• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Use of Irony in William Shakespeare’s “Othello”

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The Use of Irony in William Shakespeare's "Othello" Examine the way in which irony is used throughout "Othello" to produce a dramatic effect. Iago is honest; Othello is the villain; Desdemona deserves her punishment. Most people would dismiss such statements as outrageous. And yet they are valid interpretations of a very multifaceted play. Whether these statements are Shakespeare's intentions or not, they arise out of that powerfully dramatic device: irony. Verbal, situational, and dramatic irony are present in "Othello" in abundance. This essay will focus on the latter two, as well as analyse some general ironies present in the play's background and setting. Irony is employed in the opening scene to attract the audience's attention. The first person to speak of Othello, supposedly the play's protagonist, is the "villain" Iago. It is not a flattering picture, as Iago mocks Othello's style: "But he (as loving his own pride, and purposes) / Evades them, with a bombast circumstance, / Horribly stuffed with epithets of war..." The audience, not yet able to evaluate Othello for itself, really has no choice but to accept this malicious remark at face value. The irony here is that the audience believes Iago, much as Othello believes him throughout the play. ...read more.

Middle

One victim is poor Roderigo, who misguidedly believes that his actions, prompted by Iago, will result in Desdemona's love. Cassio fits into Iago's plans perfectly when talking to Iago about Bianca, unaware that Othello is watching. Later, he even reflects on his insobriety and despises himself for it, oblivious that the cunning Iago encouraged him to drink. Emilia and Othello actually commit crimes because of Iago: the ever-trusting wife steals Desdemona's handkerchief (which, more ironically, was dropped by Othello); Othello commits the greatest crime of all: murder. This climax is entirely dramatic because of its painful irony. Even the terrible act's planning is ironic. Othello's order is to "Get me some poison, Iago, this very night", but Iago's idea is better: "Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed, / Even the bed she hath contaminated." Othello is enthusiastic: "The justice of it pleases, good". First there is the obvious irony that Othello believes Iago is helping him and being loyal. Secondly, Othello genuinely believes in the justice of his actions. He kills her to prevent others from being hurt: "...she must die, else she'll betray more men". ...read more.

Conclusion

Opposites are often discussed in relation to "Othello". When analysing the play people talk of the ambiguity of language, such as the various double entendres; they talk about such opposites as good and evil, masculinity and femininity, black and white; and about the contrasts in setting. In my opinion it is the ironic nature of the play that allows all these discussions and the play's possible opposite interpretations. At the beginning of this essay I gave some interpretations of various characters. They are perfectly valid, as are their relative opposites, but only through the ironic situations and occurrences outlined above. For example, it is possible to see Othello as kind and honest, or as evil and villainous; it is possible to see Iago as misunderstood and lonely, or cold and calculating. Similarly, Desdemona may be commended for her loyalty to Othello; but perhaps her loyalty does not go very far, since she effectually betrayed her father and caused his death. Cassio may be a kind, respectable gentleman; but his rocky relationship with Bianca may contradict this view. It is these possibilities, brought about by irony, that not only make the play extremely intense and dramatic, but also provide the opportunity for a member of the audience to interpret it individually, and have an enriching and enjoyable experience while watching it. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Othello essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Is Iago The Perfect Villain?

    5 star(s)

    tools, ready to be manipulated, hinting at the sense of detachment he feels. The lines: "Which thing to do, If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trash," show this aptly. After becoming so consumed with jealously, greed or whatever is driving him on, Iago now feels no real emotional connection with ordinary people.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    How does Shakespeare use language and stagecraft to show Othello's changing feelings towards Dedemona ...

    4 star(s)

    He is still confused about the truth and his emotions, so asks Iago to give him "the ocular proof" - show him proof he can see with his own eyes - showing that he still holds on to the hope that she is true to him, and may no longer trust Iago.

  1. Is Othello a 'noble hero' brought down by 'a devil of motiveless malignity' or ...

    With this dark side he is also very outgoing, and not very bright. He isnt observant and the schemes of Iago work well on him. Though he doesnt reflect too much on his past, except occasional ventures of wars fought, he does let his emotions run his life.

  2. How Is Othello Viewed By Others And How Does He View Himself

    However none are as interesting and somewhat confusing as how Othello in fact sees himself. His character goes through three notable stages which seem to show great contrast and diversity with each other. At the beginning of the tragedy Othello is obviously a proud individual, and openly speaks about his

  1. Othello - How does William Shakespeare use the opening scene to introduce ...

    Iago has a complex and evil personality. It comes up full throttle in this scene as manipulative of Roderigo, resentful and vengeful over not being made lieutenant, and hence disrespectful towards Othello behind his back. However, he is very sure of his own character and duplicity, declaring "I am not

  2. Discuss the dramatic irony of Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello

    This shows Brabantio is extremely upset and feels betrayed. A Senator then asks Brabantio if his daughter is dead, Brabantio replies "Ay, to me". Brabantio is very over dramatic here, he makes the situation seem a lot worse than it is this serves to build up more tension. Shakespeare uses a lot of dramatic irony, when the audience are

  1. Othello for 16th and 21st century audiences

    Whilst Desdemona is leaving, Othello calls after 'But I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.' This just sounds so loving and romantic. It's as though his world will not be complete and he will not be happy at all if they didn't have their love for each other.

  2. Othello - What sort of person is Iago? How does he use his knowledge ...

    He uses his suspicion as motivation for his actions against Othello later on in the play. It could also be argued that Iago is jealous of the relationship between Othello and Desdemona and that he himself loves Desdemona. (Act 2.1, Line 282-283)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work