Shakespeare was on of the greatest writer of all time he wrote many plays and among them there are his timeless tragedies. Some of the most popular are Romeo and Juliet, a typical love tragedy, Macbeth and the famous Othello.
Tragedy is one of the oldest genres in literature. It started off in Greek times and one of the earliest writers was Aristotle. Shakespeare was influenced by Greek and Roman thought and ideas, which he used in his own revenge tragedies.
Shakespearean tragedies are all set around the hero. The hero normally has a fatal flaw that causes the downfall of the hero. These ideas are clearly shown in the revenge tragedy Othello. In the play, Othello is a typical revenge hero. Othello is a cultural and racial outsider he is a moor, which is a natural of Northern Africa. This featured separates him from the other characters. He is a well-respected man who is a loyal officer and has repeatedly proved himself in a battle, but people still do not accept him as one of them. This fuels Othellos insecurities and the way people treat and talk to him build on the many insecurities he already has.
Throughout the play there are many references to Othellos race and social background. In scene one the audience are introduced to Othello through Iago and Brabantio conversing about him. The audience are informed that he is marrying the Kings daughter (Desdemona) behind the Kings back. This is highlighted by a quote from Act one Scene one A black ram is tupping your white +ewe. The audiences first impressions of Othello are that he is sly and untrustworthy.
The imagery used by Iago black ram and white yew signifies the differences between Desdemona and Othello, Othello is black and Desdemona is white. Not simply this but other ideas are connoted by these images to the audience. Black symbolising hate and evil while white symbolising purity, good and angelic. This opposite effect between them gives a negative effect on the audience about Othello. Witchcraft is spoken of He thought twas witchcraft by Iago and Rodrigo as there is no other reason for a pure and angelic character to love such a hideous beast. The ideas of witchcraft being mentioned shows that people are thinking that Othello has put a spell on Desdemona for her to love him.
Othello isnt seen as attractive or conventionally good looking. His colour makes him unappealing and frightening implied by the imagery used by people in the play when speaking about Othello. When referring to Othello. The Moor and Thick lips are used as references to Othellos colour in many scenes. The imagery of animals or beasts is used a lot, Black ram and barbary horse. This is bringing Othello to an animalistic level with the imagery of wild un tamed animals or beasts. This is used to insult Othellos colour and his racial background. By saying he is of a low level and uncivilised.
Although a lot of insults are directed towards Othello these insults are never spoken to his face. This is because Othello is a valuable and skilled soldier he has done a lot for the country and people respect him for that. I have done the state some service and they knowt. When speaking to Othello, Iago and Rodrigo call him my lord This shows respect and Othello seems to be accepted into their Venetian society because of his fighting ability, although the dramatic irony is clearly shown when Iago says, I do hate him as I do hells pains but when speaking to Othello in Act 4 Scene 4 he says. You know I love you my lord. This would be one thing that would change the audiences views about Othello and make them more aware of Iago as this starts to show his true colours. Iago mentions the word hell signifying the devil and pure evil, this again relates to the views and opinions people have on Othellos racial background. His black skin reinforces the images and thoughts also.
Discrimination is a key theme during this play a lot of which is aimed at Othello. Although Othello has been accepted into their society he still feels conscious about his racial background as he states , haply, for I am black. Othello knows that hes an outsider to them and understands why, his unknown qualities may be threat to some but on the other hand others are intrigued which Is shown when he says, her father loved me/oft invited me/still questioned me about the story of my life. People do not like to accept the unknown but like to question it or like Iago feel the need to push it away.
The unknown is ventured into by Desdemona she crosses the line between her society and the unknown by marrying Othello. This shocks and seems outrageous but it helps Othello be accepted more into their society. Desdemona was once too scared by Othellos race this is highlighted by the quote And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks. But she looked beyond this I saw Othellos visage in his mind. This shows that if one can see the inner beauty then why cant every one else? Perception is a key theme during the play. The audience see that Othello is beautiful not on the outside but on the inside. Iago although he appears beautiful the audience see a different view they see more than skin deep.
Desdemona accepts Othello for who he is, therefore Othello feels safe and secure with her. He loves and adores Desdemona and would do anything for her. This is clearly shown in Act4 Scene4 And I when I love thee not, chaos is come again. This is implying that without Desdemonas love it would be the end of the world, the end of Othello.
