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To what extent do you believe that Othello is an honourable murderer?

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Introduction

"An honourable murderer if you will; for naught I did in hate, but all in honour" - To what extent do you believe that Othello is "an honourable murderer"? Honour is defined as the evaluation of a person's social status as judged by that individual's community. To be put simply, Margaret Visser observes that in an honour-based society "a person is what he or she is in the eyes of other people." To argue whether Othello's murder of Desdemona was indeed intended to be portrayed as honourable in motive, the reactions of the other characters and the social context of the play must be taken into account. The extent to which the quote can be agreed with will therefore have changed over time as the context has altered. The pivotal quote "Why, anything; an honourable murderer, if you will, for nought I did in hate, but all in honour." could be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, if taken as Othello's justification to his crime, the audience are likely to lose any sympathy they have for the character. This is because it contradicts the rage Othello portrays just before he smothers Desdemonda; he shows her no mercy when she begs to postpone her death with 'Down, strumpet!' and 'It is too late'. As the truth has been revealed by this point, this interpretation could present Othello as a stubborn man, unwilling to take any blame - qualities that are less than honourable. ...read more.

Middle

Because of this quick revelation of the truth, the characters reaction to Othello's crime seem somewhat insignificant in contrast to their feelings on the 'villainous' Iago. Lodovico still addresses Othello as 'sir' which suggests that there is still some respect however he is stripped of his 'power and command' and is to remain confined until 'the nature of your fault be known to the Venetian state'. This quote shows how the perception of Othello has changed from that of a valiant warrior back to a 'foreigner', and outsider of the Venetian society. Having his position and status stripped from him and the fear of this is arguably the influencing factor to most of his disillusioned decisions and ironically they have led to just that. How the characters would have responded had Desdemona indeed be untrue is a matter unto itself. If Othello had been of Venetian descent and not of a different race to his peers it may well be argued that his honour amongst the other characters would have remained. Othello's vehement desire to be punished, rather than run away from the consequences of his actions as Iago does, acts in his favour. Othello not only feels that he deserves not just punishment, but torture: 'Whip me, ye devils' and, 'blow me about in the winds, roast me in sulphur, wash me down in steep-gulfs of liquid fire!'. ...read more.

Conclusion

He never doubts that Othello was justified in firing him and does truly honour him. After Othello commits suicide, Cassio says 'this did I fear, but thought he had no weapon, for he was great of heart', showing regret that Othello is dead. 'Great of heart' is taken to mean high-spirited, however it could be read as full of love in which Cassio seemingly agrees that Othello is an honourable murderer as he acted out of love. Overall, it is clear to the audience that Othello is viewed as an honourable man before the murder. The extent to which he is still viewed as honourable after his crime is somewhat clouded by the characters discovery of the villainous nature of Iago but it is fair to say that their perception of Othello has been greatly altered. This means that contextually, Othello was probably not an 'honourable murderer', although there are other factors such as his race and 'outsider' status to be taken into consideration. In my opinion, although his remorse acts in his favour, I do not believe that Othello is an honourable murderer. The ease of his manipulation and little to no attempt of finding the truth makes it hard for an audience to see him as an honourable character. Even though the murder of Desdemona was unjust, I would still argue that to some extent Othello could be described as an honourable murder, simply for his suicide which, in the manner of an eye for an eye, seems fair punishment. ...read more.

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