In this essay I will be analysing the play Othello and exploring the main characters. William Shakespeare is one of the main icons of the 17th Century and of all time. Othello is a story of jealousy, betrayal, deception and murder. The main character, Othello is a general of the Venetian army. He has a loving but strong, patient and romantic personality. He loves his wife Desdemona very much. Othello’s ensign is called Iago. Iago hopes to get promoted to lieutenant.
However Cassio gets the job. This is the first use of jealousy in the play.
Iago is very jealous and tries to get revenge on Othello, telling him his wife is being unfaithful with Cassio. The story was set in Venice, Italy. Elizabethan audiences would think this is a foreign and unknown place because travelling was very expensive and not as common as today. Audiences had a preconception of Venetian people as people who were people who were romantics and had affairs regularly.
The first use of jealousy is in act 1 scene 1, when Iago finds out that Othello has chosen Cassio as his lieutenant, instead of himself.
Iago feels he deserves the promotion for being so loyal to Othello. “And what was he? Forsooth a great arithmetician, one Michael Cassio, a Florentine (A fellow almost damn’d in a fair wife) that never set a squadron in the field” this shows he is jealous because he is saying Cassio isn’t as good as him. And he deserves the promotion more.
He is obviously jealous. After Iago finds about Cassio getting the job he tries to get Desdemona and Othello in trouble with Brabantio, (Desdemona’s father) Iago sends Roderigo, (A rich gullible Venetian who is in love with Desdemona) to go get him.
Iago then tells Brabantio that his daughter and Othello have got married without his permission and are now on their honeymoon. However Iago tells Brabantio this in a vulgar way to exaggerate they did something wrong. “Even now, now, very now an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. ” This quote uses sexual references to add effect to shock Elizabethan audiences. Iago has used connotations about the colours of the sheep. The black ram is describing Othello has a powerful dangerous animal, and Desdemona as an innocent white sheep. The black symbolises a negative colour, and the white symbolises innocence and purity. Read how does Othello change over time
Iago uses this imagery to manipulate the secret Desdemona kept from her father. In Elizabethan times daughters ‘belonged’ to their fathers, and then after they are married they belong to their husband. Audiences would have found Desdemona and Othello’s secret very shocking. Shakespeare adds theatrical effect in his plays like this. Iago then goes to an inn where Othello and Desdemona are staying. He is very deceitful and two faced, because he acts like he loves Othello and is a good friend by warning them both Brabantio has found out they got married. As double as the Duke’s: he will divorce you, or put upon you, what restraint or grievance. ”
This quote shows Iago warning the couple Brabantio is angry, and we do what he can to split you up. Othello now thinks he can trust Iago and he is loyal. This is all a part of Iago’s plan to build Othello’s trust, so his downfall will be unexpected from Iago. While Othello is sent away to Cyprus Iago is formulating his plan; the downfall of Othello and ways in which he can win revenge and get the job he ‘deserves’ All through the play Iago is deceptive in ways to pretend to be Othello’s best friend.
However Iago tells Roderigo this; “I have told thee often and I retell thee again, I hate the moor. ” This is another example of deception; he acts like Othello’s friend but talks bad about him to others. Then in Iago’s soliquay, the audience realise his plan to break up Othello and Desdemona. “After some time abuse Othello’s ears, that he is too familiar his wife. The moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest. ” This means that he will lie to Othello, and tell him someone is being too friendly with his wife. Also Othello is a trusting person so will believe him.
This dramatic effect that Shakespeare uses of Iago just talking to the audience gets the audience involved; the audience would be shouting and booing by now at Iago’s evil plans. In act 2 scene 1, Iago is having a conversation with Roderigo about Othello. Iago is very jealous of him “For I suspect the lusty moor hath leaped in into my seat. The thought whereof doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards. ” He is totally jealous of Othello, and the jealousy is gnawing away at him. After the war is over, Othello has a celebration in honour of his marriage and the war being over. Iago uses the party as the scene to get Cassio fired.
Cassio is offered a drink from Iago, but declines because he knows he cannot handle his drink. Iago pressurises him, telling him he is a friend and will look after him. Cassio looses his job because he gets into an argument with Montano after a brawl. Othello then fires Cassio. Iago first plants the seeds of jealousy into Othello’s mind, he starts telling Othello how honest Cassio is, but Iago starts dropping hints that he wants to tell him more to prove Cassio isn’t honest. For example; “Why then I think Cassio is an honest man” This is a strange thing to say, because then you can tell he wants Othello to enquire.
Iago then admits his jealousy of Cassio to Othello when he says; “As I confess it is my natures plague to spy into abuses, and of my jealousy” he is saying that maybe his jealous mind is trying to find faults with Cassio, because he is jealous. Even when Othello doesn’t believe Iago, he still asks for proof. As if he still wants to know more. I think this shows his doubts about Desdemona, and is starting to believe Iago because he admitted his jealousy. So when Desdemona pleads for Cassio’s job back, Othello think she is doing it because she is in love with him.
However they are actually only good friends. Othello was given a handkerchief that his mother gave him that was from her mother. When Desdemona and Othello got married he gave it to her. Desdemona misplaces it and her best friend Emilia (Iago’s wife) finds it she gives it to her husband Iago to give back to Desdemona. However, Iago plants it in Cassio’s room. Iago confronts Othello with this information. Othello asks Desdemona of the whereabouts of it, but she thinks she has just mislaid it so Desdemona replies with, “I do not have it about me. ” So Othello immediately thinks she is guilty.
Desdemona tries to change the subject, so Othello starts to believe ‘honest’ Iago is telling the truth. This is another example of Iago’s deceit. By now Othello thinks Desdemona is very guilty; however Desdemona has no idea what Othello is thinking. Jealousy has totally changed Othello’s view of Desdemona. He believed that Desdemona would never cheat on him. However now he has strong feelings of hate and love. In the end of the play, when everyone except Desdemona realises Iago’s evil plot, Iago shows a different side to the other characters for the first time, when Roderigo and Cassio find out his evil scheme.
Iago murders them both. I think this is the first time the audience would have realised Iago is not just evil but violent also. Othello goes into Desdemona’s room and tells her he knows she has been unfaithful; she has no idea what he is talking about. He then smothers her and she dies. Emilia then tells him Iago was lying and blames herself. Othello then kills himself because he feels so guilty. My conclusion is, after analysing this play, Iago is the most deceitful and jealous character out of all the characters.
He wasn’t uncovered as a villain till at the end of the play, because of his manipulative stories and twisting of the truth. He was referred to as ‘honest’ Iago throughout the play; because everyone was naive and gullible and believed everything they were told. He was jealous of Cassio because he got an important promotion that Iago wanted, also jealous of Othello; because of the important job and beautiful wife, so decided to plot Othello’s downfall. The other characters shouldn’t have been so gullible and more trusting. Shakespeare uses dramatic effects like a soliquay from Iago, to get involved with the performances.
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