Othello themes essay

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Themes in Othello

Jealousy is a major theme of the play.  The imagery surrounding jealousy makes it a monster which controls the characters.  Othello represents how jealousy is one of the most corrupting and destructive of emotions.  “Othello jealousy overpowers him, as he trembles, at the idea of Desdemona and Cassio together. His statement about nature means that he believes he would not feel such powerful emotion and his mind would not be filled with images of them together, if it weren't really happening.  Othello takes the intensity of his own emotional jealousy to the thought of Desdemona being unfaithful.  It is also jealousy that prompts Iago to plot Othello's downfall, and jealousy is also the tool that Iago uses to arouse Othello's passions.  Roderigo and Bianca demonstrate jealousy at various times in the play, and Emilia demonstrates that she too knows the emotion well, describing jealousy as "a monster/Begot upon itself, born upon itself”. Othello's flaw is that he cannot understand human nature and he therefore cannot recognize the fact that he is jealous.  Only Desdemona and Cassio, the true innocents of the story, seem beyond its clutches. 

Racism is an extremely important theme as it has a great amount of influence on how people regard Othello.  For those, such as Iago, who distrust black people, based merely on looks, never like Othello.  Racism also determines how Othello perceives himself as a rough outsider, though he is nothing of the sort. Othello's race sets him apart, and makes him very self-conscious; it makes him work hard and look carefully after his reputation, so he is regarded as equal to the white people that surround him.  Iago’s racist values toward Othello are revealed when he says, “Even now, now, very now, an old back ram/ Is tupping your white ewe”

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(1.1.87-88).  This statement is both racist and degrading towards Othello as Iago is comparing Othello to a black ram. As black people were associated with demons during Shakespearean times because of their dark skin, the origins of Iago’s racism is revealed.  Animal imagery is used consistently throughout the play to depict Iago’s racist values toward Othello, telling Brabantio that his daughter and Othello are “making the beast with two backs.  Another example of this is when Iago says, “Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys,/ As salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross/ As ignorance ...

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