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What makes Act One of Othello powerful?

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Introduction

What makes Act One of Othello powerful? Shakespeare's 'Othello' was first published in 1622 and revolves around four central characters; Othello, Desdemona, Iago and Cassio. The central conflict evokes contrasting emotions of passion, hatred, envy and jealousy. Act One marks the night of Othello and Desdemona's elopement but it also initiates the pattern of night and day, dark and light, black and white, which is emblematic of the polarize debate centred upon the inter-racial marriage. From Act One Scene One, Shakespeare captures the audience's attention and presents us with an incredibly powerful opening. 'Othello' opens in media res with two characters engaged in a dispute; the scene is set for conflict, and a mood of confusion and intrigue immediately established. The audience does not know what the characters are talking about because the subject of so much of their conversation, Othello, is never referred to by name, heightening our anticipation. We learn Iago's name in the second line of the play and Roderigo's soon afterward, but Othello is not once mentioned by his name. Rather, he is ambiguously referred to as "he" and "him." He is also called "the Moor", "the thick-lips", and "a Barbary horse" -all names signifying that he is dark-skinned immediately drawing the audience's attention to the racial prejudice present. ...read more.

Middle

Outlining his evil intentions he says, 'Hell and night/ Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light'. There is delight in these lines, a revelling in evil and deception. In stark contrast to the imagery associated with Iago, the imagery commonly associated with the noble Othello in Act One is suggestive of power and bravery. Images of the sea and military heroism abound. Othello describes his illustrios career with dignity (see lines 82-90 and 129-46) Desdemona echoes him when she says: 'My downright violence and scorn of fortunes/ May trumpet to the world. My heart's subdued/ Even to the quality of my Lord' By using the terminology if the war to describe her love we see the heroine's love and loyalty for her husband. Far from presenting Othello as a savage barbarian, Shakespeare uses biblical imagery when describing Othello's character and implicitly compares him to Christ. When Brabantio and his men arrive with swords and torches, tipped off to Othello's whereabouts by Othello's disloyal friend, vividly echoes scenes from the Gospel, where Christ and his followers are met by officers carrying swords and torches, illuminating Othello's sense of his own authority. Shakespeare laces the opening scene with dramatic irony, all of which centres on Iago. For instance, Roderigo fails to see that a man who admits he is a selfish fraud might also be gulling him, and Brabantio is unaware of the aptness of his line, 'Though art a villain'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Black is associated with sin, evil, and darkness; these negative things are also associated to black people, merely because of the color of their skin. The Duke's statement is ironic, since Othello is black, but truthful, because his soul is good and light. Light/white/fairness all convey innocence, goodness, etc.; any symbol that is white has these qualities. As the play progresses, Othello's pride becomes visible; he is exceptionally proud of his achievements and his public stature, and pride is an overarching theme of Othello's story. He is also proud of Desdemona's affection for him, which leads him to overstate the bond between them; he would not give her up "for the seas' worth," he says, certainly a noble sentiment (l. 28). Othello is very confident in his worth, and in the respect he commands; if the leaders of the city decide to deny a worthy man like him his marriage to Desdemona, then he believes "bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be." This statement of paradox betrays Othello's faith in the state and in the Duke's regard for him; hopefully, neither will fail him. Shakespeare writes in blank verse and prose. Shakespeare uses this traditional form to create specific idioms for each of his characters. From his opening speeches in Act One, Scenes 2 and 3 it is clear that Othello's characteristic idiom is dignified, blank verse. This is appropriate, given his status in the play. His use of blank verse also helps establish his heroism. Othello speaks clearly and purposefully. ...read more.

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