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Power in Othello

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What kinds of power are explored in Othello? Whilst there are many types of power one can hold in society, these all vary in influence. Such is the case in Othello for the most part, since we see examples of authorial, military, sexual and oratory power to different degrees. However, although many of us would consider the former to be the most important within the play, due to the malevolent nature of Iago this turns out to be otherwise. The authorial power of Othello stems from his position in Venice as a military commander. This in itself is also an important power; without Othello's skill in warfare he would never have any influence in Venice at all because of his skin colour, seeing as Moorish mercenaries were a common sight even in Italy. As a result Othello is able to take command in Cyprus and be shown a lot of respect, such as when he disciplines Cassio in Act II Scene iii for his drunken behaviour: '...Cassio, I love thee/But never more be officer of mine/...I'll make thee an example' (229-30, 32) ...read more.


The basis for this allegation is Desdemona's cheating on Othello, and is an example of the sexual power present in the play. Desdemona does think she holds prowess over Othello; when she appears to see what was happening in Act II Scene iii Othello is at first angered at her being roused from sleep, but then remains calm as he guides Desdemona back to bed: 'All's well now sweeting; come away to bed' (233). Othello's calm is significant in that the couple were disturbed on their wedding night and so he had reason to be furious at Cassio, but he was composed for Desdemona's sake. Furthermore, she uses her closeness to Othello in an attempt to get Cassio reinstated as lieutenant: 'Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do/All my abilities in thy behalf...I will have my Lord and you again/As friendly as you were' (III.iii.1-2, 5-6). Conversely, it is this request that causes Desdemona to fall under suspicion of cheating, and when asking Othello to meet with Cassio her constant appeals appear to have an ambigious tone that Iago manipulates: What! ...read more.


It is remarkable how Iago only says 'Ha! I do not like that' (III.iii.34) to allow the thread of suspicion to grow in Othello's mind over seeing Cassio hurrying away from Desdemona. In turn, Othello is an easy victim in his trust of the ensign since he does not have excellent rhetoric skills, and his unhealthy trust in Iago affects his language, going from the eloquent man introduced in Act I Scene ii to the coarse person halfway through Act III Scene iii: 'All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven;...Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!' (446,448). When Othello regains his nobility in the last scene, the destruction he has partially caused has already been revealed to everyone who once respected him. So we can see how, despite his lower ranking and lack of physical power, Iago is able to bring almost all the characters to death or ruin with no mercy. This shows that different types of power manifest themselves depending on how that person recognises and uses them to their advantage. ...read more.

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