The strongest emotion Shakespeare shows us in Act 1 is Iagos jealousy of Cassio and Othello

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The strongest emotion Shakespeare shows us in Act 1 is Iago’s jealousy of Cassio and Othello

  Shakespeare shows a range of intense emotions throughout Act 1.  Although the majority are dark, like the jealousy felt by both Iago and Rodrigo, love also heavily features in many different forms.  Love is often juxtaposed against the darker feelings, and occasionally the two emotions combine to cause a rage or hatred that is blinded by love, as happens to Rodrigo and Brabantio when they find out that Desdemona has married Othello.  Hatred also features strongly throughout the act.  There is a constant racial hatred aimed directly at Othello, with racist remarks made in every one of the first three scenes.  The final main emotion that Shakespeare shows us is pride.  Othello feels a lot of it about himself and Iago’s pride is undeniably damaged when Othello promotes Cassio over him (this is the trigger event that allows all of Iago’s emotions to spiral out of control, but it also gives him the focus to ensure that he destroys Othello).   Iago’s loss of pride and hatred of Othello drives his need for revenge and thirst to prove himself (in his own twisted way).  However each emotion individually isn’t enough to motivate the characters, it is only once their many emotions are combined that their actions become extreme.  The play has an emotional intensity as it has no real secondary plot, as is common in Shakespeare’s plays. So although the jealousy Iago feels is very powerful, it is when all of his emotions act together that they reach their strongest point as they become focused and intensified, as happens to every character.

  Iago is one of the most intriguing characters Shakespeare has ever devised; he is also possibly the most villainous (with the obvious exception of Richard 111 who was portrayed by Shakespeare to be entirely evil in order to please Elizabeth 1).  Shakespeare is quick to show Iago’s jealousy of Cassio in the first scene, having him complain about Cassio’s promotion and how it should have been his, Iago criticizes the fact that Cassio had ‘never set a squadron in the field, Nor the devision of a battle knows’.  However to say that this is the strongest emotion shown in Act 1 would be a serious misjudgement in my view.  Although Iago is bitter, the language he uses doesn’t evoke strong emotion, create powerful imagery or use any other of the numerous techniques Shakespeare uses to make an important line or feeling stand out.  Iago’s reasons to be jealous of Othello are equally weak.   Although he believes that Othello slept with his wife, ‘twixt my sheets He’s done my office’, he isn’t sure.  This not only leads him to feel jealous of Othello but angry and more importantly, his pride is hurt.  He feels betrayed by his wife and emasculated by Othello.  Although you could argue that he is jealous of what Othello has, i.e. a loving relationship, a beautiful wife, a good reputation and an honourable job, the fact remains that Iago never specifically voices any of these reasons during the first act.  Indeed he never gives any strong reason for disliking Othello, and the ones that he does give are varied and often dropped in the next scene.  The fact that his motives seem to be so weak and vague when his emotions and actions are so strong is what makes him such a volatile and dangerous character.

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It is when Iago is speaking about Othello that he shows true emotion.  He says things like ‘or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.’ This creates a devilish imagery of Othello (who has not yet been on stage) which would have been lapped up by a Jacobean audience who not only had racist views, but believed in the devil. It also uses more than ten syllables, a technique used by Shakespeare to show an outburst of emotion.  However these outbursts aren’t entirely motivated by Iago’s jealousy but also by his hatred of Othello.  He says ‘I hate ...

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