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Othello Coursework

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Introduction

Jealousy and Tragic Flaws in Othello Othello is one of William Shakespeare's most well-known plays and is considered one of the finest tragedies he ever wrote. It is a tale of jealousy, personal motivation, and betrayal. The characters of Iago and Othello are set against each other in a relationship rife with jealousy and suspicion that brings out the worst in each man. Shakespeare illustrates vividly how the spiteful actions of others against us can bring out our own negative character flaws, and how both of these elements can contribute to one's undoing. In the play, it is Iago's greedy drive for revenge and his need to watch Othello's disgrace that lead to Othello's downfall, but Othello's own tragic character flaws of jealousy and distrust contribute equally to his undoing. Othello tells the story of a black man, or Moor, who is a military general and married to a woman named Desdemona. The antagonist in the play is Iago, an ensign serving under Othello who is jealous of Othello's ranking and his marriage to the lovely Desdemona but also resentful that Othello has passed him over for promotion to lieutenant in favor of Cassio. Iago is determined to ruin Othello. Iago makes several strong statements that indicate that his jealousy towards Othello is mostly sexual in nature. Shakespeare conveys the crudeness of Iago's thoughts and feelings towards the relationship between Othello and Desdemona by using a lot of animal imagery and references to sexual relations between common animals when describing talking to others, including Desdemona's own father. ...read more.

Middle

There is no strong action here, but Shakespeare succeeds in making the exchange meaningful by using the stage direction of Cassio leaving and Iago's lines that implicate them both. Here, as in many of Shakespeare's tragedies, the final tragic action is begun with a single action and thought. This is the point at which Othello suspects Desdemona of being unfaithful, and Iago's planting of that seed of doubt is what leads to the tragic end. Iago utilizes severe imagery and hints at the devil, hell and damnation to manipulate Othello's thoughts towards negative and dangerous thinking. He repeatedly references monsters and demons, including the imagery of jealousy as, "the green eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on" (3.3. 170-71). When he starts to plant thoughts in Othello's head that there have been acts of infidelity between Cassio and Desdemona, he uses shocking sexual imagery and frank sexual references to paint Desdemona as wanton and lustful. He tells Othello, "It is impossible you should see this, were they prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride..." (3.3.402-05). This vulgar imagery makes Othello think of Cassio and Desdemona having sex, and the seeds of doubt and anger are planted. Iago also tells Othello, who has demanded physical evidence of Desdemona's infidelity, that he overheard Cassio saying Desdemona's name in his sleep when the two men were sharing a bed, and that after her name was uttered Cassio threw his arm and leg over Iago like a lover. ...read more.

Conclusion

The play could have ended much differently if the only person responsible for Othello's downfall was Iago. If Othello was stronger, less gullible and more trusting in his wife, he might have allowed her to explain what had happened instead of referring to their marriage as, "Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust's blood be spotted" (5.1.37, 108) and killing Desdemona and then himself. Instead, he chooses to believe the scheming Iago and condemns both his beloved Desdemona and then himself out of guilt. Emilia is used as the character foil to show how Othello could have been strong in the last moments when she stands up to Iago, in spite of Iago's threats of physical violence, and tells him, ""You told a lie, an odious, damned lie!" (5.2.187, 120). She refuses to stop talking until the truth is completely told and Desdemona has been vindicated. It is only then that Othello realizes how he has been manipulated and how he has accused and murdered Desdemona with no proof or reason. The truth was there for him to see all along, but he chose not to see it until it was too late and the damage was fatally done. Shakespeare presents Iago as the representation of trouble-making and evil caused by resentment and spite. Iago represents a cautionary statement about letting oneself be manipulated by pride and jealousy. But in Othello, Shakespeare also relates that one's own character flaws can be just as dangerous and contribute equally to one's self-destruction. Othello allowed his own personal insecurities to cloud his judgment. In the end, his character flaws were just as evil, and just as fatal, as Iago's actions. ...read more.

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