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Analysis of the dramatic function of the opening act of Othello.

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Analysis of the dramatic function of the opening act of Othello As the play opens the audience is immediately placed in media res on the line "Tush, never tell me, I take it much unkindly That thou, Iago, who hast my purse As if the strings wire thine, shouldst know of this." This line, belonging to Roderigo, both introduces the relationship between Iago and Roderigo, one where Roderigo trusts Iago implicitly, perhaps blindly, and, more importantly, the scene and mood of the play, which is that of eavesdropping. The paragraph is functional in its introduction of characters and background plot to the audience, but more to draw on the audience's natural curiosity towards an intriguing and apparently secretive dialogue. It is almost natural to assume a night setting here even before reading the later text implying darkness, due to the sinister and conspirational implications of the conversation. Roderigo's trust is reflected in Iago when he opens up to him as a confidante, telling of his bitterness towards Othello and even of his two-faced plans for treachery against him; "In following him, I follow but myself". Considering this, it seems that Roderigo is foolish or na�ve in offering such blind trust to a man admitting deceitfulness and duplicity, and this further implies Iago recognises Roderigo as a character he can easily manipulate towards his bidding. ...read more.


The dramatic function of the development of Iago is to allow the audience to recognise his duplicitous and dishonest ways and to create concern for the noble Othello, because of the impact on the audience of witnessing the friendly interaction between Othello and Iago despite knowing of Iago's ultimate plans. Shakespeare perhaps does not want to introduce Othello until the audience fully understands Iago, so that this deceitfulness can be seen immediately as he enters, and to form the audience's opinion of Othello through the words of Iago to create the same sense of unsure curiosity in the audience as to his real character. One of the main themes through the play, and which is introduced very clearly in Act 1, and becomes more obvious as it progresses, is racial prejudice. This becomes more prominent in Iago especially 'Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe'. The characters also use synecdoche such as Roderigo's 'thick lips'. Brabantio is also convinced that Othello's relationship with his daughter is not only unnatural but an act of the devil, mostly as a result of Iago's influence, he is drawn into believing stereotypes, that Othello must have used magic to 'win' his daughter 'corrupted by spells and medicines....sans witchcraft could not.'. ...read more.


Free will was also a newly emerging idea and this free will in the hands of a villain would have been especially horrific to an audience of the time. Racial prejudice is key to the downfall of Othello, Brabantio would never have challenged Othello were it not for his race, but perhaps Othello's own racism provoked by Iago that prompts his mistrust of his wife and her alleged white lover Cassio. The dramatic function of the first Act, therefore, seems to be to set up an attitude of unease among the audience, through Shakespeare's placing the audience in media res, as a witness to the sinister conspiracy, and in the dark urban street setting. It also serves to give the audience and idea of the scale of the play, although Othello is an important character in terms of his social and military standing amongst the Venetians, the actual conflict is on a very individual level, with Othello's domestic jealousy and will for revenge, fuelled by Iago's frustration and desire for power. This is perhaps also emphasised in the setting, the confined urban streets allow us to relate to the characters much better than in plays focusing on a king or grander conflict, whose situations seem much more distant. Additionally the first act addresses several issues which would have interested the Elizabethan audience and were particularly relevant at the time. ...read more.

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