How and why does Othello's character change during the course of the play? How does Shakespeare present this dramatically?

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Jack Conway        English ‘Othello’ Coursework


Mr. Oliver

How and why does Othello’s character change during the course of the play? How does Shakespeare present this dramatically?

When Othello is sent to war in Cyprus, the Moor’s character changes over the course of time. His language and attitude towards people, including his innocent wife, begins to differ for the worse. Othello’s wild behaviour worries Desdemona incredibly as he changes a lot from his calm and gentle nature from before. Shakespeare presents this transformation through Othello’s syntax and dramatic irony. His confused logic is evident in his actions whether they are violent or passionate.

When Othello is in his home city of Venice, his attitude towards others is calm, shown when Cassio enters warning him that Brabantio is after him, he replies, “’Tis well I am found by you: I will but spend a word here in the house and go with you.” Othello doesn’t react to the words of Cassio, he stands confidently as he hasn’t done anything wrong. He is a man of bravery and self-assurance. When Brabantio arrives, he orders his officers to seize Othello, but in reply, the Moor says, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.” This humorous comment breaks the tense atmosphere and relaxes the viewers’ thoughts on the situation. Shakespeare is clearly trying to show Othello’s confidence and self-control as strangers approach him. This annoys Brabantio, as he feels attacked by Othello with only a witty remark. He follows on, threatening Othello and insulting him. Instead of reacting violently, he maintains his dignity by staying composed and making another smart statement, “Hold your hands, both you of my inclining and the rest. Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter.” With all his quick replies to Brabantio’s arguments, Othello is gaining more and more power over Brabantio and his officers. He is being more listened to and respected each time he says something. After Brabantio’s threats, Othello replies strongly once again and, in the act, gains support from one of Brabantio’s officers, “’Tis true, most worthy signor…” From this, Brabantio is proved wrong and Othello has won the mental war between them both by getting support and using clever language to out step Brabantio’s intimidations. This shows Othello’s individuality and verbal strength in full as he managed to overcome many people without physical action. He is at his peak of his strength at this point in the story. Watching from close by, Iago views what he has to come up against to succeed in his quest of misery.

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Othello is then taken to the Duke and the Venetian senators who consult him about a war taking place in Cyprus. The fact that Othello is being told directly about this event from the senators gives him real authority and dominance over his followers. Brabantio, protesting that Othello has taken his daughter, Desdemona, and forced her to marry him, interrupts the Duke’s speech. Othello stays cool and waits for an appropriate time to speak. His patience gains approval from the senators during this time, because unlike Brabantio, he learns the etiquette in front of the Duke and is persistent. ...

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This response shows some good level analysis; however the essay is lacking cohesion and structure. To ensure focus on the question make sure that a clear plan is used to direct your response to link points to each other and to the question. There is a clear understanding of the character here - there just needs to be more of a contextual understanding of how the way he changes reflects the tragedy of the play. 4 Stars