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Animal Imagery in Othello

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In Shakespeare's Othello, bestial imagery is used throughout the text, mostly by Iago. Iago uses these images to plant ideas in other character's heads in order to further his own devious plans. On a deeper level, the continual use of the imagery coincides with Othello's fall from grace. With each mention of bestial imagery, Othello creeps closer to his own downfall, eventually using the animal imagery himself. The first use of animal imagery in Othello occurs in the very first act, setting the tone for the rest of the book. In the first step in his plan to destroy Othello, Iago uses animal imagery in order to enrage Desdemona's father, Brabantio. Iago tells Brabantio that, "Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe" (1.1.97). Iago then goes on to tell Brabantio that, "you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins and jennets for germans" (1.1.125-127) ...read more.


He says that, "With as little a web as this I will ensnare a great fly as Cassio" (2.1 .183). Iago takes a perverse pleasure in seeing is wicked plan play out right before his eyes. Iago takes the innocent musings between Cassio and Desdemona and integrates it perfectly into his master plan. Iago's plan works to perfection. Desdemona's clandestine meeting with Cassio, in the seduction scene, provides the perfect opportunity for Iago to get inside of Othello's head. Iago sows seeds of doubt in Othello and works to nurture them for the rest of the play. In the seduction scene, Iago says to Othello, "Would you grossly gape on, behold her topped" (3.3.451). "Topped" is a reference to "tupping" (an image used earlier in the play) which is a reference to the mating of a ram and an ewe. Iago goes on to say that, "were they prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride" (3.3.460). ...read more.


In the ensuing chaos, Othello uses animal imagery to attempt to justify his actions. He says, "Cassio did top her, ask thy husband" (5.2.167). The truth is then revealed to Othello, he discovers that Desdemona was faithful and Iago had been lying the whole time. Appropriately the final lines include bestial imagery. Lodovico calls Iago a "Spartan Dog" (5.2.424), which means a trained killer. This is truly appropriate as Iago killed many or is responsible for the killing of everyone who dies in the play. Shakespeare's Othello the use of bestial imagery runs throughout the play. The play's antagonist Iago uses it throughout the play in his quest to bring about the destruction of Othello. However, Iago's use of bestial imagery, while more abundant, pales in importance when compared to Othello's use of the imagery. Othello's use of the animal imagery almost directly coincides with his fall from grace. The more Iago's type of language creeps into Othello's the closer Othello is to his downfall. How appropriate that the final verses of the play contained that which guided the play throughout, animal imagery. ...read more.

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