• 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)

    anything as he harbours a wide range of emotions for Othello- love, respect and, ultimately, hatred. This ultimately contributes to him being the perfect villain, he is unrestricted, Shakespeare can take his character anywhere and the audience will never be able to second-guess him.

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    4 star(s)

    he wouldn't mind if he died then, his soul was so content. Now however, he believes that she has been cheating on him, with Cassio, who he had trusted. He feels betrayed and yet still loves her, but, as she is unable to kiss him back, being asleep, he feels

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

    For all the dangers and encounters he has been involved in, this man is still naive of the corruptness of other individuals. Othello has a trusting nature in which he gives it all. He put all his trust in Iago during times of war and during Othellos marriage to Desdemona.

  2. 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

  1. Othello for 16th and 21st century audiences

    I think, the two audiences will still feel really sorry for Othello. He's being messed around with and is confused because of Iago. However, I also think the audience's (especially the 16th century) will feel a tiny bit angry towards Othello for not trusting his new wife.

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

    (Act 2.1, Line 282-283) "Now, I do love her too; Not out of absolute lust - through peradventure". This suggests that Iago has fallen in love with Desdemona by accident and now envies Othello because of this. In this same dialogue, Iago tells Roderigo that he also suspects Cassio of sleeping with his wife.

  1. 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

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

    Not all characters view Othello in such bad light conversely, most respect him as a brave and honourable general, showing him great loyalty and love- the Duke being one of these. He obviously sees Othello as a brilliant general and valuable friend- 'Valiant Othello we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman'.

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