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In what ways does Shakespeare create dramatic tension in the opening scene of Othello?

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Introduction

In what ways does Shakespeare create dramatic tension in the opening scene of Othello? From the very first words spoken the tension and drama is apparent. It begins mid- sentence with Roderigo saying "Tush! Never tell me" which indicates his impatience and that there is some kind of secret we do not yet know about. The audience are intrigued and immediately drawn into the drama, eager to find out more. However, we have to wait a long time to understand what the "matter" is that Iago said "he never did dream of," adding to the suspense. The atmosphere of the play is mysterious. The fact that it begins in the dark adds to the air of suspense and urgency. The darkness is threatening and ominous, preparing us for the trouble that lies ahead. It also suggests secrets and whispering, the secret being the elopement. Also from the beginning we are given clues as to the characters of the speakers on stage and the relationships between them. The first word that one of our main characters Iago utters it "S'Blood" a strong and powerful oath and a shocking phrase to hear within the first few lines of dialogue. Shakespeare probably did this in order to shock the audience. It is also a clue as to Iago's character. The development of the character of Iago plays an important part in building up the dramatic tension. ...read more.

Middle

Iago tends to see human activity in animal terms. He is clever to use such simple words to create a dramatic impact on the emotions of a father towards a daughter in danger. Furthermore, by saying "you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you..." he gets exactly the reaction he was hoping for out of Brabantio, who prepares to go and attack Othello with his soldiers. To conclude, Iago is very shrewd and devil-like. Another way in which Shakespeare creates dramatic tension is the portrayal of Othello (who is the hero of the play so the audience already knows he plays an important part in the story.) However, we only know about him what we are told by Iago, Roderigo and Brabantio, neither of who's opinion of him are favourable. To begin with, no-one ever uses his name, instead referring to him using "he" "him" and "the Moor." Iago makes Brabantio imagine a barbarous and threatening Moor, whose sexual appetite has turned him into a thief and a rapist. Knowing nothing of Othello, one would expect that the audience, too, would be seduced by Iago's portrait of Othello but we are not. We know that he is black by the several references made about him by Iago. "Thick lips" "lascivious Moor" "an old black ram." ...read more.

Conclusion

He then proceeds to get together a small army to go looking for them- "And raise some special officers of the night" This is very dramatic and raises yet more unanswered questions about the scenes to come. We know that Brabantio is getting an army together but if Othello doesn't, what will happen? How will Othello react? Will there be a fight? It is only the first scene and already Iago has caused so much trouble. We now that he is out for revenge "I follow him to serve my turn upon him" and we are beginning to wonder where Iago's capabilities end. He is clearly driven and motivated and the suspense of not knowing what is around the corner increases the dramatic tension. By the end of the first scene the main themes of the play are revealed, and we can see that these themes will continue throughout the play. Jealousy is an important aspect of the plot- Iago's jealousy of Cassio, Roderigo's jealousy of Othello etc. Practically everybody in this play has a bit of the green-eyed monster in them. Appearance and reality is the other strong theme. In his own words Iago admits "I am not what I am." Although we haven't yet got there, another example of things not being what they seem is when Othello convinces himself Desdemona is having an affair- when of course she is not. In conclusion, this scene is very effective in drawing the audience in. It begins strongly and is full of action, excitement and drama, leaving the audience thirsty for more. ...read more.

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