They are questions as old as civilization itself. Does man have control over his own destiny? Is man ultimately held accountable for his actions by a higher power? Within the plays of William Shakespeare can be found such fundamental questions and conflicts of humanity, as well as situations, attitudes, and problems that continue to hold strong universal meaning to this day. During his lifetime, morality was at the forefront of society’s concerns. Outstanding men such as Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, and Locke were leading great advances in science and reason, and these new ways of thinking, combined with the need for order and religious stability provided the perfect foundation for the development of the morality-based style of writing which is especially evident in his powerful tragedies.
……….Shakespeare’s tragic heroes and villains have flaws which are synonymous with Christian sins. Greed, lust, envy, and jealousy are consistently among the issues that arise with these characters. The idea that improper dealings with such evil emotions must surely lead to a terrible fate is consistently demonstrated. Sylvan Barnet notes that after creating this world of certain consequences the author adds a special “twist” to his tragedy “for it insists that the good are rewarded and the bad are punished” (227). In William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Othello, the playwright emphasizes the belief in man’s inability to control his own destiny because of the actions of rivals, the emotional conflict within himself, and the moral guidance of the universe.
……….From the onset of this tragic play, conflict begins to brew in the soul of the title character’s ensign, Iago. …
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…use of the actions of rivals, the emotional conflict within himself, and the moral guidance of the universe.
I……Iago plants the seeds of hate.
…….A….. Iago plots against Othello.
……B……Others are affected by Iago’s web of revenge.
……C……Coincidence and opportunities for deceit arise.
II…..Emotional conflict brews within the minds of the characters.
……A……Othello struggles with trust and honor.
……B……Iago is a product of his own insecurities.
……C……Roderigo, Emelia, and Cassio fight their emotions.
III….In a triumph of morality, God’s justice prevails.
…….A…..Desdemona dies an innocent death, and Othello commits suicide.
…….B……Cassio’s honor is reinstated.
…….C. ….Iago declares his silence and realizes his punishment.
The True Beast in Othello
The True Beast in Othello
“What is left when honor is lost?” This maxim from first century BC plays a pivotal role in Shakespeare’s play Othello. The question serves as a basis for the struggle between Othello and Iago. Both men are engaged in a battle over Othello’s honor. Iago is intent on destroying Othello’s sense of honor and reducing him to a bestial state. Iago views Othello as a beast masquerading in warrior’s dress. He wants to return Othello to what he believes to be his natural bestial state, and he realizes that to achieve this goal he must dupe Othello into violating his code of honor. Ironically, as Iago tries to unmask Othello’s bestiality, it is the beast within Iago that is exposed.
From the beginning of the play, Iago’s view of Othello as a beast is obvious. Iago repeatedly describes Othello in terms of animals. When Iago attempts to incite Brabantio’s anger, he does so by referring to Othello in vulgar, bestial terms. He says to Brabantio, “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tuping your white ewe” (1.1.89-90). He continues with, “you’ll have your daughter cover’d with a Barbary horse; / you’ll have your nephews neigh to you; / you’ll have coursers for cousins and gennets for germans” (1.1.110-114). He even exclaims to Brabantio that “your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” (1.1.117-118).
Each of these animalistic phrases could be viewed only as Iago’s attempt to anger Brabantio if it were not for the fact that Iago also refers to Othello as an animal when he is alone. In his soliloquy at the end of Act 1, Iago says that Othello “will as tenderly be led by th’nose / As asses are” (1.3.395-936). He again refers to Othello as an ass in Act 2: “Make the Mo…
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…question, “What is left when honor is lost?” His answer comes from the mouth of Cassio: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! / O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial” (2.3.254-256).
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Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Ed. Geoffrey Bullough. Vol. 7.
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Cinthio, Giovanni. “Gli Hecatommithi.” Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare.
Ed. Geoffrey Bullough. Vol. 7. New York: Columbia UP, 1973.
Physiologus. The Book of Beasts: Being a Translation From a Latin Bestiary of the
Twelfth Century. Ed. T. H. White. London: Jonathan Cape, 1954.
Shakespeare, William. “Othello.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. London: Collins, 1951.