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Themes, Symbols and Motifs

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1 Themes, Symbols and Motifs
Othello Themes, Symbols and Motifs

2 Themes Theme: defined as a main idea or an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly. A major theme is an idea that a writer repeats in his work, making it the most significant idea in a literary work. A minor theme, on the other hand, refers to an idea that appears in a work briefly and gives way to another minor theme. Theme vs. Subject: Subject is a topic which acts as a foundation for a literary work while a theme is an opinion expressed on the subject. For example, a writer may choose a subject of war for his story and the theme of a story may be writer’s personal opinion that war is a curse for humanity.

3 Jealousy Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he, 'I have already chose my officer.' And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician, One Michael Cassio, a Florentine, A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife; That never set a squadron in the field, Nor the division of a battle knows More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric, Wherein the toged consuls can propose As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise, Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election: And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster, He, in good time, must his lieutenant be, And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient. The theme is introduced right at the beginning of the play. Iago – Over Cassio’s promotion A1S1L15 – 35 What does Iago say about Cassio and Othello here that demonstrates his jealousy?

4 Roderigo Loves Desdemona and is used by Iago to revenge Othello. His jealousy causes him to give Iago all his money A4S2 L216 – 222: With nought but truth. I have wasted myself out of 
my means. The jewels you have had from me to 
deliver to Desdemona would half have corrupted avotarist: you have told me she hath received them 
and returned me expectations and comforts of sudden respect and acquaintance, but I find none. Then is murdered because of his jealousy by Iago: O Damned Iago! O inhuman dog! (A5S1 L74)

5 Othello Othello’s unreasonable jealousy is what causes his downfall. One might argue it is his tragic Flaw. A1S3 L137 – 140 If you do find me foul in her report, The trust, the office I do hold of you, 
Not only take away, but let your sentence 
Even fall upon my life. Othello discusses his trust for his wife and how he would bet his life on what she will say to the court regarding their marriage. Read Iago’s discussion of : A2S1 L Othello: Was not that Cassio parted from my wife? Iago: Cassio, my lord! No, sure, I cannot think it, 
That he would steal away so guilty-like, 
Seeing you coming. A3S3 L

6 Othello’s Jealousy Iago: With her – on her – what you will A4S1 L41
Iago: Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio; Wear your eyes thus, not jealous nor secure. A3S3 L Iago: With her – on her – what you will A4S1 L41 Othello: I would have him nine years a – killing! A fine Woman, a fair woman, a sweet woman! A4S1 L197 – 198

7 Bianca and Cassio Bianca: Let the devil and his dam haunt you! What did You mean by the same handkerchief you gave me Even now? I was a fine fool to take it! I must take out the work? A likely piece of work, that you Should find it in your chamber and know not who left it there! This is some minx’s token, and I must Take out the work! There, give it your hobbyhorse Wheresoever you had it, I’ll take out no work on’t A4S1 L167 – 174

8 Reputation Othello: How is Othello’s reputation besmirched? There is an illustration that might help this discussion.

9 Bianca and Cassio Cassio: I marry (her?) What, a customer? Prithee bear Some charity to my wit! Do not think it so unwhole – Some. Ha, ha, ha! A4S1 L Cassio laughs at marrying a woman who truly loves him because she was a prostitute. We see how awful he treats her and how his words come back to haunt him as Othello thinks he is talking about Desdemona. Had he been more respectful to Bianca, maybe things could have turned out differently!

10 Brabantio Brabantio demonstrates his perceived ownership of his daughter and the fear of loss in reputation by her marrying someone not of Florentine decent. It is also a hint at the racism demonstrated in the play. It is true an evil. Gone she is, And what’s to come of my despised time Is naught but bitterness. – Now Roderigo, Where didst thou see her? – O, unhappy girl! – With the Moor, sayst thou? – Who would be a Father? – A1S1 L 178 – 183

11 Symbols Symbol: an object representing another to give it an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a word spoken by someone may have a symbolic value. For instance, “smile” is a symbol of friendship. Similarly, the action of someone smiling at you may stand as a symbol of the feeling of affection which that person has for you. We find symbolic value in Shakespeare’s famous monologue in his play As you Like It: “All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
they have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,” The above lines are symbolic of the fact that men and women, in course of their life perform different roles. “A stage” here symbolizes the world and “players” is a symbol for human beings.

12 Handkerchief Emilia: This is her first remembrance from the Moor.
The handkerchief symbolizes: Love for Desdemona as Othello gave it to her as his first gift. Love and Family for Othello as he got it from his mother and she told him before she died that it will keep his love as long as it is in his wife’s possession. As it is stolen from Othello it becomes a symbol of infidelity as in someone has taken Desedmona from him. Emilia: This is her first remembrance from the Moor. My wayward husband has hath a hundred times Wooed me to steal it. A3S3 L Read: A3S4 L65 – 80

13 How is this a symbol? What is it a symbol for? Why do you think so?
Willow Song The poor soul sat [singing] by a sycamore tree, Sing all a green willow. Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee, Sing willow, willow, willow, The fresh streams ran by her and murmured her moans, Sing willow, willow, willow Her salt tears fell from her, and softened the Stones – Sing willow, willow, willow. A4S3 L , A5S2 L298 How is this a symbol? What is it a symbol for? Why do you think so?

14 Motifs Motif: an object or idea that repeats itself throughout a literary work. Sometimes, examples of motif are mistakenly identified as examples of symbols. Symbols are images, ideas, sounds or words that represent something else and help to understand an idea or a thing. Motifs, on the other hand, are images, ideas, sounds or words that help to explain the central idea of a literary work i.e. theme. Moreover, a symbol may appear once or twice in a literary work, whereas a motif is a recurring element.

15 Monsters and Jealousy Iago tells Othello to beware of jealousy, the “green-eyed monster which doth mock/ The meat it feeds on” A3S3 L170–171 How is this also ironic? Likewise, Emilia describes jealousy as dangerously and uncannily self-generating, a “monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” A3S4 L156 – 157 What does that say about jealousy? What does it mean?

16 Dramatic Irony Dramatic irony (the most important type for literature) involves a situation in a narrative in which the reader knows something about present or future circumstances that the character does not know. In that situation, the character acts in a way we recognize to be grossly inappropriate to the actual circumstances, or the character expects the opposite of what the reader knows that fate holds in store, or the character anticipates a particular outcome that unfolds itself in an unintentional way. Can you think of 2x in the play where we have known something Othello did not and how did you feel at that time?

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