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To what extent is language central to the understanding of Othello and Macbeth

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Introduction

A Critic has observed that, 'The nature and the extent of the tragic falls of Othello and Macbeth are reflected in the words they use and those which are used about them.' To what extent do you consider language to be central to the understanding of both plays? Throughout both plays we judge characters through the language they use and the language used to describe them. Both Othello and Macbeth are respected and valued at first and their language, particularly in the case of Othello, deteriorates as they begin to lose their nobility. The audience in Shakespeare's time would also have judged them on their birth and place in society. Othello is of 'royal siege' (I ii l.22) and Commander of the Venetian Army. His prominent place in society is typical of the definition of tragedy by Aristotle who believed tragic heroes should be of high status. Macbeth is also a member of the Scottish aristocracy, Thane of Glamis, before he becomes King. However, Othello's heritage and skin colour make him an unusual tragic hero and one would imagine that the audience in Shakespeare's time would have been shocked to have the hero as a black man, 'the Moor' (I i l.40). At the beginning of the play Othello is described as 'valiant' (II ii l.1) ...read more.

Middle

This change in Othello's language combined with his lack of control, shows us how completely Iago has been able to taint him, since previously he would not attack those who threatened him, but remained calm and passive. The sudden change in language has caused Granville Barker to see Othello as having 'feeble intellectual resistance' to Iago's manipulation and indeed Othello's almost immediate acceptance of Iago's claims makes Othello appear a gullible character. However Othello does demand proof and states 'I'll see before I doubt' (III iii l.192) and it is only because Iago is lucky enough to exploit the scene with Cassio and the handkerchief that Othello comes to believe all Iago tells him. Othello also takes on Iago's language and loses all of his elegance and dignity. He begins to use Iago's coarse language to describe Desdemona and calls her a 'young and sweating devil' (III iv l.38). These words are completely dissimilar to his language at the beginning of the play where he refers to Desdemona as 'sweet' (III iii l.55) and it shows us the true extent of his fall and the contrasting views he holds. Like Iago, Othello becomes blind to honourable or tender intentions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Othello's dignified language at the beginning of the play shows his noble and controlled personality; however he then begins to acquire Iago's coarse language and animalistic imagery. The audience can see how this reflects Othello's changing character as he becomes more savage and like an animal. In Macbeth the language similarly illustrates his tragic fall through the blood imagery associated with him. At the beginning of the play this imagery is positive as Macbeth is fighting for his country; however as the play continues the blood imagery becomes negative, and shows how he will do anything to be 'safely thus' (III i l.48). Without the imagery that the language provides it would be difficult to grasp fully the consequences of both tragic heroes' actions, as we would not relate Othello's fall to Iago's contamination which is clearly illustrated through Othello's change in language. Furthermore, Othello's language becomes more dignified after he realises the mistake he has made. This suggests to the audience that his fall has not been as definite as Macbeth's whose language remains his own and shows his actions to be the result of his loss of conscience and not the result of external poisonous influences. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kristina Hill Word Count: 1999 ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay demonstrates a high level of skill in analysing language and there are examples of excellent textual references that are used successfully to consolidate points.

Although an analysis of two plays does not have to provide exactly equal coverage of the two plays a more even balance would be recommended than the one shown here.

4 Stars

Marked by teacher Laura Gater 03/05/2013

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