When Iago starts to question Desdemonas love for Othello, Othello now feels he cannot trust Desdemona. This affects him because she makes him feel accepted because she loves him for who he is and now he feels unaccepted into their society. Iago knows this so he plays on these insecurities to get what he wants. I think this quote is a good description telling the audience he is comparing Othello to an Ass, and Iago is leading him with his lies. And will as tenderly be led by thnose as asses are. This creates an image of an animal being led away so easily by something so simple, but by something it loves and craves.
Iago does not tell Othello anything about Desdemona and Cassio he just cleverly puts thoughts into Othellos head, it is shown well n this quote, Ha I like not that¦Nothing my lord. Iago immediately catches Othellos attention and he is eager to find out more. Iago plants the seed of doubt and nurtures it over act 3. Iago carries on and starts to mention Cassio although he doesnt say anything about Desdemona and Cassio being together he implies it, shown in this quote I cannot think he would sneak away so guilty like, seeing you coming. These quick sentences get Othellos mind racing, with doubt and jealousy. The words that make Othello eager are sneak and guilty this really sets the scene for a private affair. Othello panics and he answers Iago quick trying to find out more. What dost though think?
As the scene progresses Othello becomes suspicious and starts to get annoyed with Iago, as it seems Iago knows something and is not telling Othello, Othello says Show me thy thought. Othello, feeling an outsider already is now separated from the group even more as there are secrets revolving around that he knows nothing of. Iago realises that Othello may not believe him, to get Othello to trust him and start to believe him he says You know I love you my lord. This dramatic Irony starts to show the audience that the real villain is Iago in the play and their sympathy goes out to Othello as all he is, is another cog in Iagos conniving and twisted plan.
Toward the end of the scene Iago starts to really play on the insecurities of Othello. She did deceive her father marrying you. This implies that if she can deceive her own blood then what chance does Othello have? This idea was brought up at the start of the play when Othello was speaking to Desdemonas father, and he warns Othello of her background telling him that she has deceived him many times before. So Othello starts to really believe it now. Why did I marry?
To make sure Othello really understands Iago, Iago starts to imply that Othello being an outsider means he does not know a lot about their society. Iago comes from this society so anything said, Othello will believe because he doesnt know any different. In Venice they do not let god see their pranks, they dare not show their husbands; their best conscious. Here Iago is implying that Venetian women are not what they seem. Iago knows this from past experience and implies Othello has been pulled in by their deceptive ways.
Othello is starting to doubt his position in the society as he realises he does not know enough. This plays on his insecurities and he feels more of an outsider than hes ever felt. This is shown by his epileptic fits on stage as he works himself up so much his body shuts itself down. His epileptic fits contribute to his outsider qualities as this is a fault within him, which separates him from the society. People dont understand him and therefore cant accept him totally into their society. This gives Iago a chance to work situations to his advantage like the Cassio and Bianca scene. Othello becomes more and more insecure and vulnerable he needs to rely on Iagos advises more. Iago gets him to depend on him and a power change occurs. The audience are aware of the change by Act 4 scene 4 when it is clearly shown. From then on Othello becomes more and more insecure, and Iago feeds on his weakness.
Rude am I in speech / And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace. (A statement form Othello.) This is showing us that Othello is presenting himself as an outsider and constantly brings up his differences from other Venetians. This insecurity is brought on by the thoughts of other people. If everyone else thinks it, then Othello starts to think it too because he is so unsure about himself. Another quote that shows this is when Othello says, Haply for I am black/and have not those soft parts of conversation.
Othello knows he is discriminated against his colour and he admits it Haply for I am black, his colour is linked to the ideas of a beast he refers to this by saying, have not those soft parts. The soft in this sentence is the total opposite of what is thought about Othello. He now discriminated himself and compares him self to other people and this is when he thinks his whole world is crumbling around him especially because his one true love has supposedly betrayed him. If Othello chooses not to believe in himself and lets himself be an outsider from the rest, then what chance does he have expecting others to accept him?
Othellos position as an outsider is in a lot of way fuelled by his insecurities. This is a serious weakness that comes across on Othello and the paranoia he has upon himself does not help. Desdemona gave him the confidence to not care, but Iagos twisted and conniving ways led Othello to believe his one true love was not there beside him any more helping him through the tough times. Desdemona fuelled the little confidence Othello had and it was this reason that Iago used to break Othello. In the last scene Othello speaks Like a base Indian, threw a pearl away. Here in this metaphor Othello has realised Desdemona was his pearl the one thing left that made him she was his world and his world had now gone.