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An Exploration of Imagery in Othello

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Word count: 2147 An Exploration of Shakespeare's Use of Imagery in 'Othello' Shakespeare uses imagery of hell, the devil and animals to present the corruption of Iago's character and his cynical perspective on human emotions. The changes in Othello's character are also charted through the use of imagery, as the religious images and images of military heroism used to portray his nobility are replaced with devil imagery, which reflects his downfall. The imagery he himself uses begins to change to mirror Iago's, for example Othello begins to use derogatory animal imagery to describe sexual acts. In addition, changes in Othello and Desdemona's relationship are shown through imagery as the language Othello and Desdemona use to describe their feelings changes. Overpowering emotions, such as love and suffering are conveyed to the audience through imagery, particularly imagery of the sea, a recurring motif in the play. Shakespeare uses devil, animal and poisoning imagery in 'Othello' to reveal aspects of Iago's character. Iago delights in evil and deception and this is shown through devil imagery in his soliloquy at the end of the first act, where he describes the hatching of his plan in the lines: 'hell and night/must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.' ...read more.


Imagery used to describe Othello also changes throughout the play. After Othello murders Desdemona, Emilia describes him as 'the blacker devil' (Act 5, Scene 2, line 133). The description 'blacker' here means Othello is a greater sinner than Desdemona who he is accusing, and 'devil' is a strong conveyance of loathing used by Emilia. This can be linked to Iago's imagery in the opening scene, as he calls him 'devil'. The irony is that the prejudice people felt towards Othello as an outsider was unjust, but Othello becomes what he was accused of being by the end of the play. However, the devil imagery used at the end of the play contrasts to some earlier imagery used by those who respect and admire Othello. For example, when Othello is late arriving in Cyprus because of a storm Cassio cries '0 let the heavens give him defence against the elements'. 'Heavens' is a direct contrast to 'devil' and the use of the word shows that Othello is loved by Cassio, and gives the impression he is a good man and one who is not uncontrollably violent and lustful. Shakespeare may use this contrast between devil and heavenly imagery to show the deterioration of Othello's character, as he becomes the barbarian he was first accused of being. ...read more.


He describes his thoughts of Desdemona's infidelity 'comes o'er my memory,/As doth the raven o'er the infected house' (Act 4, Scene 1, lines 20-21). Ravens are associated with death and decay, so this morbid image shows that Othello is dying inside because of Desdemona's betrayal. The sea and death images are both used to show the magnitude and extent of suffering. This can be linked to great emotions which are also shown through sea imagery to convey Desdemona's intense passion and Othello's unerring determination to kill Desdemona and Cassio as they are supposed to be the perpetrators of the crime. In conclusion, Shakespeare uses imagery in 'Othello' to reveal aspects of Iago's character and to show changes in Othello's. Desdemona and Othello's relationship is perhaps the central focus of the performance and imagery is paramount in showing the changing dynamic between the couple, as sea imagery conveys overpowering emotion and racial prejudice is shown almost entirely through degrading imagery of animals and the devil which is used against Othello, highlighting the fact he is an outsider. The fact that the imagery is used again at the end of the play by Emilia on discovering the murdered body of her mistress might suggest Othello became the stereotype of the barbarian introduced to us in the opening scene. ?? ?? ?? ?? Charlotte Wycherley - 1 - ...read more.

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