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Assess the character of Othello so far (up to 3.3).

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Assess the character of Othello so far (up to 3.3) As the protagonist of this tragic play, the characteristics of Othello, both his attributes and flaws, must be established to an audience immediately in order to understand his eventual demise and ruin. As an audience, we are initially only given an assessment of his character from Iago, who describes him as proud and lascivious, 'loving his own pride and purposes'. However, his entrance in 1.2 quickly dispels this idea, as does Iago's emergence as a deceitful and dishonest character. Othello appears calm and dignified in our first meeting of him. His language is measured and dignified, and the authority he commands even when he is accused of witchcraft is immediately clear: Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them: Good signior, you shall more command with years Than with your weapons. Act 1, Scene 3, ll 58-60 The steady iambic pentameter of his speech reflects his self-control and composure even when confronted with animosity. Throughout most of Acts One and Two he speaks in this steady rhythm, creating a greater impact when contrasted with his steady loss of control in his speech from the end of Act Three onwards. To lend greater pathos for the inevitable tragic ending, Shakespeare initially introduces few dislikeable aspects to Othello's character. ...read more.


His implicit trust of Iago is clearly seen in their first scene together. Iago initially describes Othello to Roderigo as gullible ('will as tenderly be led by th'nose/As asses are'), which we later discover to be an accurate insult. Iago is very quickly established as a dishonest character, which makes Othello's continued trust in his actions even more frustrating for an audience. The constant dramatic irony when Othello refers to Iago as 'honest' is almost painful for the audience, who know from the outset Iago's malicious intent. Despite his apparent control in 2.3, he is, in fact, completely dominated by Iago's story: I know Iago, Thy honesty and love doth mince this manner; Making it light to Cassio.' Act 2, Scene 3, ll 242-244 The other factor that weakens Othello's character is his passion for Desdemona. His complete infatuation with her is highlighted in 2.1, where he appears completely irrational in his love for her and it is suggested that he may be in possession of feelings out of his control: If it were now to die, 'Twere now to be most happy; for I fear My soul hath her content so absolute That not another comfort like to this Succeeds in unknown fate. Act 2, Scene 1, ll 188-192 The continuation of speech through these lines adds rapidity and urgency to his description of feeling, highlighting his passion for Desdemona and also illustrating his lack of control of his feelings. ...read more.


His entrance and opening lines ('For Christian shame put by this barbarous brawl!') immediately shames those fighting into silence. Although clearly angry, his speech is still stately, his alliteration in the words 'barbarous brawl' highlighting his composure and his rank above those present. He remains focussed on assessing who started the fight but gradually is seen to become more impatient at the lack of response from the soldiers. This confession of rage, although an admission of weakness, cannot altogether be believed as his language remains precise and accurate: My blood begins my safer guides to rule, And passion, having my best judgement collied, Assays to lead the way. Act 2, Scene 3, ll 201-203 Othello's character, that of a noble, dignified, confident and self-controlled general is constant up until 3.3. He presents little that could cause an audience to dislike him, unlike other tragic protagonists like Macbeth who essentially lead themselves astray. In the instance of Othello, he is purely encouraged to his demise by Iago, who embodies the entirety of the plays evil spirit. Despite some suggestions that Othello's noble nature and all-consuming love of Desdemona may lead to his downfall, these are not dislikeable characteristics, merely exploited by Iago for vengeance. His lack of soliloquies mean the audience never truly see the 'real' Othello, but although by no means a simple character, Othello's honesty and compassion means most of what he says is genuine, sharply contrasting with Iago who presents a different persona to all he meets. ...read more.

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