• 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)

    Throughout this second soliloquy the possible motives of Iago progress from the rumour that Othello slept with Emilia, to the more disturbing and disconcerting motive of Iago desiring Othello's love before destroying him, the idea of Iago being thrust into a "Godly" position.

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    4 star(s)

    It also shows how religious people were at the time, and could suggest that what Othello believes is like religious beliefs - hard to prove and sometimes easy to forget. Shakespeare often uses actors words as stage directions. "Why do you speak so faintly?"

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

    is last seen in a conversation between him and Iago, concerning the infidelity of Desdemona. In his speech, we see Othello at his final point of rational sanity, which unfortunately due to Iago's manipulative skills, he is unable to keep up throughout the entirety of the play: 'No, Iago, I'll

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

    Although there are lots of things to suggest this is a racist play I don't think that racism actually dominates the play, even though it has a racist theme. There is a romantic union between black and white which gets destroyed because most people think the relationship is wrong.

  1. In the opinion of F.R. Leavis, “Iago’s power is that he represents something that ...

    It is a stark reminder of the positions of the characters in the play when it is referred back to later on, when Othello has fallen from the moral position he has apparently unconsciously held from the beginning. The fact that the contrast is so great tells us it is

  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

    It also makes him seem a bit insecure and as though he is depending on Desdemona to keep his life together. It's strange seeing such a strong and important person showing so much insecurity. A 16th century audience could think that it is embarrassing and pathetic to see a man break down and show signs of weakness.

  2. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago character stays the same throughout but Othello’s does not. How ...

    a meeting of two deceitful lovers, arousing suspicion by questioning Desdemona's loyalty to her father. 'She has deceived her father, and may thee.' were Brabantio's final words in Act 1 Scene 3. Brabantio has unwittingly reiterated the question of Desdemona's loyalty which will know doubt create further veins of suspicion in Othello's mind.

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