Othello Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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There is no doubt that whatever Shakespeare wrote found its way to the top as a literary piece of genius. His command over language and ability to portray emotions and thoughts through mere words has made him immortal in English literature. Shakespeare uses a variety of aides to make his play the flawless specimen it is. The most striking symbol in Othello is Desdemonas handkerchief that circulates throughout the play. Because Othello gave it to Desdemona as a first gift, the handkerchief functions as a token of his love, which Desdemona cherishes (3. 3. 1).

Iago convinces his wife to steal it from Desdemona because he knows that it has a lot of sentimental value and that Othello will be angry when he finds out his wife no longer has it. Iago also knows that, for Othello, the handkerchief symbolizes Desdemonas fidelity. When it shows up in Cassios possession, Othello is convinced of Desdemonas infidelity. The white napkin, as we know, is spotted with red strawberries and Othello tells Desdemona that the strawberries were hand stitched with thread that has been dyed with blood from maidens hearts or, virgins blood (3. . 10). [1]

In this way, the handkerchief resembles a white wedding sheet thats also been stained with a virgins blood. So, in Othellos mind, Desdemonas handkerchief represents her chastity and the moment she loses it, she looses her chastity. The handkerchief also seems to function as a symbol of Othellos mysterious past and his exoticness. He tells Desdemona that an Egyptian charmer gave it to his mother and that it would keep his father faithful and under her spell (3. . 9). That such a small object has such enormous weight in the play testifies to the sensitivity of jealous minds, and the way that small incidents can be magnified psychologically into proofs of love or betrayal. Animalistic imagery also presents the impression of animal behaviour coming out of the seemingly civilized humans. Animalistic references are made often by Iago reflecting his beastly thirst for vengeance and blood.

He uses animalistic references while referring to desdemona and Cassios supposed affair,burning the image in Othellos head so much so that by the end of the play Othello himself drops the beautiful speech which was adorned by references to gardens and exotic creatures and instead begins using these crude references without appearing to notice the change within himself. A literary device called Peripeteia is found in Othello. Peripeteia is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. The term is primarily used with reference to works of literature.

The English form of peripeteia is peripety. Peripety is a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic. In modern Greek means adventure. In William Shakespeares tragedy Othello, the peripety occurs in the mere middle of the play, act III, scene 3. Othello is slowly deceived by Iagos rhetoric, persuasiveness and imagery, yet in this scene the transition occurs. Iago says Indeed with emphasis, whereafter Othello replies: Indeed? Ay, indeed. Discernst thou aught in that? Is he not honest? .

Iago keeps using rhetorical emphasis to corrupt Othello: Honest, my lord? ¦ ] Think, my lord? . Othello who is of weak character and easily persuaded replies: Think, my lord! By heaven, he echoes me, / As if there was some monster in his thought / Too hideous to be shown. The corruption continues until the peripety. There are two stanzas indicating this change. Othello has just got married to the beautiful Desdemona, whom he seemed unlikely to marry because he is a Moor (of North African descent), nevertheless he has been very lucky. Yet the peripety arrives and Othello exclaims:

Why did I marry? This honest creature [Iago] doubtless / Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds. [III, 3, 243-4]. Othello concludes that: This fellows of exceeding honesty / And knows all qualities with a learned spirit / Of human dealings [III, 3, 260]. The peripety has happened and Othello degrades mentally and the transition can be observed in his usage of language. Othello is very eloquent and uses subtle imagery (Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them [I, 2, 59]. After the peripety his language degrades to the usage of diabolical and physical imagery.

Following the confirmation of his absolute belief in what Iago has told him he remarks: I had rather be a toad / And live upon the vapour of a dungeon [III, 3, 272]. Paul Yachnin (1996) and Andrew Sofer (1997) concentrate on the symbolic and thematic resonance of another device used Shakespeare to further his play,specifically Desdemonas handkerchief in Othello. Stolen by Iago and later produced as proof of her infidelity, the handkerchief is a fetishized commodity in Yachnins reading, capable of eliciting wonder and ultimately violence.

For Sofer, the handkerchief embodies a broad spectrum of thematic functions in the play, designating an interlocking chain of signification that includes witchcraft, sexuality, jealousy, revenge, murder, inconstancy, and falsified evidence. A prop as metaphor, the handkerchief ties together the dramas leading motifs as well as drawing attention to its own theatricality, Sofer concludes[2]. Linguistic signification is the subject of Lucille P. Fultzs (1997) essay, which considers Iagos skillful manipulation of language to orchestrate the deaths of Othello and Desdemona.

For Fultz, verbal seduction”a desire for power achieved through language”is a basic thematic component of the drama, one embodied by Iago in each of his relationships with fellow characters. Othello is considered to be a prime example of Aristotelian drama; it focuses upon a very small cast of characters, one of the smallest used in Shakespeare, has few distractions from the main plot arc, and concentrates on just a few themes, like jealousy. As such, it is one of the most intense and focused plays Shakespeare wrote, and has also enjoyed a great amount of popularity from the Jacobean period to the present day.

Othello takes place in Venice (in northern Italy) and Cyprus (an island in the eastern Mediterranean about forty miles south of present-day Turkey). The time is between 1489 and 1571. It is interesting to note that Venice is the setting for both major Shakespeare plays dealing in part with racial prejudice, Othello and The Merchant of Venice. As one of the worlds leading sea powers, Venice was the center of commercialism and materialism and, therefore, corruption and conflict arising from avarice, social status, and fierce competition.

Cyprusas a strategically located island which yielded substantial harvests of olives, grapes and various grainswas much prized throughout its history. Assyrians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and Byzantines all fought over and occupied it. Englands King Richard I, the Lion-Hearted, conquered Cyprus in 1191 but later ceded it to the French. Venice seized the island in 1489 and in 1571 the Ottoman Turks brought Cyprus under its control. From the eleventh to the fifteenth century, Catholics battled to re-conquer Spain from the Islamic Arabs and Berbers, or Moors, who had successfully occupied it since the 900s. The struggle inspired intense prejudice and suspicion that lasted well after the Moors were overthrown. Philip III of Spain expelled 300,000 Moriscos from the Iberian (Spanish) peninsula not long after Shakespeare finished Othello, in 1609. In England during Shakespeares time, views regarding Moors were slightly more complex because of strong anti-Catholic sentiment in England and English fears of invasion by the Spanish.

In fact, England maintained independent trade relationships with Moorish Northern Africa, despite Spanish and Portuguese protest. The English slave trade also brought blacks to Europe, from mid-sixteenth century onward. Queen Elizabeth herself founded The Barbary Company, formally institutionalizing this trade; in addition, she received a delegation of Moroccan diplomats in 1600. However, the English still felt a strong suspicion of Islam: Elizabeth issued a degree expelling Moors from Africa and Spanish Moriscos from the boundary of England in 1599 and 1601.

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