Lying is an ambiguous area of imagery, and conveys both lying as in on a bed, and lying as in being untruthful. Iago is the cunning character that lies to every character in the play. His puppet, Othello, is simply gullible and believes everything Iago tells him. ‘Lie with her, lie on her?-We say lie on her, when they belie her,-lie with her, zounds, that’s fulsome!’ (IV, i, 35-36). Here Iago has lied to him that Desdemona and Cassio have made love. Othello becomes overloaded with images and stories of Desdemona and Cassio that his language becomes fractured. ‘You told a lie…a wicked lie!’ (V, ii, 181-182). Here Emilia, Iago’s wife, shouts at him about his lies and his wickedness. Both the uses of the word lie are affected by the other in some manner. ‘Lie,’ as in untruthful, makes ‘lie’ as in on a bed more disgraceful, and the latter brings the element of sex into the former. Iago spins a web of lies around Othello, which compel Othello to act irrationally and wildly.
Plants are important images, and are also very strongly linked with a particular character, which is once more the wretch, Iago. On many occasions he speaks of plants, and he uses the images of plants to symbolise his diabolical plans growing through the characters and their minds. ‘Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners…and corrigible authority of this, lies in our wills.’ (I, iii, 320-326). These vegetable metaphors show very well how plants and botanical references are symbolised through the play. The characters of the play are controlled by natural forces, which are part of their personality, and are capable of growing wild. Iago is the character that comprehends these natural forces and is literally the gardener of the play, who can do what he wants with the plants. Iago sees other characters’ minds as fertile soil, in which he can sow his seeds of evil and grow them using his lies and rumours into wild and untamed plants, and Othello seems to be most vulnerable to Iago’s gardening skills. The organic manner in which Iago’s schemes devour the other characters and control their behaviour makes his wickedness seem more like forces of nature, as if unstoppable to anything and anyone.
Animals are yet another group of strong images in the play and are used to draw out the personalities of various characters. Indeed it is the libertine, Iago, who speaks of animals and creatures more than any other character in the play. He uses animal references to describe and symbolise the other characters in the play. ‘Barbary horse;’ (I, i, 111), ‘old black ram,’ (I, i, 88). Iago calls Othello these racist remarks to convey to Brabantio that Othello is the wrongdoer in this scene, and that Othello has literally snatched his daughter away. The image of Othello as a ram or a horse makes him seem wild and barbaric, and these features eventually are the only features that Othello has in the end scenes of the play. ‘White ewe;’ (I, i, 89). Iago labels Desdemona as a white ewe to symbolise her purity and innocence, as if there is nothing she could do wrong. The recurrence of these animal images brings again a feeling of natural power, and that the characters are somehow controlled by their own animal natures.
The various images of the play display the true themes and motifs of the play, and the real personalities of the characters in the play. Iago’s deceitfulness and use of words show how great his power of persuasion is. His ways of using natural images to present plans and label characters vividly expresses his passion for destruction and his hatred and jealousy of Cassio and Othello. Overall, the images are a very powerful way in which Shakespeare tells the play to the audience.
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
This essay is structured well, with a clear introduction and conclusion. In the introduction, I'd rather they briefly summarise the imagery used rather than saying "a number of ways". I liked how each paragraph starts with a short and concise signpost, making it clear what the paragraph will add. The style is very sophisticated, with spelling, punctuation and grammar being used well.
Level of analysis
The analysis is sound in this essay. Rather than spotting random uses of imagery, the essay is able to find common themes used by Shakespeare. By doing this, the essay becomes structured and focused, whilst allowing a natural progression into the reasons for Shakespeare choosing the imagery. It was a shame to see the line references included with quotes, as these are unnecessary and break up the flow. However, once a quote has been embedded, the essay tends to talk about the effect on the plot and characters. In my opinion, this can easily be tweaked to discuss the dramatic influence on the audience, but this must be changed to get top marks. You can't get away with talking about the characters as if they make the choices - Shakespeare creates the semantic field of poison to affect the audience, not Othello, for example. To show this awareness, phrases such as "Shakespeare has Iago" or "Shakespeare uses poisonous imagery to" will suffice.
Response to question
This essay engages with the question superbly, picking out key pieces of imagery used by Shakespeare. However, there is a lack of discussion of the audience's response to these images. Being a play, I would've liked more awareness of an audience's reaction to the imagery being used on stage - such analysis would've gained higher marks!