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"How does Shakespeare engage the audience through character and action in the first Act?"

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"How does Shakespeare engage the audience through character and action in the first Act?" In the opening act of the play, Shakespeare creates suspense and excitement, at once immersing the observer in intrigue and conspiracy. Shakespeare throws his audience directly into a conversation, introducing some of the major themes and concerning issues of the play. Furthermore, by centering the dialogue and action around the characters of Othello and Desdemona, without yet having presented them to the audience in person, Shakespeare increases our desire to become more engrossed in the play. Shakespeare's decision to make a black man a tragic hero was bold although not original. In this play, Othello is the black man in a white man's society - the notion of black and white being the best contrast between the two characters, although the notional colours are inverted in the play (Othello/good = white; Iago/evil = black). It is true to say that in Elizabethan times, most theatre-goers would probably never have seen a black person, and the concept of such a person in a powerful position, let alone a powerful position in a white society, would have been totally alien to them. ...read more.


If the audience had not had some hint of Iago's real nature, they could consider his opening words to Othello, as those of a decent, honest, courageous and loyal man. "Nine or ten times/I had thought t'have yerked him here, under the ribs." Throughout the play, the characters follow the biased thoughts of a white society towards black people - which is the same, some 400 years later. Othello is often accused of witchcraft and unnatural powers - possibly the only weapon an ill-educated society possesses to use against someone whose culture we do not quite understand. In response to his accusers, Othello replies using the language associated with him. His calm reasoning and studied delivery counter-balances that of the wicked Iago. Shakespeare's masterly use of the language, immediately gives Othello a modest and sympathetic behaviour, which, on the one hand, increases the audiences' sympathy towards his tragic downfall. This (almost) simplicity of line helps to establish his powerful presence as a black man in white man's society; "Keep up your bright swords, for the dews will rust them." ...read more.


Iago appears to be completely convinced that he knows what makes him so superior to everyone else. Above all, the solution to every problem is to 'put money in thy purse'. Iago plainly states to the audience, 'I hate the Moor' and to declare this hatred, Iago proceeds to say that he will have his revenge on the Moor, regardless of whether the reason he has given is right or not. The first Act is merely there to provide intrigue to the audience to continue watching the play. Shakespeare introduces the play, much like his other, in mid conversation, immediately gripping the audience. The first Act is the exposition for the whole play; the introduction of both protagonists, Iago and Othello, as well an insight into some of the major themes that result in Othello's downfall, themes portrayed in a way that would have shocked the Elizabethan audience - shocked, but intrigued. Consequently the first Act sees the entrance of Iago, who essentially writes the play's main plot, takes a key part in it, and gives first-hand direction to the others, most notably to the noble Moor, Othello. ...read more.

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