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Dr. Johnson thought that 'Othello' would have been a better play had the action begun in Cyprus

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Introduction

Dr. Johnson thought that 'Othello' would have been a better play had the action begun in Cyprus "and the preceding incidents been occasionally referred to". Do you agree or do you feel that Act 1 provides an effective opening to the play? No, I disagree with Dr. Johnson's belief that the play would be better if the action started in Cyprus. I feel that Act 1 provides an exciting opening to the play because it quickly draws the audience in to the story from the start and introduces a lot of the main characters like Othello, Desdemona, Iago and Cassio, and the differing interpretations of each individual's personality. It also introduces a lot of themes that run throughout the play like honesty, deception and jealousy. The play opens with Roderigo and Iago who seem to be in the middle of an argument, this tactic used by Shakespeare will immediately grab the audience's attention and involve them directly into the play. ...read more.

Middle

We can from here find out a little about his character that is not revealed further on in the play. In this scene we can see Othello as a strong general; "my services which I have done the signiory shall out-tongue his complaints." Which indeed they do as it is proved by the Duke when he dismisses Brabantio's moans for Othello's captaincy skills when dealing with the war. We also find out how Othello believes in his love to Desdemona and defends this when Iago challenges it. "For know...that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhous�d free condition Put into circumscription and confine For the sea's worth." Also in this scene we meet Cassio, Othello's lieutenant, who appears to be very scholarly, as Iago told us yet in a charming way. It is in this scene that Iago first shows directly to the audience what he's really like, as his actions in this scene towards Othello, as a friend or advisor, strongly contradicts what was said in the first scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

The audience would also miss out on the rebellious side of Desdemona's character as this is not shown in the rest of the play. The first act, set in Venice, serves as a prologue to the tragedy which follows. It allows us to view the main characters in their normal environments before they move out to Cyprus. The first act presents Othello's relationship with Desdemona before the positioning changes. It also establishes Iago's malice and general motivation from the very start. In some ways the first Act could act as a warm up to the rest of the play set in Cyprus, like an introduction and background of what is to come. It also builds up tension from the audience's awareness of the inner motives of the characters for when the characters move to Cyprus and how Iago manipulates each into serving his own interests, while they believe they are receiving his aid. In conclusion, I therefore disagree with Dr. Johnson's comment and instead believe that Act 1 provides an effective opening to the play. Fiona Slack October 2002 1 ...read more.

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