Author: William Shakespeare
The Essence of Conflict
At the heart of the conflict of the play lie the contradictory feelings of trust, love, and jealousy. Iago’s greed and desire to climb the career ladder by any means are stronger than both Cassio’s devotion and the pure and true love of Othello and Desdemona. Knowing the strong nature of Othello, his military-style clear and strict views, his inability to see the surrounding world in semitones, Iago aims his intrigues at only one doubt sown in the soul of the Moor. Only one hint, gently dropped by the “faithful” Lieutenant, leads to the tragic aftermath.
In “Othello,” the basic laws of the genre of tragedy such as the collapse of hopes, the inability to change reality, the death of the main characters are clearly observed.
Motives of Jealousy
Shakespeare researchers usually reduce the main idea of the tragedy “Othello” to the problem of jealousy. Nevertheless, here, as in a number of other works of Shakespeare, jealousy is only a theme of the tragedy that does not coincide with the idea but is only a means of expressing it. Jealousy contributes to the development of intrigue but does not determine the essence of the ideological conflict.
The idea of the tragedy will be very clear after determining the proportion of the main characters in the play and their significance for the development of the action. If the idea of the tragedy, as it is traditionally considered, is jealousy, then the image of Iago has only a compositional meaning. Iago drives the plot of the play and holds together all links of the intrigue. Then it is easy to imagine that Iago can be replaced by a person with a completely different character or simply a coincidence of circumstances prompting Othello to feel jealous. With this understanding, the entire essence of the tragedy is concentrated in the image of Othello, and in the conflict between Othello and Desdemona. However, such an interpretation is not complete. The image of Iago is organically included in the idea suggested by the playwright. The idea of the play finds its figurative expression in the continuous line of opposition between two characters passing through the whole play, in the inextricable connection between the images of Othello and Iago.
The opposite traits of the characters of Othello and Iago are emphasized throughout the play. Iago is hard-headed and hypocritical; he is used to thinking only bad about people. Othello, both by his nature and perception of life, is a humanist. Just like Desdemona and Cassio, he is the embodyment of the features typical to a person of his times. The culture of the Renaissance has shaped his moral character and determined his aspirations. Othello exemplifies the best traits of the era.
All this is largely confirmed by the nature of the relationship between Desdemona and Othello. The love of Desdemona persists through the most difficult trials because she has found a kindred spirit in him. For Desdemona, as for Cassio, Othello is a man of equal culture and intelligence. However, Desdemona has been not so much impressed by the heroic deeds as by the extraordinary man who committed them, in whom she saw the embodiment of her ideal.
Othello and Desdemona were united by a shared view of life, bright optimism, believing in the good traits in people. Both of them, cherishing sublime feelings above all, managed to overcome class and racial prejudices and were not afraid to openly oppose them in order to build a free and happy life for the humankind.
But why did Shakespeare make his hero a Moor? Why did he embody the bright side of the Renaissance in the form of a black commander?
The understanding of Othello’s image was always hampered, if not by openly racist theories, but by the racist prejudices of some researchers who saw the source of the tragedy in the primitive nature of the Moor, in his unbridled temperament or even in his low mental level. They considered Othello to be a backward man compared to the Europeans he faced.
The Essence of the Tragedy
The essence of Shakespeare’s tragedy lies in the clash of two principles: humanistic feelings (pure and noble humanistic ideas) and vulgarity, meanness, self-interest, and selfishness. According to the writer himself, the fate of everyone is the result of his character and circumstances. And he clearly demonstrates this in his plays: the best, noble, clever people perish under the influence of evil, come across tenacious networks of lies and get trapped in them; evil takes possession of their souls, which leads to terrible consequences.