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'Othello': A Tragedy of Deception or a Tragedy of Self-deception? Depicting the downfall and eventual suicide of the honourable central protagonist of the play, Shakespeare

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'Othello': A Tragedy of Deception or a Tragedy of Self-deception? Depicting the downfall and eventual suicide of the honourable central protagonist of the play, Shakespeare unequivocally presents 'Othello' as a tragedy; however the nature of this tragedy is somewhat ambiguous, and thus has caused controversy amongst critics. In order for the audience to believe that the tragedy of 'Othello' is one of mere deception, they are predominantly to be convinced of Iago's opportunistic, foul, manipulative, nature juxtaposed with Othello's righteous nobility and honour. Alternatively, the audience may look beyond the obvious, recognising faults within Othello that consequently lead them to believe that he aids Iago in bringing about his own downfall. They may therefore identify the nature of the play as a tragedy of self-deception on Othello's part. Immediately, Shakespeare imposes Iago's sadistic, ruthless nature on the audience in Act One of the play, as he exhibits the villain's swear to gain revenge against Othello for promoting Cassio above him. Initially, the audience may feel that Iago's bitterness is justified, as he appears to be giving understandable reasons to be irritated. For instance that Othello promoted a man who's 'never set a squadron in the field' above Iago 'of whom his eyes hath seen proof/ At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds,/ Christen'd and Heathen'. ...read more.


For instance in his reply to Othello's query about the reason behind Iago's curiosity, he states 'But for satisfaction of my thought. No further harm'. His repeated repetition of Othello's words, for example 'Think, my Lord?', also proves to be extremely effective in evoking Othello's suspicions. In withholding his thoughts Iago appears to Othello as being loyal to Cassio and this is the quality recognised by Othello; not Iago's incrimination of the dependable Lieutenant. Therefore, Othello does not suspect Iago of foul play. The evidence of the effectiveness of these techniques is conveyed through Othello's words; '...thou echo'st me;/As if there were some monster in thy thought...And when I told thee, he was of my counsel...thou criedst, Indeed?...as if thou then had shut up in thy brain/Some horrible conceit.' This is the first indication that Iago's attempts at manipulating Othello's thoughts have been successful, and prove Shakespeare's success at depicting Iago as a wily, calculating villain, which must be achieved if the play is to be a tragedy of deception. As well as communicating Iago's poisonous nature in this scene, in seeking his sworn vengeance against Othello, Shakespeare displays immense intelligence and cunning in the villainous character, as he is opportunistic and exploits Othello's insecurities and personality flaws. ...read more.


In my opinion, the nature that one believes the tragedy of the play to be depends on whether they see the so-called flaws and insecurities in Othello's nature to be thus, or to be the attributes of a purely noble and honourable general. In Othello's final speech, having realised the error of his ways and the victim he has been to Iago's masterly manipulation and thirst for revenge, the tragic hero states that he is 'one, not easily jealous, but being wrought,/ perplexed in the extreme'. This is a claim that must be carefully considered when stating the nature of the tragedy of 'Othello'. It is my belief that Othello would never have accused Desdemona of being unfaithful had the idea not been planted in his head, due to his genuinely honourable and trusting nature. Hence, I believe that the play is a tragedy of deception of Iago against Othello, though only to a certain degree. I also believe that there is an element of self-deception on Othello's part, as he seems easily convinced by Iago with little evidence, due to his existing insecurities about his marriage. I do not agree that 'Othello' is completely a tragedy of self-deception however; as I don't think that Othello would have deceived himself to such a degree if he was not subjected to Iago's ruthless manipulation, and intent to deceive. ?? ?? ?? ?? Bethany Weston 1 ...read more.

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