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Is Othello presented as a "Valiant General" or "Horribly stuffed with epithets of war" in Act one of Othello?

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Is Othello presented as a "Valiant General" or "Horribly stuffed with epithets of war" in Act one of Othello? This question evokes a vast, confusing spectrum of answers because, of course, every character has their own unique opinion of Othello, as Shakespeare does not hesitate to bring to the attention of the audience in Act One of Othello. In the first act, we must consider what the other characters say about Othello but also the way he acts (especially towards Desdemona), the first insights into his nature, and his professional reputation. If one were to take the first opinions of the contemptible Iago for gospel, Othello is a pompous and conceited man who has shown nepotism in appointing Cassio as his Lieutenant, gravely misjudged Iago's "worth" and defied Venetian etiquette in marrying a white woman of high status. However, just as these judgements of Othello are firmly established in the psyche of the audience, Othello himself enters the scene. With this entrance every attempt to rubbish his integrity by Iago seems to be diminished by the distinguished way in which he conducts himself in matters both professional and personal. ...read more.


When Iago and Roderigo go to tell Brabantio of Othello's marriage to his daughter, Desdemona Iago uses a variety of devices such as symbolism to describe Othello and his 'crime'. He begins by waking Brabantio with " Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves! Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags! Thieves, thieves". This stealing imagery implies not only that Othello is a robber, but also that Desdemona is a material object that may simply be stolen. By comparing Othello to a petty criminal, Iago is questioning Othello's integrity. Iago then proceeds to use very vulgar, sexual and animal imagery to describe both Othello and Desdemona when he says" an old black ram is tupping your white ewe". This line has both the effect of upsetting Brabantio and also making the audience think of Othello as a very base and lecherous character because it is implied that he is only with Desdemona for sexual gratification. Roderigo also describes Othello as "lascivious" which reiterates Iago's view of Othello only being interested in sexual fulfilment and he describes him as "an extravagant and wheeling stranger of here and everywhere". ...read more.


This also greatly dispels any thoughts the audience may have had of Othello being a lowly character because of the colour of his skin. Even when Brabantio comes to take Othello to prison by accusing him of witchcraft and drawing his sword on him, Othello remains completely in control and tranquil and even says " Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them" as a way of attempting to pacify Brabantio. When Othello is before the Senate being accused of "beguiling" Desdemona his speech is incredibly eloquent and formal but his language humble. For example, he addresses the senate as "Most potent, grave and reverent signiors" which is sycophantic to make it easier for him to tell his story. He also belittles himself by saying "Rude am I in speech" to make the Senate believe that he poses no threat and could not have possibly bewitched Desdemona. Through his speech to the senate, the audience is able to see Othello's true character for the first time and they discover a man of intelligence, eloquence and dignity. ...read more.

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