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The Variety of Themes in Othello

The Variety of Themes in Othello

In the Shakespearean tragedy Othello the number and description of themes is open to discussion. With the help of literary critics, we can analyze this subject in detail.

In the essay “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello” Robert B. Heilman discusses the ancient’s instinctive reaction to the love-theme of the play:

Before coming directly to the forming of the love-theme that differentiates Othello from other Shakespeare plays that utilize the same theme, I turn arbitrarily to Iago to inspect a distinguishing mark of his of which the relevance to thematic form in the play will appear a little later. When Iago with unperceived scoffing reminds Roderigo, who is drawn with merciless attraction to the unreachable Desdemona, that love effects an unwonted nobility in men, he states a doctrine which he “knows” is true but in which he may not “believe.” Ennoblement by love is a real possibility in men, but Iago has to view it with bitterness and to try to undermine it. (333-34)

The theme of hate is the theme on which the play opens. Lily B. Campbell in Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes indicates this hate in the opening scene:

It is then on a theme of hate that the play opens. It is a hate of inveterate anger. It is a hate that is bound up with envy. Othello has preferred to be his lieutenant a military theorist, one Michael Cassio, over the experienced soldier Iago, to whom has fallen instead the post of “his Moorship’s ancient”. Roderigo questions Iago:

Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.

And the reply is a torrent of proof of the hatred for Othello that has almost exceeded the envy of Cassio because he possesses the …

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…Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955.

Heilman, Robert B. “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello.” Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. Rev. Ed. Rpt. from The Sewanee Review, LXIV, 1 (Winter 1956), 1-4, 8-10; and Arizona Quarterly (Spring 1956), pp.5-16.

Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.

Mack, Maynard. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. No line nos.

Othello: the Story of a Noble Being

Othello: the Story of a Noble Being

The William Shakespeare creation Othello sees the demise of a noble general, as a result of the incessant brainwashing by his ancient. Let us in this essay present the noble Othello and wherein lay his tragic mistake.

Lily B. Campbell in Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes describes the unquestioned nobility of the Moor:

From the first we hear the fact insistently repeated that he is a Moor, that he has thick lips, that Desdemona has chosen to go to his sooty bosom. Yet we are told that he is of noble birth, that war and adventure have bee his nurses, that he may be considered a barbarian and yet that the Venetian state has found him so valuable in action that he cannot be expelled, no matter what offence may be found in him. His vaunting has won him his wife; his actions have won him the confidence of the state. His noble nature is not questioned even by Iago. (152)

Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” talks of the hero’s exceptional personal qualities:

Othello is like a hero of the ancient world in that he is not a man like us, but a man recognized as extraordinary. He seems born to do great deeds and live in legend. He h as the obvious heroic qualities of courage and strength, and no actor can attempt the role who is not physically impressive. He has the heroic capacity for passion. But the thing which most sets him apart is his solitariness. He is a stranger, a man of alien race, without ties of nature or natural duties. His value is not in what the world thinks of him, although the world rates him highly, and does not derive in any way from his station. It is inherent. He is, in a sense, a ‘self-made man’, the product of a certain kind of life which he has chosen to lead. . . . (140)

Despite the wonderful personal attributes he possesses, Othello still falls prey to the sinister Iago. His gullibility and naivete make this possible. Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” describes how Othello carries out Iago’s plan of destruction:

Othello moves to kill Desdemona (Act V, scene 2) with that “icy current and compulsive course” which he had felt at the end of Act III, scene 3.

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