia Emilia regrets Desdemona's marriage, although
Desdemona cannot say that she does not love Othello. Desdemona knows that she will die soon; she sings a song of sadness and resignation, and decides to give herself to her fate. Desdemona asks Emilia whether she would commit adultery to win her husband the world. Emilia, the more practical one, thinks that it is not too big a price for a small act Desdemona is too good, and too devout, to say that she would do so. Analysis: Desdemona Desdemona knows of her impending death; she is almost too good to live
The "Willow Song" and her tale of her mother's maid also foreshadow Desdemona's death. She is not trying to fight it; she seems like a totally different woman than the one who stood up to her father and the Venetian nobles. Desdemona is suddenly depicted as being meek; this sudden shift in her character is strange, and the source is unknown. Her character is parallel to that of Ophelia; both are good, virtuous, obedient, but both are subjected to tragic fates because of their own innocence. Desdemona's fate is unfair and unearned, yet she is the martyr of the play, Analysis: Individualize Women
Emilia pronounces what seems like a theme of the play, up until this point: "let husbands know, their wives have sense like them they see, and smell, and have their palates both for sweet and sour, just as their husbands have" (96-99). Indeed, this is one of the reasons why Othello is so angry at Desdemona; the thought that she could have desire in her, just as he does, bewilders him and angers him That she could have opinions and ideas independent of his own, especially about Cassio and his rightful place, also upset him. Othello is good at heart but does not individualize women
Act V Scene 1 Read V.1.1144-1146 Iago has Roderigo poised and ready to pounce on Cassio, and kill him; if either of them is killed, it is to Iago's benefit Roderigo and Cassio fight, and both are injured Othello hears the scuffle, is pleased, and then leaves to finish off Desdemona. Iago enters, pretending that he knows nothing of the scuffle Roderigo is still alive, so Iago feigns a quarrel, and finishes him off. Cassio is carried away, and Roderigo is already dead. Emilia also comes in, and pins more blame on Bianca;
she has done nothing, but Iago has some quick work to do if he is to exonerate himself in this mess. Watch movie scene Analysis Iago addresses the audience directly about his intentions, and his actions Iago is only truly honest with the audience like Richard III This creates an undercurrent of dramatic irony throughout the play, since the audience knows all of his plans, and individual characters know little or nothing Although Othello is the title character of the play, Iago has more lines and more interaction with the audience as well. It is Othello's tragedy that is the focus of the play, but Iago succeeds in stealing the show he is more interesting than any of
the protagonists in the play. Iago proves himself a consummate actor: appearance vs. reality Iago claims to know nothing of this battle Iago is many selves in this act he is friend and advisor to Roderigo betrayer and murderer of Roderigo consoler of Cassio the lead officer in this Act V Scene 2 Read V.2.1146-1150 Othello enters Desdemona's room while she is asleep; and still is determined to kill her. He justifies this with images, metaphors, and ideas of
her rebirth after death Desdemona awakens, and he tells her to repent of any sins before she dies Othello tells her that he found her handkerchief with Cassio, though Desdemona insists it must not be true She pleads with Othello not to kill her right then, but he begins to smother her. Emilia knocks, curious about what is going on Othello lets her in, but tries to conceal Desdemona, who he thinks is already dead. Emilia brings the news of Roderigo's death, and Cassio's wounding. Act V Scene 2 Emilia soon finds out that Desdemona is nearly dead, by
Othello's hand Desdemona speaks her last words, and then Emilia pounces on Othello for committing this horrible crime. Othello is not convinced of his folly until Iago confesses his part, and Cassio speaks of the use of the handkerchief Othello is overcome with grief. Iago stabs Emilia for telling all about his plots, and then Emilia dies Venetian nobles reveal that Brabantio, Desdemona's father, is dead, and so cannot be grieved by this tragedy now. Othello stabs Iago when he is brought back in Othello then tells all present to remember him how he is, and kills himself. Cassio becomes temporary leader of the troops at Cyprus Iago is taken into custody, and his crimes will be judged back in
Venice. Watch movie scene Analysis: Literary Terms Othello's farewell to Desdemona is a return to his former eloquence Though he believes Desdemona's soul to be black, he can only focus on her whiteness; he pledges not to mar "that whiter skin of hers than snow" The metaphor highlights Desdemona's innocence, as does comparing her to a "light" to be put out. There is irony in Othello's references to Desdemona here: he describes her with words that suggest her brightness and innocence he is determined to condemn and kill her.
