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To what extent does language reflect the disintegration of Othellos character?

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Introduction

To what extent does language reflect the disintegration of Othello's character? Throughout the play, the protagonist's language seems to be an honest portrayal of his state of mind. His language is inconsistent through the play and this reflects the characters downfall and change in nature. In the beginning of the play Othello appears to be a noble man with a calm nature. This is apparent during Othello's disagreement with Brabantio over his marriage to Desdemona. Othello exclaims, 'Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust / them.' (Act1,2,58). His use of language demonstrates he is wise as he is being rational rather than responding to physical violence. It is through this calm and rational manner that Othello persuades the Duke to dismiss Brabantio's claims that he has used 'magic' and 'drugs' to woo his daughter. Othello even says, 'Rude am I in my speech', to apologise for any offence he may cause even though he is fully aware that he is speaking in a polite and calm manner. His language here shows control unlike Brabantio who uses abrupt and accusing language: 'O foul thief! Where has thou stow'd my daughter?' (Act1,2,62). Othello's love for his wife is portrayed through his speech: 'I therefore beg it not / To please the palate of my ...read more.

Middle

Handkerchief? Oh devil!' (Act4,1,41) This use of language helps to exemplify the collapse of the protagonists character and his loss of self control and power. The caesura in Othello's speech breaks up the rhythm of the line and reflects Othello's physical breakdown. Another literary term used to show the newly found tension between Othello and Desdemona is when Othello speaks in blank verse. An actor playing Othello could use the rhythm of blank verse to express the tension and actions to convey the thoughts of envy and murder taking place in the character's mind. Othello's inconsistent language is also shown in the imagery he uses. Previously Othello used images of heaven but from Act 3 he begins to use animalistic and hellish images; ones that have previously only been used by Iago. An example of the animalistic imagery used previously in the play by Iago is when he describes Othello as an 'old black ram'. He also tells Brabantio that Othello and his daughter are 'making the beast with two backs'. These images are seen as offensive and with reference to Othello are primarily racist. The repeated reference to animals suggests that the laws of nature are very important in the play. ...read more.

Conclusion

This choice of words could have been used evoke pathos within the audience as he is from a different culture that is associated with evil and devilish things. But he then goes on to use romantic imagery by describing Desdemona as a 'pearl', which is a rare, pure and valuable thing. These two diverse things juxtaposed together reinforce the idea of Othello being of a lower class than Desdemona and heighten the pathos that his audience would feel. Othello also continues to use animalistic when he refers to himself as a 'circumcised dog', however he does this in the third person, 'I took by the throat the circumcised dog / And smote him thus'. (Act5,2,351) By doing this it seems he is trying to distance himself from the mistaken and hurtful things he has done and by saying, 'I have done the state some service and they know't'; he is trying to justify his wrong doings and resurrect his former nobility. Othello's language in his final speech shows that he is no longer the noble man he was at the start of the play. His character and personality was disintegrated due to manipulation from Iago and this is evident in his language throughout the play. ?? ?? ?? ?? Frances Greening ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay engages averagely with the question. The introduction isn't the strongest, but it could be much better with a few tweaks. I'm not quite sure that claiming inconsistent language reflects Othello's downfall, but it is along the right lines. ...

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Response to the question

This essay engages averagely with the question. The introduction isn't the strongest, but it could be much better with a few tweaks. I'm not quite sure that claiming inconsistent language reflects Othello's downfall, but it is along the right lines. If the essay had summarised a few of these changes, rather than stating them as inconsistencies, then the introduction would pose a clear critical voice. There is a good exploration of Othello's language changing, and in particular the imagery used, and these points are always relevant. I would've liked some discussion around the word disintegration in the question. If I were writing this essay, I would be keen to explain tragedy as a genre and how this is relevant when looking at Othello's disintegration. I mention this, as I don't feel as if this essay really engages with the command words "to what extent". There needed to be some alternative interpretation talking about the limitations of language in displaying Othello's tragic downfall, in my own opinion.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is strong. With an essay like this, it is much to easy to focus only on language analysis. Examiners are looking for a breadth of points, covering analysis of how language, form and structure shape meanings. This essay manages to incorporate analysis of structure and form by talking about Othello's change in language as the tragedy continues. I like the analysis here as it doesn't simply feature spot. The collection of quotes showing Othello's calm nature are good, and an exploration of his nobility and power through iambic pentameter could be a relevant point. I would've liked to have seen more discussion of Shakespeare's construction, however. For example saying "Shakespeare ensures Othello's language does not change after he has killed Desdemona to show the overwhelming effect Iago has had on his mind" would have sharp focus on the task. The points regarding Othello's imagery and language mimicking that of Iago are very strong, and this shows a perceptive awareness. The understanding of quotations is excellent here, but I feel there is a distinct lack of focus on the audience. If I were writing this essay, I would be desperate to explain how this resemblance of language shows Iago has been successful in creating Othello's downfall, presenting his disintegration in a way which is very evident to the audience. The audience are then helpless in preventing his downfall. When writing about drama, it is key that you show awareness of stage presence and the contextual features.

Quality of writing

The essay has an okay structure. As mentioned above, the introduction is concise, but would be stronger with a few tweaks. The paragraphs are logically chosen, and the signposts are brilliant. They are concise, and always relevant to the question. This shows to the examiner you are focused on the task. The essay has a half conclusion, ending with "his character and personality was disintegrated due to manipulation from Iago and this is evident in his language throughout the play." which is great, but I don't feel as if the extent is explored. If I were writing this essay, I would be discussing the power of language and speech in Othello as an effective tool used by Shakespeare to display a tragic downfall, focusing particularly on soliloquies. A few insightful comments about such language is effective in displaying an internal conflict in drama as a whole would be well received. The style here is good, and the analysis follows a progression that is easy to follow. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are strong.


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Reviewed by groat 23/04/2012

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