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To what extent is vengeance a central theme in Othello?

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Introduction

´╗┐To what extent is vengeance a central theme in Othello? On first glance we would believe that vengeance is most certainly a central theme to the play Othello as apparently this feeling is the reason why Iago the so called ?motiveless malignity? commits the atrocities that he does in the play. However, on closer inspection of Shakespeare?s depiction of this man, who is considered to be his ?psychological masterpiece? we may beg to differ that vengeance is Iago?s central motive in his actions against the other characters. For Iago, vengeance is more an excuse that is used to explain his actions when really they stem from much deeper and inexplicable insecurities. However, as an audience, considering the notion of vengeance with regard to Othello is valuable, as it allows us insights into the inner workings of the human mind and it?s vulnerability to committing evil acts against others. From the beginning of Othello, Iago provides us with many reasons why he would want to seek vengeance against Othello and the other characters in the play. ...read more.

Middle

In Iago?s soliloquies, in which vengeance is stated as his main motivation, Shakespeare shows us that this feeling is used to cover up Iago?s deeper insecurities which we can then see are essential to his later actions in the play. At the beginning of Othello Iago says ?I am not what I am?. What we as an audience must ask is: Why is Iago not what he is? Why does Iago have to use the mask of ?honesty? towards other characters and the equally effective mask of vengeance to his audience to cover up his inner self? One explanation for Iago?s multiple ?faces? is that they allow him to cover up his own feelings of insecurity and insignificance. As a man who is not loved by others but simply regarded as a ?good mate? and an ?honest creature?, Iago feels isolated and insignificant. To combat these feelings of isolation, Iago tries to reduce the world of those around him down to the world in which he lives, for example by putting Othello into an ?unbookish jealously? ? something which Iago himself undoubtedly feels in his world deprived of loving human relationships. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, in his lack of a definitive answer, Shakespeare leaves his audience wondering whether Iago?s need for vengeance of the external or internal kind is the reason for his murderous actions. This shows us that unlike the evil displayed in fairytales and fables, real evil, of the kind that Iago commits can not be explained by a simple word or idea such as vengeance. Through Shakespeare?s portrayal of the idea of vengeance in Othello, he reveals that this idea itself is very complex and that in turn the evil which may or may not come as a result of it is also complex. Therefore we can see that vengeance, while not the obvious central theme to the play is nonetheless very important in the audience?s understanding of Iago. We can be certain that the evil committed by this man is in part due to vengeance but also at the same time must be due to some other contributing factors which remain beyond our grasp and indeed it is because of this complexity built up by Shakespeare that we still find Othello and especially that character of Iago, challenging, satisfying and relevant to our lives today. ...read more.

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