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Othello and the theme of friendship in the play Essay

Friendship is a special bond between two or more people. This relationship is built on the basis of trust, loyalty and honesty. In the play Othello, Shakespeare demonstrates these qualities through many of his characters to portray their deep friendships. However as the play progresses these friends turn into foes as many problems occur in their friendships and lead to many tragic events. The negative qualities that tore these friendships apart are distrust, selfishness and jealousy that led many of the characters to their tragedies. In the play Othello, Shakespeare demonstrates that there are many causes of the problems that occur in certain friendships.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, many friendships showed a lack of trust which resulted into many tragic events. This negative quality is repeatedly found in the character of Othello. Shakespeare wrote the relationship between Othello and Cassio to be that of friendship that consists of loyalty and honesty. The conflict between these two characters arose as Iago plants seeds of doubt into Othello’s mind about Cassio’s loyalty towards him. Othello’s trust in his friend Cassio was like a thin thread. It was very easy for Iago to succeed in his evil plans, for there was a lack of trust in their friendship. Iago manipulates Othello into believing that his honest wife Desdemona is having an affair with the loyal lieutenant Cassio. Although Iago gives no form of physical evidence, his convincing words are strong enough to allow such intense thoughts to enter Othello’s mind.

As Iago states to Othello:”It is impossible you should see this,Were they as prime as goats, as hot as mnkeys,As salt as wolves in pride, and fools as grossAs ignorance made drunk.” (3.3.402-405)Iago uses such intense imagery of Desdemona and Cassio sleeping together, that it forces Othello to be enraged with such anger at Cassio’s betrayal. After falling into Iago’s trap and believing his dishonest words, Othello says”Within these three days let me hear thee sayThat Cassio’s not alive.” (3.3.472-473)All the anger and jealousy of betrayal that Othello feels, due to the mistrust between Othello and Cassio, leads Othello to plan the murder of lieutenant Cassio. The lack of trust between Othello and Cassio is also shown after the fight between Cassio and Roderigo took place. Othello’s distrust in Cassio led Othello to believe Iago’s words.

He also took the fact that Cassio was drunk as a major flaw in him and instantly dismissed him from his position as lieutenant, not giving Cassio an opportunity to defend himself in full consciousness. Othello’s distrust in Cassio is displayed when he believes that lieutenant Cassio would be at fault for a deed, which he did not intentionally commit. Othello announces,”I know, Iago,Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter,Making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I love thee;But never more be officer of mine.” (2.3.225-228)This announcement is made while Cassio is still drunk; during this time he is not in a suitable state to defend him self. The lack of trust in the relationship of Othello and Cassio leads to tragic and sorrowful events.

The Shakespearean play Othello carries many different causes of problems between the characters of the play. Many times throughout the play selfishness is displayed as a cause to many of the tragic events that occur, as many of the characters did things for their own benefit. A great amount of selfishness is shown in many of Iago’s relationships. His relationship with his wife Emilia would be well only when Emilia would do something for Iago. Although Emilia is aware of this, she is willing to do any favours for him, even picking up Desdemona’s handkerchief because Iago asked her too. Iago’s selfishness allows him to use his own wife for his evil desires of persuading Othello.

“I am glad I have found this napkin;This was her first remembrance from the Moor.

My wayward husband hath a hundred timesWoo’d me to steal it; but she so loves the token,For he conjured her she should ever keep it,That she reserves it evermore about herTo kiss and talk to. I’ll have the work ta’en outAnd give’t Iago: what he will do with itHeaven knows, not I;I nothing but to please his fantasy.” (3.3.290-299)To take his selfish plan further, Iago uses his wife Emilia’s loyalty to his own advantage. During the time Emilia kept the handkerchief in her hands, Iago’s speech towards Emilia was very different.

“A good wench; give it me.” (3.3.313)Wench is an informal word to describe a young woman. Throughout the play it is showed that Iago believed women are prostitutes and work at night. Iago’s use but dislike in women establishes his selfishness. Shakespeare demonstrates Iago’s selfish desires to be rank a higher position, through many events. Selfishness was portrayed by the character of Iago with his friend Roderigo as well. Iago advised Roderigo to send Desdemona some jewels and money by Iago, to gain Desdemona, his ex-fiancé back. Later it is found out that Iago never did present the gifts to Desdemona, but had kept it for himself.

Iago even asks Roderigo to instigate a quarrel between Roderigo and Cassio, which would lead to the dismissal of Cassio’s position, as Cassio was drunk and all blame would fall on him. Iago continued to use Roderigo, as he states,”Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;For I mine own gain’d knowledge should profaneIf I would time expend with such a snipeBut for my sport and profit.” (1.3.372-375)Iago’s selfishness leads him to use Rodrigo to his benefit and advantage, not caring for the damage and emotional stress it must cost Rodrigo. Iago’s selfishness leads this friendship to Rodrigo’s own tragedy.

Jealousy is something that can make a person do anything. Shakespeare’s play Othello establishes how jealousy tore many of the friendships apart. The friendship between Iago and Othello was greatly affected by the jealousy Iago felt towards him, because of Othello’s high rank and power; Othello holds a great reputation in Cyprus. Iago also wanted position and carried a desire to be lieutenant. He befriended Othello so thinking he may get the position, but Othello gave the position to the loyal and capable Cassio, also Othello’s friend. Iago believed Othello slept with his wife Emilia, which caused a lot of jealousy and anger within Iago. Iago was jealous that his wife Emilia slept with Othello, so he decided to give Othello the same trauma.

“… Rouse him, Make after him, poison his delight,Proclaim him in the streets, Incense her kinsmen,And though he in a fertile climate dwell,Plague him with flies; though that his joy be joy,Yet throw such changes of vexation on’t,As it may lose some colour.” (1.1.69-73)Iago’s jealousy caused him to do and plot evil and selfish deeds that would lead to many tragic events. Iago disliked Cassio for the same reason he disliked Othello; a higher rank. Instead of Iago, Cassio was appointed lieutenant by Othello; this caused Cassio to have a higher position. Iago speaks to Roderigo about Othello’s decision and states,”…the better shall my purpose work on him.

Cassio’s a proper man, Let me see now:To get his place, and to plumpe up my willIn double knavery -How, how?- Let’s see:- …” (1.3.380-384)It is now evident Iago is jealous and wants revenge on both these characters, due to what he feel they have done to him. Iago believes Othello ‘overlooked’ him and choose Cassio as lieutenant, and Cassio took over him and accepted that position.

Throughout the play Othello Shakespeare establishes many causes of the problems that occur between many friendships. It is clearly shown that many of the characters created by Shakespeare in Othello carried a lack of trust among each other. Many of the same characters were noticed as selfish characters. These characters would do anything to achieve what they desire and long for, would take advantage of anything that would benefit them. Jealousy was also a trait discovered as a cause of many problems. Jealousy was the main cause of most of the tragic events that occurred throughout the play of Othello. Shakespeare’s Othello creates a high understanding of the nature of human relationships.

Bibliography:

Othello by William Shakespeare


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