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Othello 1.1.42-66 - A Commentary

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Othello 1.1.42-66 - A Commentary These words occur as part of a quiet and mysterious opening scene in which the audience is introduced to the play through a conversation between Iago and Roderigo. It is night and it soon becomes clear that the men are near the house of Desdemona's father, Brabantio. Roderigo, a rich and foolish Venetian gentleman, has been paying another civilised gentleman Iago for his service, the nature of which is initially unclear. Roderigo concedes that the Moor has eloped with Desdemona, and he accuses Iago of being more friendly towards Othello than to him, and in this has betrayed his trust, and got away with his money. This gives Iago a chance to talk about himself and he responds to this accusation with an admission and a confession. He tells Roderigo that he has been near the Moor recently, as there was news of a promotion that he wished to receive. Iago continues to tell Roderigo of the disgust he feels at the Moor's preferment of Cassio, who he believes to be inexperienced and unworthy, rather than his experienced self as lieutenant. He throws in a scornful assessment of Michael Cassio and the audience becomes aware of his hatred of the Moor. The Moor is of course Othello, although the fact that his name is not mentioned throughout the first scene adds to the intrigue of the opening events. ...read more.


It is very ironic that Iago has so much confidence in his own character judgement, but it is this judgement which eventually brings his downfall, as he does not respect others enough and doesn't truly understand them, or himself. This is evident later in the play when he tries to justify his actions to himself when he mentions rumours of an affair between his wife and Othello, however this justification is half hearted, and does not fit in with the other impressions Shakespeare gives of Iago. Immediately after these powerful criticisms Iago changes tact and describes in positive those who serve their masters only to serve themselves, or in Shakespeare's words "Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves" (Line 51). It is immediately obvious, even without Iago's profession, that these characteristics he is describing are prominent in his own character. However, it is such that Iago continues to speak of his admiration of these people, and therefore his admiration for himself. The tone of the words is obvious in several phrases, for example the line "throwing but shows of service on their masters" (Line 52) which makes it seem that the servant is in control of their master. In a way, this phrase reminds of the saying 'to pull the wool over someone eyes', both meaning that the protagonist is showing one thing while doing another, often greedily, a trait that Iago admires and displays often. ...read more.


in the last two lines of this passage, where he passionately finishes his monologue with the words "tis not long after, I will wear my heart upon my sleave, For doves to peck at: I am not what I am" (Line 65). In other words, the time when Iago demonstrates outwardly his inner feelings will be the day that he is most vulnerable, and he will not let this happen. Impressions and reactions to the tragedy to follow are magnified and heightened by this revelation, as the audience is now aware of Iago's nature and has earlier in the passage been told of his intentions. The combination of Iago's intentions and Iago's character leads to a certain assessment of the reactions of other characters to the actions of Iago, and the irony of situations where he is described as honest by other characters is magnified. The way in which Iago develops this prolonged argument, a long metaphor to indicate two contrasting approaches, a clear assertion to Roderigo of his own position, an indication of what he foresees to be a danger to his master (emphasised by his pretend role reversal) and then a conclusion which speculates as to what would happen if his inner and outer feelings were in synch all assemble to provide a powerful image and cleverly describe to the audience the nature of future events in the play, as a good first scene should do. ...read more.

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