Themes in Othello Essay
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What are the major themes we have encountered in William Shakespeare’s Othello, so far in the play? ‘Excellent wretch; Peridition atch my soul But I do love thee: and when I love thee not, Chaos is come again. ‘- Othello. There are many complex themes in Othello; it is a play full of very diverse characters. This contrast of characters gives the text its many themes and in turn, makes it a very interesting and compelling play. Love Whenever I think of this text and its themes, there is one that always stands out in my mind; love.
Whether it is the marital love between Othello and Desdemona, or the unrequited love Roderigo has for Desdemona, it is something that heavily features throughout this play. Where we see love most often depicted, is the love between Desdemona and Othello, and the problems it causes. Carol Thomas Neely supports this idea that marital love is one of the main themes in the play, and that because of this the primary conflict is between men and women. Jealousy It is clear to see that the fire behind numerous conflicts in this text is jealousy.
It is one of the primary reasons that Iago is so persistent in his destruction of Othello, and why Roderigo is so willing to help Iago in his scheming ploys. In my opinion, Iago displays the most jealous tendencies right from the start, stemming from the fact that Othello chose Cassio for the job of lieutenant, and not him. ‘I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. ‘ It might also have something do to with Iago thinking that Othello has slept with his wife; Emilia. ‘… I hate the Moor And it is thought abroad that Itwixt my sheets ‘Has done my office. I know not if it be true;
Yet I, for mere suspicion in that kind, Will do as if for surety. ‘ D. R. Godfrey examines the portrayal of jealousy in Othello, and states that ‘Iago exhibits an all encompassing jealousy’ and because of this Iago becomes ‘the most completely villainous character in all literature. ‘ Racism ‘What a full fortune does the thick lips owe if he can carry’t thus. ‘ This is one of the many racist slurs Iago uses when referring to Othello throughout the play. Othello is black, so I was expecting racism to be a relatively prominent theme, due to the time that this is set in.
However, ‘thick lips’ is a stereotypical view of someone from black origin, yet Othello is shown to be a hero; honest and honourable, which would have been quite startling to the Elizabethan audience, considering that black people in plays were always portrayed as villains. It is clear to see that Shakespeare challenges racial stereotypes right the way through this piece, something that Ruth Cowhig supports. She says that Shakespeare’s depiction of Othello as a noble character was challenging stereotypes.
The majority of racism spoken throughout this text undoubtedly comes from Iago. Whenever he is talking ill of Othello, he refers to him as ‘The Moor’. Ruth Cowhig also writes about racism being another of the primary reasons for Iago’s hatred towards him. Manipulation Iago makes manipulation another of the prominent themes. He uses it constantly in a bid to get whatever he wants, as a means of belittling people and to put a smoke screen up so that no-one suspects he has ulterior motives. The language he uses helps him manipulate people to the full extent.
He comes across as very loyal and honest, even though the reading audience knows he is scheming. ‘I should be wise, for honesty’s a fool, and loses that it works for’ Here, he is saying that being honest is a bad thing, and that he will not be honest again. Of course he is referring to what he has been telling Othello about Cassio and Desdemona. He manipulates Roderigo on numerous occasions, but no- one does he manipulate as much as Othello. Iago picks and picks away at him until he is so insecure he contemplates awful deeds.
The consequences of Iago’s manipulation become abhorrent in Act Three, Scene Three. ‘Avaunt, be gone: Thou has set me on the rack: I swear ’tis better to be much abuse’d, than but to know’t a little. ‘ Othello comes across as a broken man, and its all down to Iago’s manipulation and lies. Kenneth Muir believes that the reason Othello believes Iago’s lies so easily, is because he is already insecure and allows himself to be influenced by him. The four themes I have chosen to write about; Love, Racism, Manipulation and Jealousy, in my opinion, best display the texts’ complexity.
It is a piece full of characters that, at some point, will display at least one of these themes. Shakespeare’s use of these themes and how he applies them to each character has made Othello one of the greatest pieces of literature ever to appear in the literary world. ‘I am not what I am’. This extremely provocative quote by Othello sums up not only himself, but much of the play as well. No-body is completely as they appear, thus bringing up the question of what exactly is Iago? An avenging angel possibly, come to show people their true selves?
Bibliography “Othello: Jealousy. ” Shakespeare for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998 “Othello: Race. ” Shakespeare for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Mabillard, Amanda. “Othello Analysis. ” Shakespeare Online. 19 Mar. 2000. Word Count- 988 words. Samantha Gibson Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.