“Hah? I like not that.”
Commencing this Iago dismisses the subject persuading the character of Othello to be curious towards the situation; escalating the audience’s emotion of fear as to what Iago is trying to achieve. Iago’s language plays little effort and so it is evident that he has said nothing to get into trouble but just guides Othello into a hollow of tragedy, allowing the audience to pity for Othello. And as Iago is lying, he stalls for time by mirroring Othello’s words, creating tension as the audience is desperate to make some progression in the plot:
“…Is he not honest?”
“Honest, my lord?”
It is also ironic, whereby while manipulating Othello, Iago assures him of his loyalty and honesty:
“My lord, you know I love you.”
Shakespeare also constructs Iago’s language with metaphors, exaggerating the situation upon Othello increasing the audiences emotion of fear as here it becomes evident that Iago finds the impossible possible and has the talent to quickly manipulate any situation:
“…It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock…”
Shakespeare in ‘Othello’ uses Iago to persuade emotions in the audience of pity for Othello as a character and fear for the conditions which Iago skilfully positions him in.
In Act Three, Scene Three of ‘Othello’ the slow transformation of Othello’s character and Iago’s attentiveness of it are evident:
“The Moor already changes with my poison”
Shakespeare’s metaphor of Iago’s plan being poison is clever in its way of emphasising the affects it has made on Othello. His vacillation between being duped into Iago’s plan and then being relieved strengthens the audiences emotions to a long extent of pity and fear in relation to what the futures of tragedy hold. Shakespeare portrays Hamartia in a strong light, especially through Othello’s language which contrasts from the beginning of the scene where Othello is mildly frustrated:
To the very end where we have one man on the act of revenge hungry to kill, stressing the audience’s emotion of fear:
“…O damn her, damn her!”
Othello’s metaphorical speech, where he describes to his wife a pain ‘upon’ his forehead and rejects her handkerchief as ‘too little’ to bind his head with, implies that horns are growing out of his head and he is being made into a cuckold. Emphasizing the transformation from a noble to a devil, this situation therefore makes the audience pity his state. Furthermore his insecurities of being not so experienced with women are accurately judged by Iago triggering the audiences emotion of pity for Othello, who is remote of the situation:
“In Venice they do let God see the pranks/ They dare not show their husbands…”
Iago, here, implies Venetian women have affairs and play tricks thus Desdemona is betraying Othello, her husband. We pity Othello as a character because he does not understand the complexities of life, since he has been shaded away from the ‘real world’ since a young child. He only understands the language of battle. Othello in turn puts his trust into Iago who he assumes will guide him safely but Iago cleverly manipulates this idea of society, cleverly pushing emotions of pity and fear as the audience and only the audience know who the real Iago is:
“I know our county disposition well-”
Here what Shakespeare really means for Iago to say is, “I know, but you cannot know…”. The audience are aware from the very first meeting of Othello that though he his a noble man although of a lowly background, allowing the audience to consider Othello an ordinary man who feels emotions of pleasure and anger. These characteristics contribute to the audience’s emotion of fear because it is for sure that Othello will make an absolute approach to the situation and a decisive action upon it:
“Within these three days let me hear thee say/ That Cassio’s not alive.”
Nevertheless Othello’s love for Desdemona is true, so true that it is close to the definition of madness which furthers the audience’s emotion of fear to whether or not his love could drive to obsession, furthermore murder. He expresses the notion of life without her through his use of emotive language which inspires the audience to empathise with him:
“But I do love thee! and when I love thee not/ Chaos is come again.”
Shakespeare here alludes to the legend that love was the first of the Gods to bring about chaos and thus of a powerful nature. Furthermore this foreshadows the result of tragedy using love as a promise, noticing that love has brought moral order and if love goes so does the order. Iago’s continuity of manipulating the situation allows the audience to notice confusion within Othello’s language as well where the pun has been played upon the word ‘wretch’, implying of an endearment or perhaps the opposite. These mixed feelings of Othello bring the audience’s emotions of pity, as we really empathise with his character and hope for justice to him.
Other characters in ‘Othello’ also contribute to the emotions we feel in the scene. Desdemona is one character with which Shakespeare allows heightened emotions of pity and fear to be felt by the audience. The tragedy ultimately builds fear as to what might happen to her and it ultimately affects her the most so the audience pity her circumstances and beliefs, therefore pathos is evoked. In the 17th century women were looked down upon, they supposedly took the role of being traditional house wife’s, who served their husbands and looked after the home and children.
This naivety is seen through Desdemona’s character as she respects and looks after her husband, especially referring to him as, “…my lord?” The audience is conscious of Iago’s knowledge, therefore the audience are familiar that Iago knows Desdemona very well, arousing fear in the audience as to what will happen to Desdemona. Where she also tries to pursue Othello proves as a risk, because her we know Othello has already been teased about Cassio departing quickly, bringing about our emotion of fear as an audience and pitying Desdemona as a character because she doesn’t know that she is playing upon the tragedy more:
“Why then, tomorrow night, or Tuesday morn…”
Cassio is also one character who instigates the tragedy more unknowingly. His departing just not to meet Othello and ask help from Desdemona gets misinterpreted:
“He’s never anything but your true servant.”
Othello’s knowledge of Cassio being a ladies man in relation to this gives opportunity for manipulation by Iago, misunderstanding by Othello and room for tragedy. What Shakespeare has let the audience recognise is that Desdemona and Cassio are two catalysts yet targets for the tragedy and in some way damage their own fates, which arouses our emotions of pity and fear.
Fate in ‘Othello’ also seems to be working in support of Iago’s plan, initiating emotions of pity and fear in the audience. Furthermore the handkerchief that Othello gave Desdemona is symbolic. Since it was the first gift Othello gave Desdemona, she keeps it near, epitomizing Othello’s affection. Iago manipulates the handkerchief so that Othello comes to see it as a symbol of Desdemona herself—her faith and chastity. By taking possession of it, he is able to convert it into evidence of her infidelity amplifying the audience’s emotion of fear as Iago incorporates it into the plan:
“I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin/ And let him find it”
The fastidious structure of the play also adds to the emotions we feel, for example Cassio is well placed in and out of the scene to push our emotions further, fulfilling the traditions of a Greek tragedy, the tragedy also starts late and then accelerates until the inevitable dénouement and anagnorisis by Othello, testing the audiences patience.
Act Three, Scene Three in ‘Othello’ has been composed by Shakespeare to reinforce the emotions of pity and fear, by engaging us with the characters and involving us on semi-plots, thus fearing for the targets of the tragedy, Othello and Desdemona. ‘Othello’ could be defined as a domestic, personal tragedy, where a cycle of emotions are felt enthralling you with emotive feeling therefore affecting us much more than other tragedies. Shakespeare sensibly allows us to feel valuable emotions of pity and fear but ultimately does not reach catharsis. The pity and fear felt by the audience only give tragedy; there is no purpose to the tragedy after Othello and Desdemona die resulting without justice or resolution. Undeniably, Iago gets punished but it is very futile, there is no motivation behind Iago’s evilness; just a man’s personal vendetta. Therefore the destruction of a loving couple leaves the audience unhappy because by this we learn no lesson and our suspension of disbelief breaks. What could be further acknowledged is that Othello dies a murderer compared to what he might have died as if the play of ‘Othello’ were to stop at Act One; the transformation has finally poisoned him to the very end of the play further proving as injustice to the traditions of tragedy.
Word Count: 1885
Shakespeare, William. Edited by E. A. J. Honigmann. The Arden Shakespeare, Othello (ISBN O - 17 - 443464 - 2)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otello accessed 19th November 2008
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