Act III sc. iii is one of the most important acts in the play because in one scene, Othello goes from being a happily married man, at the start, to being, by the end, a man who isn’t in control and is getting confused and doesn’t know what’s going on. In this scene we also witness a devastating display of manipulation of Othello by Iago and the downfall of Cassio.
One of the ways in which Shakespeare creates dramatic tension is by Othello using very short questions such as “What dost thou say?” and “What dost thou think?” and “What dost thou mean?” which indicate that is he slowly becoming more and dependent on Iago and relying on what he is thinking as he has no previous experience of Venetian society-this is shown where Iago says “In Venice, they do let God see the pranks they dare not show their husbands” which is a reference that Venetian women go behind their husband’s backs a lot and their husbands don’t know about it. Othello also uses a lot of short sentences such as “O misery” and “Ha?” and could indicate anger and also that he is not thinking clearly and that, because he is black and a ‘moor’, not fluent with the language and feels ill at ease and he can’t fit in with the rest of society and feels an ‘outcast’ and so might be more prone to Iago’s lies and deceit than anyone else.
Another way that Shakespeare creates dramatic tension is Iago saying long, fluent sentences which juxtaposes Othello saying short sentences. One example of this is where Iago says “My Lord, I would I might entreat your honour to scan this thing no further: Leave it to time” compared to Othello saying “I will not” which seems inadequate and out of place. These, together with Iago’s soliloquies such as on Pg.84 Ln. 9 where he starts to plot about leaving the handkerchief in Cassio’s quarters – “I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this handkerchief” present Iago as being extremely confident and subtle and that he has a scheming, plotting mind. Also, Iago speaks in riddles which make him more dominant in the scenes and Othello often can’t understand what he is saying.
One example of dramatic irony is where Iago uses the form of address “my lord” to Othello, a form of respect, but the audience know that Iago doesn’t really respect Othello, he just wants to use him for his own twisted purpose and wants to gain his trust so he can devastate him with lies and deceit.
Throughout Iago uses lots of metaphors-these mostly refer to ‘monsters’ such as Pg. 78 Ln. 25 “green-eyed monster” which is a metaphor for jealousy and Iago is warning Othello of it. Another ‘monster’ metaphor is from Othello, Pg. 76 Ln. 22 where he says “as if there were some monster in thy thought” which refers to the fact that he thinks that because Iago is reluctant to tell him something that that thing is going to be something bad.
Another method that crops up frequently is forms of address-how the characters address each other. On Pg. 77 Ln. 21 Iago says “Good my lord pardon me” and the phrase “my lord” is repeated at least 20 times during the scene. The phrase “my lord” is ambiguous because when Othello hears people address him with respect makes him feel as though he is still in control and isn’t relying on Iago and also Iago is trying to get Othello to trust him so Othello will believe what he is saying.
Repetition always features a lot throughout the play such as when Othello says “Is he not honest?” and Iago immediately repeats him saying “Honest, my lord” which shows that Iago is playing with Othello’s mind and Othello will be thinking about the word ‘honest’ because of the repetition and so will start questioning Desdemona’s honesty.
One way in which Shakespeare creates dramatic irony which adds to the dramatic tension is how he portrays Desdemona throughout the scene. Desdemona immediately comes across as a very loyal and trusting person with little or no experience of the outside world, this is shown as when she is speaking with Emilia as she seems shocked that Othello could be angry with her or the fact that someone could be cheating on their husband or wife. She is also very caring this is shown when she says “Why do you speak so faintly? Are you not well?” these questions show she is caring and affectionate towards Othello and although he starts to get annoyed with her, she never loses faith in him. Also when she says “How now my dear Othello?” the ‘dear’ is a form of address and also possessive, which shows she cares about him a lot and wants him to herself.
Throughout the play, themes and motifs are also featured extensively such where Othello can’t fit into society which means that; Othello is a soldier and is highly respected earlier on in the play for being a very capable general and, through this, he gains acceptance into Venetian society. However, when Othello tries to gain another foothold in Venetian society ‘socially’-by marrying Desdemona-he is almost immediately rejected, first by Brabantio disowning Desdemona and by Iago starting to plot against him.
One widely featured context is about ‘plants’ and how they are used to represent a variety of ideas and images. Iago is shown to be linguistically strong when he is using plants as metaphors such as “Yet fruits that blossom first will first be ripe” which could be interpreted as a metaphor for Iago saying that if you strike first then you will win as is the case in the play. The use of ‘plants’ could also be interpreted for hidden ‘forces’ such as when Iago says “Our bodies are our gardens” he could be interpreted as meaning that if your ‘garden’ (metaphor for body) is left unchecked then it may grow wild and out of control-as is the case of Iago becoming so obsessed with revenge. Also Iago is ‘planting seeds’ of distrust into Iago’s mind.
There is also a usage of references to poison-mainly from Iago such as “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear” and “The moor already changes with my poison”. These are metaphors for Iago ‘poisoning’ the mind of Othello and making him believe what Iago is saying and so Othello becomes more and more preoccupied with trying to see if Desdemona is in love with Cassio and starts to see lies and deceit all around him.
One more way in which Shakespeare creates dramatic tension is about references to demons, hell and ‘monsters’ such as when Iago tells Othello to be careful or beware of jealousy “green eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on”. Hell and damnation also are present throughout Othello, even more so towards the end of the scene where Othello becomes preoccupied with the religious judgement of Desdemona and himself. Othello thinks Desdemona’s betrayal is “monstrous, monstrous!”. He also references to hell and ‘eternal damnation’ where he says “O damn her. Damn her” which makes you think he wants her dead.
Othello starts to use vocabulary such as “I’ll tear her to pieces”-the word ‘tear’ is a savage, aggressive, animal-like verb and makes the audience think that Othello is becoming more and more like an uncontrollable, wild animal-just like what the attitudes towards ‘moors’ were often like and it is a shock to the audience to see Othello, who has been in control throughout the play, start losing his mind.
The scene is the central scene throughout the play and is the longest, tensest scene and we witness a devastating display of manipulation by Iago and the audience have grown to sympathise with Othello and it is painful for the audience to see him deceived.