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Shakespeare’s Othello

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1 Shakespeare’s Othello
Matric Literature Act 1 Analysis

2 Roderigo’s Character His opening lines indicate a monetary/”emotional” business relationship with Iago His infatuation with Desdemona makes him compliant in Iago’s plan He appears to be entranced by Iago’s nonsensical language – “Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago” Manipulated through Iago’s pretentious use of “Sir” and “noble heart”

3 Roderigo Continued When emotional and contemplating suicide, Roderigo’s speech also switches to prose – indicates the low level of thought at this stage – “It is silliness to live when to live is a torment” Oblivious to the manipulation behind Iago’s repetitive “Put money in thy purse” “I confess it is my shame to be so fond, but it is not in my virtue to amend it” - undermines element of control associated with the Venetians and indicates his vulnerability at this stage

4 Roderigo Continued His acquiescence with Iago, his identification to Brabantio and placatory, honest speech makes the audience view him as rather harmless and naïve Although he is a wealthy, upper-class Venetian gentleman, he does not command the same level as respect as others of his status Keep a close eye on his character development – you will need to decide whether or not all this is a valid assessment

5 Iago’s Character Opens the play with his discussion with Roderigo
Shakespeare wants the audience to connect with Iago first so that our impression of him may be subverted Indicates his importance and central role in the play His first word “ ‘Sblood” = strong and violent expression – contrasts with Roderigo’s mild opening of “Tush”

6 Iago continued His diction indicates his devil-like nature:
“Despise” “Horribly” “rouse” “poison” “incense” “plague” “vexation” He incites anger and chaos – proactively going against the chain of being “I am worse no worth a place” – arrogance and self-centred perception “And I - God bless the mark – his Moorship’s ancient” – mockingly and manipulatively uses religion for his own purposes

7 Iago continued “I follow him to serve my turn upon him” – vengeful
Describes himself as the second type of slave who pretends to be loyal but is only concerned with bettering his own life “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for doves to peck at” – irony “I am not what I am” – appearance versus reality

8 Iago continued Sneaky, cunning, deceptive – Hides at Brabantio’s house and makes Roderigo act like his puppet “It is not meet nor wholesome to my place to be produced” – when he leaves Roderigo to return to Othello – shows he has a clear understanding of etiquette and morals – therefore he is not amoral but immoral

9 Iago continued In Scene 2, Iago attempts to unnerve Othello by informing him of Brabantio’s rage He also tries to manipulate Othello into acting like a coward “By Janus” – god with 2 faces – matches Iago

10 Iago continued He is a great orator and skillful with language – this is his ultimate tool in manipulation His dialogue is in both iambic pentameter and straight prose – indicates his duality The soliloquy is used to great effect with Iago and allows Shakespeare to heighten the tension felt by the audience

11 Iago continued “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” – Iago is after monetary and emotional compensation for his belief that he has been maligned “double knavery” – conniving “Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light” – invocation of evil spirits – full association with the devil

12 Machiavellianism is primarily the term some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person's tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain (see The concept is named after the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli ( ) Relate to Iago Ask also if Iago is a Narcissist

13 Iago’s Introduction of Othello to the Audience
Refers to him as the “Moor” – creates distance and introduces him as an “other” (to Roderigo) “be judge yourself whether I in any just term am affined to love the Moor” – immediate negative perception “I follow him to serve my turn upon him” – audience led to believe that Othello has truly committed an enormous offence

14 Iago’s Introduction of Othello to the Audience continued
“an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” – debase sexuality and devilish imagery “a Barbary horse” – animal imagery – Othello seen as a breeding stallion “your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” – debauched

15 Iago’s Introduction of Othello to the Audience continued
Refers to Othello and Desdemona being at the “Sagittary” inn – Sagittarius associated with rampant sexuality (to Cassio) “he tonight hath boarded a land carack” – reduced the marriage to an act of piracy – a criminal action “I hate the Moor” Suspects Othello of coveting his wife

16 Iago’s Introduction of Othello to the Audience continued
Shakespeare cleverly sets up a negative impression of Othello from the beginning Othello must transcend this in the audience’s view if he is to be considered a tragic hero at the end of the play Friction and dislocation have been introduced – the chain of being starts to be disrupted – leads to the action of the play

17 Othello’s Presence From the first entrance of Othello (only in the second scene), the audience is jolted into the recognition that Iago’s word is not to be trusted Othello is calm, controlled, commands respect, and epitomises order (link to the chain of being). He is rational and not emotional Shakespeare has destabilised the audience’s discernment of Othello and this creates tension – a necessary element of a successful play

18 Othello’s Character His response to Brabantio’s anger shows empathy, maturity and patience - “Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter” He is seen to be wiser and more cogent in his replies than the older Venetian gentleman, Brabantio – “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them” He is aware of some of his limitations – “Rude I am in my speech” – but this admission causes the audience to connect with him rather than pity him

19 Othello’s Character Continued
He is straight-forward and honest – “I will a round unvarnished tale deliver” Willing to accept consequences – “If you do find me foul in her report…let your sentence even fall upon my life” Too trusting? If one trusts and the trust is broken, who is to blame? Is this a flaw or an attribute? - “my ancient – a man he is of honesty and trust” (about Desdemona) – “my life upon her faith” – shows his commitment – irony

20 Desdemona’s Character
“My noble father” / “Most gracious Duke” – respectful/educated/upper class “I do perceive here a divided duty” – torn between father and husband Her higher level language usage is distinguishable from Othello’s more straight-forward diction Her short entrance has immense impact – the audience is fully aware of her feelings for Othello and that no witchcraft has been used. Her honest and pure nature is introduced.


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