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honesty in othello

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Introduction

A2 English Literature Unit 4A Othello Practise Question 32 Timed Conditions closed Text. "Explore the role of honesty in the play". Plan 5 minutes Intro: Honesty is a complex role throughout the play ... What is honesty? Is any character really honest? Would it be natural/realistic to be fully honest? Section 1: Iago - Discuss character in depth. Illustrate examples from - Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, and Act 5 Refer to Mckellen/Brannagh versions. Section 2: How honest are: Othello? Desdemona? Roderigo? Cassio? Emilia? Bianca? Conclusion: Therefore... Answer 55 minutes Honesty is a complex role throughout the play, mainly centring around the character of Iago. One could question what exactly honesty is and whether any of the characters in the play are truly honest. Perhaps it would be unnatural for any of the characters in the play to be totally honest since this would imply perfection and perfection is unrealistic. Iago is referred to as "Honest Iago" by the onstage characters throughout the play. This is a case of dramatic irony given that Iago in Act 1 Scene 1 admits to both Roderigo and the audience that he is a self serving fraud. Iago's "I am not what I am" has a double meaning. It could be taken to mean I am not as I seem. Alternately it could be a diabolical rewording of God's own self description in the bible, indicating that Iago is the opposite of God, in other words the Devil. Ironically, Roderigo does not realise that a man who admits he is a self serving fraud and using all the characters around him for his "peculiar end" might also be gulling him. Equally, Brabantio is totally unaware of the aptness of his line "Thou art a villain". Perhaps Shakespeare intends to show in Iago, a character that acts against his public reputation for honesty. Possibly Iago was always a villain and confidence trickster who set up a false reputation for honesty. ...read more.

Middle

He has a reputation for honesty and no honour. He skilfully makes use of his public reputation, poisoning thought by posing as an honest man. Othello is only certain of the "exceeding honesty" of his ensign, however he momentarily doubts "villain be sure thou prove my love a whore". His instinct is no match for Iago's reverse psychology "To be direct and honest is not safe", being completely taken in by Iago's false tale of Cassio's lustful ream "And then sir/would he gripe and wring my hand/cry O sweet creature and then kiss me" and Iago's having seen a "strawberry spotted handkerchief" in Cassio's hand. Further examples of Iago's double dealing is how as a two faced follower of Janus, he can advocate and argue for either side of a case as suits his own ends. He tells Cassio "reputation is an idle and most false imposition" before arguing the opposite view with Othello "Good name in man and woman/dear my lord/is the immediate jewel of our souls". During Act 4, Iago continues to torture Othello, "If I give my wife a handkerchief" and "Or to be naked with her friend in bed/an hour or more/not meaning any harm". Iago resembles a puppeteer during his exchange with Cassio and Bianca, a risky procedure as he cannot control completely what Cassio might say or how much Othello might hear. He leads Cassio to laugh and talk of Bianca, trusting that Othello's mind will turn hat he sees into evidence of his wife's infidelity and Cassio's treachery, neither of which are true. In the Mckellen version, during Act 4, Iago hugs Othello, treating all the other characters as his pawns or puppets, just as he reassures Desdemona when she sends for him, embracing her and running his fingers through her hair. She ironically seeks help from the man who has been the means of destroying her marital happiness, terming him "good friend". ...read more.

Conclusion

Her obvious closeness to her mistress in Act 3 Scene 1 is appealing; however we know she is unwittingly helping her husband and not Cassio when she agrees to take the latter to have "brief discourse" with Desdemona "alone". She is wise in her definition of jealousy "It is a monster/begot upon itself/born on itself" and we learn to rely on he judgement. She rightly guesses it is jealous thoughts which perturb Othello and that some "villain" must have suggested to Othello that his wife was false though unfortunately she does not identify the "wretch" until too late. In many ways she genuinely believes her husband is honest despite her opinion of men in general not being high. In many ways she herself is honest however a true friend would not remain silent about the handkerchief "I know not madam". She is silent out of loyalty to Iago, embarrassment and possibly guilt. She filches the handkerchief and gives it o Iago without questioning why he should need it. The further Iago sinks into villainy, the more equivocal Emilia's role becomes. She automatically sides with her husband in Act 5 Scene 1 during his maligning of Bianca in what she must know is a scurrilous attack on another woman "Fie upon thee strumpet". It is interesting that in Cinzo's tale, the ensign's wife was fully aware of he husband's illegitimate activities and to afraid to speak out whereas Emilia is an unwitting aid to Iago whom Shakespeare chose to isolate in his villainy. Therefore, honesty is dominant throughout the play as a major theme. Indeed, the fifty two uses of the words honest and honesty and the dramatic irony of the term when it mostly surrounds Iago would make it a major, recurring motif as well as a theme. No character in the play is totally perfect. All have their flaws. Although Cassio and Bianca are not explicitly dishonest, they are unwittingly involved in dishonest practise, Cassio when he is framed as Desdemona's lover and Bianca when she arrives with the handkerchief in Act 4 Scene 1. ...read more.

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