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English Coursework – Othello Essay

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How does Shakespeare conclude the dramatic performance of Othello in order to address the questions of blame and justice in the tragedy?

Introduction

Shakespeare’s play Othello, which was first performed in the early 17th century, depicts sexism, racism and status efficiently, as the play continues these forms of inequality change as a result of the chaos in ‘Order-Chaos-Order’; the structure which Shakespeare used in this play to convey the change that occurs between each order.

The consequence of the chaos leads to the modification of the relative status of the characters and causes an effect upon the way blame and justice are applied to the individuals.

One of the main characters of the play is Othello; his importance in the play is that he is a general of the powerful city Venice “The Duke does greet you, General…” I.2 page 59. The introduction of him puts an impact on his reputation because it begins with racist comments, told by three characters: Iago “his Moorship’s Ancient.

” I.1 page 53, Brabantio “It is too true and evil…with the Moor” I.1 page 57 and Roderigo “…full fortune does the thick-lips owe” I.1 page 53.

Though his reputation gets affected by these comments, his status shows him as a person worth respect. His true characteristics, that were described later on, interacted with his introduction “…my perfect soul…” I.2 page 65, another showed that he was a truthful and non-civilised character “Rude am I in my speech…blessed with the soft praise of peace” I.3 page 65, this goes against the elements that are needed for a person to be a general. Audience could understand that Othello is not really someone who can control, but someone who can be controlled because of these characteristics, which may lead to the tragedy.

Iago does not have much of importance at the beginning because he is known to be the ensign of the army; despite this his role in the overall play makes him an important character. He was the only character who knew about everything that was going on amongst the other characters; this gave him the opportunity to control them. Also interpreted the appearance of the roman god Janus “By Janus, I think no” I.2 page 59, the key to begin the tragedy. His true identity is disguised therefore the trust of other characters are gained “…Honest Iago” II.3 page 99. Iago takes advantage of Othello’s true character and is able to control him by confusing him “What dost thou mean?” III.3 page 110, this influences the change in Othello’s character turning against the people he once loved and trusting Iago who does not deserve it.

Desdemona does not generally have importance in the play but her appearance and characteristics relate to the tragedy and links with the actions and motives of Othello “I’ll not expostulate with her…” IV.1 page 139 and Iago “Now, I do love her too; not out of absolute lust…” II.1 page 87. Her status began with her father Brabantio, who was a rich representative in Venice. As black men were generally considered of a low status in the 17th century, racism was not thought to be a problem; if a woman was to marry a black man then it would lower her status. The same way when Desdemona married Othello she was no more under the shadow of her father she became low in status “… here’s my husband…” I.3 page 69. The mention of this made Brabantio say a curse to Othello which does put an effect to lead towards tragedy “…She has deceived her father, and may thee”I.3 page 72.

By Iago using his ability to control he diverts Othello’s thought about Desdemona, he does this by creating a false story about an affair between Cassio and her, this lead to Othello thinking about killing Desdemona “Get me some poison…” IV.1 page 139, Iago was able to convince him of killing her in a different way “…strangle her in her bed…” IV.1 page 139, this will affect Othello’s title and his personality.

Iago was always against women, known to be a misogynist “It is a creature…” IV.1 page 135. While altering Othello’s thoughts he had made him think almost in the same way is well, this brings sexism in the play “She says enough; yet she’s a simple bawd…” IV.2 page 144 (all of Othello’s speech). The same as racism, sexism was not considered as a problem during the 17th century. Sexism is mentioned towards the end of Act IV, because it is the last step to begin the tragedy.

Act V starts off with a small battle between Cassio, who was the lieutenant of Venice and Roderigo, who was not accepted as a lover by Desdemona. Roderigo had died after being betrayed by Iago ‘he stabs Roderigo’ V.1 page 160 and mentioned his true character in front of everyone else who was present “O damned Iago! O inhuman dog!” V.1 page 160, as Iago cunningly speeded up the scene the last words of Roderigo was left unnoticed “How silent is this town! Ho, murder…” V.1 page 160, the tragedy has just begun, if Iago was to be unmasked at this stage the play would end sooner than it should. To continue on for a while longer this action of Iago was established. Bianca was known to be a sexual partner of Cassio, sexism becomes worse at the end of Act V Scene 1; not only did Iago blame her for Cassio’s injuries “…the fruit of whoring…” V.1 page 163 but Emilia did is well “O, fie upon thee strumpet!” V.1 page 163.

Othello turns back to his normal character during the beginning of scene 2, this is shown by his words making sense, also describing how his motive has changed, he will only kill her to purify her soul, “…Justice to break her sword…” V.2 page 164. By this, we know that Othello is not completely under the control of Iago, this decision was his own decision. Once the conversation between Desdemona and him occurs he shows signs of epilepsy “why gnaw you so your nether lip?” V.2 page 165.

When he committed the crime he was not thinking straight, he killed her in a very non-masculine way ‘He smothers her’ V.2 page 168, not being able to see or touch her shows that he needed to do it rather than wanting to do it. Using this method does not tend to kill the victim but may make them unconscious, men tend to kill very violently and make sure that their victim is dead, Othello was not able to succeed in either way therefore he lost his masculinity “Nobody- I myself – farewell.” V.2 page 170 Desdemona killed herself.

The tragedy has reached its centre; Iago is now brought to justice. The only character who was able to unmask Iago successfully was his own wife Emilia. She understood how her husband had lied about Cassio and Desdemona, which lead to her death. “You told a lie, an odious damn�d lie” V.2 page 172. Despite all effort on calming Emilia down, Iago failed and Othello realised who the real culprit was “Zounds, hold your peace” V.2 page 174. Iago’s identity is unravelled in front of everyone and he escapes with committing a surprise attack on his wife Emilia ‘Iago stabs Emilia from behind’ V.2 page 175, this describes him as an inhuman person who gives no mercy, whereas Othello let his wife say her last words before she died “…thou be’st a devil…I bleed, sir, but not killed” V.2 page 177. Now that Iago has finally been unmasked he was claimed that he would not mention why he did this to anyone, loosing his power of speech which he had, to control everyone “…I will never speak a word” V.2 page 178. Shakespeare’s last form of structure (order) had to happen.

Othello’s job has been taken away “…Your power and command is taken off…” V.2 page 179, the last of what he had, it was taken away because of the murder which he had committed “…damned slave…” V.2 page 179. Before he dies he mentions what he wants people to think of him “one that loved too wisely…Indian threw a pearl away” V.2 page 179. Othello had lost his body because of Iago controlling it, his title which he just lost and his perfect soul because he just killed an innocent person whom he loved, making Othello into nothing therefore he deserved to die.

Conclusion

Three main characters were shown and how they were different compared to each other in the play. How the chaos can change their status was also mentioned. Racism, Sexism and Status have been mentioned to show how the story gradually leads to the tragedy. During the chaos the features of each character is affected, causing both Othello and Desdemona to lose their existence and Iago to lose his power of speech, leading him towards justice. Towards the end of the play Othello did not have the same high status as he had when he was at the beginning because he had lost everything he had; this means that he is the one who is to blame for the tragedy. “My parts, my title, and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly” I.2 page 59.

Lodovico is known to be the most important because he is the last character to speak towards the end of the play; he was the only character who was not affected by Iago at all.

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