She is also "the rose" to Othello, another beautiful image Othello's allusion to Prometheus explains his wish to put out Desdemona's light in order to restore her former innocence. Before Othello felt only hatred and anger, now he is forced to feel his love, along with his mistaken determination to see Desdemona die. Analysis: Lines Desdemona's last words are especially cryptic When asked who killed her, she remarks: "nobody, I myself commend me to my kind lord." This could be seen as a kind of condemnation of Othello for killing her She might be trying to absolve her husband of
blame with her last breath If this is so, it certainly does not sit well with her line: "falsely, falsely murdered," which seems to refer both to Desdemona's death, as to Emilia's mention of the death of Roderigo and wounding of Cassio. Analysis: Parallelism Emilia's fate is parallel to Desdemona's: She was more realistic than Desdemona She too was betrayed by her husband She died through other's wrongs. Desdemona might be a more central figure in the play, but Emilia is the conscience
Emilia knows how human nature works She knows of husbands' jealousies, of how men believe women are less human, of how people are naturally prone to folly. She is the sole voice of reason in the play, the only besides Desdemona who is uncorrupted by Iago's manipulations. Analysis: Oxymoron Othello insists that he is an "honorable murderer Iago was surely killed out of anger Desdemona out of jealousy and offended pride. Othello still denies the flaws in himself that have led him to this end. Iago was definitely the catalyst for Desdemona's
death and Othello's jealous rages; but the seeds of jealousy and suspicion were already inherent in Othello It certainly makes the resolution of the play more neat to believe that Othello is returned to his nobility Since he still denies the deep wrong he has committed, he cannot be fully redeemed or forgiven. Analysis: Conclusion Of course, all threads are wrapped up in this last scene of the play: Letters are produced that expose Iago's part in these unfortunate events These letters have not been mentioned or shown earlier in the play.
Cassio seems to have been kept alive merely to testify about his part in this whole debacle Tragedies Excite Shakespeare was as good a philosopher as he was a poet He understood the love of power and mischief and that these loves were natural to man Why are tragedies so interesting to people? Why do they read the newspaper and watch the news to hear about the latest Iago? Characterization of Iago Great analyst Harold Goddard noted: Iago is always at war
He is a moral pyromaniac setting fire to all reality He was passed up by Cassio because he cannot stop fighting Since Othello is thought of as the God of War, he is Iagos only god Othello is everything to Iago because war is everything Characterization of Iago Iago rejects a Christian God in a way when he says: I am not what I am This is contradictory to St. Pauls I am what I am
Iago sets about to destroy his god: Uses mastery of timing to plot using openings Employs a grand program of uncreation Characterization of Iago Iago went unchanged during revisions of Desdemona, Emilia, and Othello between the Quarto and First Folio He speaks eight soliloquies and Othello only three Theme of Marriage Marriage is a problem of grand proportions:
Emila is a martyr Iago says: A fellow almost damend in a fair wife Othello and Desdemona never consummate their marriage This makes it easier for Iago Marriage is damnation Tragedy Characteristics There is no conscience in Othello Shakespeare had a tragic obsession with the idea of a good name living on after the protagonists death: Horatio to discuss Hamlet Cassio to tell of Othello
Tragedies, literary or human, depend on imperfect knowledge Shakespeare came naturally to histories, comedies and romances, but tragedies took work The tragedies especially are not religious in any regard No killer kills in the name of any god, ever War is the religion in Othello, Macbeth, Lear, and Romeo and Juliet (Tybalt) Tragedy Characteristics Many critics rate Othello below Macbeth and Hamlet because: There is no extrinsic force operating Iago The evil is too pure There is no remorse shown
Humans are too evil What do you think? Characterization of Othello Even in his final suicide speech he does not achieve atonement Audience is more like Iago than Othello so he cannot be forgiven Othello does not have the power of expression of Hamlet or Macbeth: He is distinct, divided and flawed Has a Julius Caesar complex: Ambiguous
Hard to tell when they are being arrogant or just stating facts Both refer to themselves in the third person Characterization of Othello He is Iagos antitheses until he starts to come undone He should be a character in a romance, like Claudio or Benedick He is the wrong character in the right play Othello, analyst Brower believes, would have come apart from Desdemona without Iago Nothing in Othello is marriage material
Analyzing the Clowns The clowns scarcely come onto the stage and the play excludes all laughter Unlike the drunken porter in Macbeth The asp-bringer in Antony and Cleopatra Sources of Othello Shakespeares source is Cinthio but he changed a few things: Iago is Shakespeares own invention Cinthios Ensign is Iagos basis but:
Ensign falls in love with Desdemona She shuns him in favor of Othello Ensign blames it all on Cassio Ensign beats Desdemona to death The characters were flat, not round, and the shock and inwardness of a rejected solider is absent