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Examine Shakespeare's presentation of the changes of Othello's character in 'Othello'

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Introduction

Examine Shakespeare's presentation of the changes of Othello's character in 'Othello' Othello is a tragic play based on a foreign yet eloquent man being manipulated into changing his perceptions of others. One of the most noticeable changes in the play is the apparent transformation of Othello's character; from a "noble Moor" to a "blacker devil". Shakespeare presents this change through a number of means, such as how other characters portray him, the words used to describe his character and his actions, and the jealous situations he involves himself in. Othello is absent in the first scene of the play, allowing Shakespeare to present his character through the words of others: specifically Iago and Roderigo. They use racist terms, and mock his military acumen to degrade him, "The Moor...But he, loving his own pride and purposes" They also often refer to him using animalistic terms, such as "old black ram...Barbary horse...devil", presenting a negative view of Othello to the audience. Shakespeare purposely absents Othello from the first scene, to allow a character profile to be immediately conjured into the heads of the audience, thus creating an image of Othello's character, before we meet him, to emphasise how different he appears in person later, and to pave a way for his later acts of violence. ...read more.

Middle

This builds up tension, whilst Othello's gullibility is unraveled through his confusion and naivety, which is presented through his gradual increase in doubtful phrases. Shakespeare uses this idea to show Othello's quick misjudgments in other characters, as well as himself. His perception of other's characters and motives is very poor, and is accentuated by the fact that Shakespeare presents the phrase "Honest Iago" very often, to show his incapability to understand others, which in the end, leads to his unfortunate change to a "blacker devil". He is also inept at analyzing his own character, shown by his numerous doubts of himself throughout the play. Shakespeare slowly builds up Othello's anger throughout the play, until the climax where he is consumed with anger about Desdemona's supposed unfaithful activities. Our perception of his whole character suddenly changes, as his civilized nature is unmasked to reveal a primitive man following basic instincts, "How shall I murder him, Iago?" Shakespeare presents this vast change by changing the language used by Othello, from polite phrases such as "most potent, grave signor" to expletives, such as "Zounds! Devil", and gradually introduces this change as the play progresses. ...read more.

Conclusion

O Desdemona! Desdemona! Dead!" Othello uses hellish language to describe how he now feels, and Shakespeare plays on the terms "devils...roast me in sulphur...blow me about in winds" to suggest that Othello deserved these punishments, had he not realized the wrong he done in killing his wife, whilst Othello wishes these upon himself. This drastic change at the end of the play provides an insight into a new, sorrowful phase that Othello is in. This scene, being very dramatic in events, contrasts the beginning of the play where the Othello is shown as a eloquent, well-mannered man. The similar language used to describe Othello in an animalistic, racist way in Scene 1 is again put to use, but to show his true instinctive nature. Methodically throughout the play, Othello falls victim to many changes. Our perception of a "noble Moor", brilliant army strategist and rational, caring, level headed man is transformed into perceptions of an irrational, unstable, emotionally volatile "blacker devil". These changes occur due to his gullibility and naivety about women, his inability to self-analyse and perceive others' motives, and his vulnerability to Iago's simplistic, yet deceptive manipulation. Through the use of Othello's change in extensive vocabulary and eloquence in speech to basic language presented in a primitive manner, Shakespeare perceives Othello's effortless behaviour to become simplistic, incapable of expression and susceptible to manipulation. ...read more.

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