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With particular reference to Act Four Scene One, explore the ways in which the audience is encouraged to respond to the theme of appearance and reality in the play 'Othello'.

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Introduction

With particular reference to Act Four Scene One, explore the ways in which the audience is encouraged to respond to the theme of appearance and reality in the play 'Othello'. Shakespeare's 'Othello' is a play which falls into the tragedy category. The main focus of Shakespearian Tragedies is the idea of the downfall of a hero as a result of a flaw in his character's qualities (amongst other admired qualities) which eventually becomes fatal to both the hero and those associated with him. In this play, Othello is, indeed, the eponymous hero. However, many would argue that Othello's fall from grace is in fact a combination of his own nature and the hidden depths of the people he thinks are closest to him; in particular, Iago. The opening of 'Othello' is very dramatic. The audience is presented with a lot of negativity, injustice, prejudice and hatred from the onset. Othello is a black man living in a white society, a soldier in Venice, a country full of civilians. We learn of his marriage to a Venetian woman, Desdemona. For a modern audience, this would not be something of great significance. However, an Elizabethan audience would immediately be shocked when they learn of this. Firstly, the concept of Venetian women marrying outside of Venice, not to speak of marrying outside the race was almost unheard of. Secondly, Venetian women were considered to be very pure, both sexually and in character. ...read more.

Middle

Secondly, the audience learn a lot more about the theme of appearance and reality in this scene. A lot of this is achieved through simply watching. For example, they learn that the traveller's accounts of foreigners are very inaccurate when Othello is presented to them as a very normal, handsome human being with dark skin, and not as the one-eyed monster many of them would no doubt be expecting. They also learn that Othello is held in very high regard in Venice simply by the fact that he has beautiful lodgings and servants. This would leave the audience very stunned and possibly even confused as not only would all of their expectations of Othello have been contradicted, but it would appear that the 'reports' of Iago, Brabantio and Roderigo have been false. All of this is achieved without Othello even speaking. However, the audience is further warmed to Othello when he is called before the senate by Brabantio in Act I Scene 3. He is now aware of Brabantio's anger, yet he does not appear phased by this, even when he sees Brabantio's servants, his colleagues, pointing weapons at him. Instead he displays his leadership and authority, ordering them to put way their "bright swords". Even when Brabantio hurls accusations at him calling him a "foul thief" for using "magic", "foul charms" and "arts inhibited" to lure Desdemona away from the "curled darlings" of Venice and into his own "sooty bosom", Othello shows his humility and innocence ...read more.

Conclusion

This is what drives him to commit such a pitiless act. Tension develops in the audience as they watch this dramatic change in Othello's character. In the Elizabethan period, the audience would begin to think twice about Othello and wonder whether he is in fact the stereotype that Roderigo, Iago and Brabantio described him to be at the start of the play: the wild and barbaric moor. However, the modern audience would possibly pay more attention to Iago's motives and deception and sympathise more with Othello, because they would be aware of the inaccuracy of the stereotypical conceptions of Othello. The fact that the audience can see both the appearance and the reality is what creates the tension and drama in 'Othello'. They are able to see Iago manipulate character after character in during his orchestration of Othello's demise. They are able to see Othello's good and trusting nature manipulated and capitalised on. They are able to see both sides of every story. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to show that there are hidden depths to everything that appears to be civilised. I believe that Shakespeare's aim when writing 'Othello' was to show the audience that what one sees or hears is never what one gets. He challenges the audience's ideas about what is civilised and what is uncivilised. Venice, the setting for 'Othello' seemed to be the model for the ideal society. However the reality of Venice was actually hidden under a blanket of lies, deceit and false stereotypes. Each of these aspects is clever represented by different characters in the play. Chukwuweta Ikeh ...read more.

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