Othello's Development: From Biased Impressions to True Character

Categories: Othello

William Shakespeare's "Othello" introduces the titular character through a lens of prejudice and misconception. Othello's initial portrayal, as conveyed by the scheming Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio, stands in stark contrast to the Othello we come to know later in the play. This essay explores the evolution of our perception of Othello, highlighting the stark disparity between the biased first impression and the genuine character revealed as the narrative unfolds.

Biased First Impressions

Our first impression of Othello is carefully crafted by the conversation between Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio in the opening scene.

Iago, the chief architect of this skewed image, speaks of Othello with palpable contempt. In this initial encounter, Othello is portrayed as a loathsome and malevolent figure, evoked through derogatory epithets such as "an old black ram" (1.1.97), "the devil" (1.1.100), and "a Barbary horse" (1.1.125).

Moreover, the racially charged language employed by Iago further contributes to the negative impression of Othello. This biased portrayal hinges on the insinuation that Othello has wronged Brabantio by allegedly stealing and raping his daughter, Desdemona.

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Brabantio's vehement disapproval of his daughter's union with Othello is evident when he expresses a preference for her to be with Roderigo instead, stating, "O, would you had had her!" (1.1.198). These biased impressions firmly establish Othello as a character to be reviled, a perception that sharply contradicts the reality of his character.

The True Character Emerges

The stark contrast between the prejudiced first impression and Othello's genuine character becomes evident when we meet him in the subsequent scene. Othello emerges as an honorable and principled individual, devoid of the malevolence attributed to him by Iago and his cohorts.

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One key aspect of Othello's character that emerges is his unwavering sense of honor and honesty. When Iago attempts to warn him of Brabantio's anger and advises him to hide, Othello resolutely refuses, asserting, "Let him do his spite. My services which I have done... shall out-tongue his complaints... I must be found. My parts, my title, and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly" (1.2.20-37). Othello's refusal to flee, even in the face of danger, reflects his unshakable commitment to his actions and his unwavering belief in their righteousness. His steadfastness contradicts the cowardly image painted by Iago in the earlier scene.

Furthermore, Othello's wisdom and rationality become evident when he encounters Brabantio's angry assembly. Instead of resorting to violence, Othello uses his words to prevent a potentially disastrous confrontation. He advises the men, "you shall more command with years than with your weapons...Hold your hands...Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter" (1.2.78-104). Othello's measured and reasoned response demonstrates that he is far from the impulsive and violent figure suggested by Iago's narrative.


In conclusion, "Othello" masterfully navigates the theme of perception versus reality by presenting an initial impression of the titular character that is rife with bias and prejudice. The conversation between Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio shapes a distorted image of Othello as a villainous and malevolent outsider. However, as the play unfolds, Othello's true character emerges, revealing an honorable, principled, and rational individual who stands in stark contrast to the biased first impression. Shakespeare's exploration of the evolution of perception in "Othello" serves as a powerful reminder of the dangers of prejudgment and the complexity of human character.

Updated: Nov 03, 2023
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Othello's Development: From Biased Impressions to True Character. (2016, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/othello-first-impression-essay

Othello's Development: From Biased Impressions to True Character essay
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