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Essays On The Character Of Othello

The Pitiful Characters of Othello

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The Pitiful Characters of Othello


   In Othello, no "good" love exists between any of the characters. Shakespeare creates a cast of romantic and platonic couples whose affection is weak and unsustainable. Iago, not Othello, is master of this play; he establishes all the action. There is an underlying weakness and depravity in all the characters, or Iago would never have been able to ruin so many lives. But Iago is unswayed by the external; his black heart is his only guide.



When Iago tells Roderigo to awaken Brabantio and set the wheels of distrust in motion, he is loud and boisterous, even vulgar. He says, "Rouse him...Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell as when by night and negligence, the fire is spied..." (1.1 75, 82-84). Iago is interested only in the act of alarm. We imagine him lurking around the canals, sticking his bony finger into every soul to testing their limits and act accordingly. He has no conscience. For Iago, there is nothing bigger than he to temper his need to destroy.



Iago's bad behavior sets the tone for all other interactions in the play. He has no need for honesty or affiliation; he uses his wife to further his plot, betrays Roderigo, cares nothing for Cassio, and loathes Othello. He is a foil for characters who may know right from wrong but are not passionately committed to acting for good or evil. Shakespeare mirrors this noxious model in other characters' relationships. Desdemona rebels against her father; the Duke takes Othello's side; Roderigo is so lovesick that he will stoop to any level to win Desdemona. Even in the primary romantic relationship, Othello's and Desdemona's, the love is flimsy and easily broken.



Neither Desdemona nor Othello gush about the heavenly course their love has taken - never do they claim to be "star-crossed lovers." The origin of their love lies in the myths that Othello has fashioned from his travels and conquests, not in common interests or a compatibility of spirit. Desdemona can only imagine what Othello's life is like; she is too passive to ever truly live. Though some may argue that this love is mature and doesn't need Romeo-style proclamation, it is clear that Shakespeare has built their relationship on sand.

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Pitiful         Othello         Star-crossed Lovers         Many Lives         Roderigo         Depravity         Conquests         Alarm         Rebels         Platonic        




Hero worship is not a good basis for marriage, and both Desdemona and Othello buy into his heroic reputation too readily. No wonder Iago is able to bend Othello's will. If Othello's love for Desdemona was pure, he would never have killed her with so little evidence of her impurity.



The appeal of Othello is that the reader gets to decide for himself the big questions of good vs. evil. But the text provides a roadmap with which to explore the quality of the characters' consciences - and our own - one weakling soul at a time.

 Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. "Othello". The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.



Othello Character Essay

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Othello Character Essay In the play, Othello, by William Shakespeare, Othello is a general in the Venetian army, who also happens to be black and of Muslim descent, although he is a converted Christian. From the beginning of the play, Othello is victimized and characterized as an outcast in Venetian society. Throughout the play, Othello is mistreated and betrayed, despite his vast amount of love and trust for his friends or supposed friends. Othello is obviously the most repeatedly and most brutally victimized in the play by Iago, among others.

Right from the first scene of the play he is not given the dignity of a name, rather called by racial slurs such as “The Moor” (1. i. 63), “The Thick Lips” (1. i. 72) “Black Ram” (1. i. 97) and a “Barbary Horse” (1. i. 125). These blatantly disrespectful terms are used by both Roderigo and Iago, who is considered one of Othello’s close acquaintances. This shows the obvious lack of honor and respect shown by his so-called ‘friends’. Another example of Iago’s and other’s mistreatment of Othello comes in Act 2 Scene 3 between lines 235 to 261 where Iago lies straight to Othello’s face about what had transpired.

This shows that Iago can and will completely disregard Othello’s superiority and honesty and lie about what had happened and about his direct involvement in the fight. This leads to another example of Iago’s disregard for Othello’s authority and lack of trust in Othello’s decisionmaking as he tries to get Cassio to lose his lieutenancy. Another example of Iago victimizing Othello occurs in the very beginning of ‘The Temptation Scene’, Act 3, Scene 3. It happens in lines 40-47. Iago subtly plants a seed of doubt in Othello’s mind about Desdemona and Cassio’s relationship, and Cassio’s attitude towards Othello.

This is a very interesting part of the play because it is one of Iago’s most obvious observations intended to prod Othello’s jealousy. It also shows his ability to intentionally take advantage of his friends weaknesses, in this instance, Othello’s deep trust in Iago’s word and his jealousy surrounding Desdemona. A different example of Othello’s misguided jealousy and mistrust, placed in his head by Iago is the majority of Act 3, Scene 4, wherein Othello pressures Desdemona about his handkerchief.

This is important because Desdemona unknowingly played right into Iago’s plan by semi-ignoring Othello’s unrest to try to talk to him about Cassio, which angers Othello even more and adds to the envious thoughts already brewing in his head. All of these examples are instances of Iago’s ability to play on Othello’s emotions and feelings, leading to Othello becoming blinded by his own jealousy and rage. Othello is easily the most victimized in the play, tricked and beguiled away from his true thoughts by Iago’s lies and deception.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Othello

Othello Character Essay

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