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Shakespeare’s Othello – Othello and Desdemona

Othello and Desdemona

In the play, The Tragedy of Othello, Shakespeare really tests our conception as to what love is, and where it can or can’t exist. Judging from the relationship between Desdemona and Othello, the play seems to say that marriage based on an innocent romantic love or profane love is bound to fail. Shakespeare is pessimistic about the existence and survival of a true type of love. There is a common thread of betrayal and deceit among his female characters, especially. Othello and Desdemona, as portrayed in the play, are the two greatest innocents there ever were. The two appear to love one another romantically at first, but this romantic love becomes more of a profane love, or more likely was truly a profane love all along. This comes to pass because there is no foundation for a relationship here. There is no trust, no communication, and no understanding. Othello has spent most of his life in battle, which makes him good at some things– namely, battle. Othello says “Rude am I in my speech,/ and little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace;/ for since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,/ Till now some nine moons wasted, they have us’d/ Their dearest action in the tented field;/ And little of this great world can I speak/ More than pertains to feats of broils and battle” (1113). Desdemona is little more that a girl, inexperienced in the ways of the world. She is taken in by Othello’s war stories. Desdemona takes one look at the hunk of burning love that is Othello, his virility and manliness, and she is swept off her feet. But is this a true love? She speaks so fondly of him, yet hardly knows him. As she defends her newly born love for Othello, Desdemona says (among other things), “My downright violence, and storm of fortunes,/ May trumpet to the world. My heart’s subdu’d/ Even to the very quality of my lord./ I saw Othello’s visage in his mind,/ And to his honors and his valiant parts/ Did I my soul and fortune consecrate.” (1118). I can say from experience that in the “Magic Time”, the first part of the relationship, some things are said that maybe affected by Love’s blindness. Put these two together, and you have the equivalent of a couple of kids playing doctor. The two big clumsy babies “fumbling towards ecstasy” might have actually made it if they were free from outside forces.

Shakespeare’s Othello – Iago and Othello

Iago and Othello

In Shakespeare’s Othello, the character Iago, Othello’s lieutenant, is the cause of all the tragedy which comes to pass as the play progresses. Iago is the antagonist of the play, but rather than being the direct opponent to the tragic hero, Iago is a manipulator, opposing Othello not directly but through other characters whom he tricks into acting for him. In the first scene of the play, Iago gives the audience warning that he is not all that he seems when he says, “I am not what I am.” (I,i,65) He is first seen in this scene appearing to help Roderigo, a suitor to Desdemona, who has run off with Othello, the Moorish general of the Venician army. Iago hates Othello for another reason. Instead of choosing him to be his lieutenant, Othello chose Cassio, another foreigner, and relegated Iago to the position of his ancient. When Roderigo asks why Iago continues to serve Othello, in spite of how the general has treated him, Iago replies, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” (I,i,42) He goes on to give an example of how he intends to serve him, by acting like the perfect servant, while secretly enriching himself, and later says, “In following him, I follow but myself.” (I,i,58) From this, one might think that he is still fairly straightforward in his plans, that he merely intends to betray Othello at some later date. However, in the third scene, he shows the audience his ability to manipulate people, when he convinces Roderigo to follow him to Cyprus and to bring all of his money, presumably to win back Desdemona. After Roderigo has left to do what Iago has suggested, Iago says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.” (I,iii,37 y9) Later, in Act IV, we find that Roderigo has been giving jewels to Iago to give to Desdemona, which Iago, it is implied, has sold for his own uses. Thus, it is seen that Iago is merely using Roderigo to further his own ends, just as he said he was only serving Othello to serve himself. Also at the end of the third scene, Iago sets forth his plan to take Cassio’s position, by telling Othello that his lieutenant “. . . is too familiar with his wife.” (I,iii,402) It also comes out in this speech that he suspects Othello of committing adultery with his wife.

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