Othello, by William Shakespeare is a mixture of love, hate, trust, race, honesty, language, power and deceit intertwined into one huge misogynistic, sadist ball of corruption all ruled over by one man (Iago). All thirteen of the characters interact and in some cases make the problem worse. Iago corrupts Othello mainly but he also uses his language to make Desdemona, Cassio and Roderigo do whatever he desires and gets them to make the problem worse for Othello.
For this coursework question I will try and explain and analyse the factors and characters which play a role in the creation of Othello’s jealousy, hate and in the end the murder of his wife and his suicide. I will look into which characters helped cause the rift between him and Desdemona and which characters aid in building his jealousy and which characters try to calm it down. At the end of the play, when all the crimes have been committed and Iago has been revealed for the corrupting snake he is, Othello analyses himself in conjunction with the events and makes a speech in which he says, ‘Speak of me as I am. Nothing exenuate, Nor set down aught in malice. Then you must speak, Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well: Of one, not easily jealous, but being wrought, Perplex’d in the extreme:’. He says this before his suicide and I am going to delve into the matter and try and decide whether this self-analysis is true or false.
First I have to study each characters motivations for their actions and what relevance they have to the situation of the other characters. Iago had worked his whole life to gain a lieutenancy in the Venetian army, he worked his way up through the ranks and has worked hard in the army his whole life to try and gain a lieutenancy under Othello. Othello promoted Cassio to lieutenant over Iago because he thought he would do the job better, even though Cassio has no experience in real life fighting or hands on training, he just studied at college.
This angered him and made him hate Othello and Cassio. Othello is tricked into thinking his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with Cassio by Iago and he kills his wife because of this. Emilia (Iago’s wife) is mistreated by Iago but she still loves him, she does whatever he says and gives Iago Desdemona’s handkerchief which she has dropped, even though she knows he will use it for no good. Desdemona is asked by Cassio to pester Othello into re-instating him and she does, even though it is to do with the army and nothing to do with her.
In the beginning of the play, Othello is secretly married to Desdemona without her father (Brabantio) knowing. Roderigo is in love with Desdemona but she does not love him and this angers him, so he pays Iago to buy jewellery for her in attempt to gain her favour for him. Cassio is a man who is well educated and went straight to the rank of lieutenant from his place of learning. The fact that Cassio was instantly promoted to lieutenant from school and Iago has worked his whole life and gone up through the ranks to try and achieve the rank of lieutenant angers Iago profusely. Iago is very angry with Othello for promoting Cassio and this his main reason for his corruption, albeit not a very strong reason.So he starts making Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. Early on in the play, Iago decides he is going to ruin Othello’s life and he starts with his plan to make him believe Desdemona is having an affair.
Iago is constantly using his power with language to try and make Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. He drops subtle hints at the beginning of the play by repeating what Othello says and repeating his questions when on the topic of Desdemona and Cassio (Act III scene iii pg 76 lines 10-21) ‘Iago: Indeed?
Othello: Indeed? Ay indeed….Is he not honest?
Iago: Honest, my lord?
Othello: Honest? Ay honest.
Iago: My lord, for aught I know.
Othello: What dost thou think?
Iago: Think my lord?’
In this section Iago is repeating what Othello says when they talk about Cassio. Othello asks Iago if he thinks Cassio is ‘honest’ and Iago just echoes him. This makes Othello think about what he has just asked and about what he thinks of the question instead of just listening to Iago’s answer. Then he makes little things that Cassio and Desdemona do seem very corrupt and secretive which Othello dismisses quite quickly as being nothing. But Iago keeps reminding of these little things and corrupts the truth until after a short period of time Othello starts to believe that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. Iago constantly reminds Othello of the false facts he has created and he also talks to Desdemona and gets her to keep pestering Othello to re-instate Cassio into his lieutenancy.
This angers Othello and it plays with his mind and gets him thinking and contemplating the facts of Iago’s venomous deception. After a little time Othello explodes mentally and has a fit of anger at Iago and tells him that if what he has told him is not true then: “Thou hadst better have been born a dog Than answer my wak’d wrath.” This means that Othello wants Iago to prove that Desdemona is cheating on him, otherwise he will punish him so severely that he would wish he was born a dog. In the end Iago starts to lie and make up stories about Cassio in an effort to make Othello believe him and Othello does. He confronts Desdemona but does not listen to her when she says she doesn’t understand.
He then smothers her but Emilia (Iago’s wife) walks in and alerts the rest of the characters who then come to the bedchamber and all is revealed when everyone realises the truth and the snake Iago is shown for the corrupting fiend he is, once Othello learns of Iago’s lies he makes the speech which I am going to be analysing and then kills himself to try and regain some of his honour. In his speech he refers to himself as: “Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well: Of one, not easily jealous, but being wrought, but being wrought, Perplex’d in the extreme: Of one, whose hand (Like the base Indian) threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe:” He says this to try and shift some of the blame from himself and in the same moment announce his love for Desdemona.
He says that he loved Desdemona “not wisely, but too well” this means that he thinks he loved her too much and so he was foolish and blinded with love so that his actions were changed such that he ended up murdering his wife whom he loved so much. Then he says: “Of one, not easily jealous, but being wrought, Perplex’d in the extreme.” Here he is saying that he is not a jealous man but his mind was being affected and he was being confused and corrupted so his actions were not those he would normally perform. He says he is not an easily jealous man, and this is what I am here to discuss.
I don’t actually think that Othello was a jealous man, I think he was easily changed into a jealous man but I don’t think he started the play as one. The reasons for this I will go into as I analyse his speech. In the early stages of the play Othello is happy with Desdemona and Cassio has been relieved of his position so Iago gets Cassio to ask Desdemona to plead with Othello to re-instate him, and she says: “My lord shall never rest, I’ll watch him tame, and talk him out of patience”(pg. 73, lines 15-16 act 3 scene iii). Meaning that she will constantly pester him and bother him about re-instating Cassio and she will do it so much he will never sleep and he will have no patience with it because she will do it so much.
Othello just disregards this for a little, which shows that he is not that quick to become jealous otherwise he would have jumped down her throat every time she mentioned his name and would have questioned her on why she wanted him re-instated every time. But on the other hand contrary to the previous point, as soon as Iago starts dropping his hints Othello starts questioning him on what he thinks of the situation as in Act 3 scene iii pg.76 lines 1-20. In this section Iago sees Desdemona and Cassio together and when Othello and Iago go to speak to them, Cassio leaves.
Iago plays on this fact and says ‘indeed?’ and ‘Honest?’, one word questions which would not usually be used but he uses them after Othello has just asked him a question on the matter and he just repeats a word to make Othello dwell on the fact and add to the dramatic irony because the audience can see exactly what he is doing but Othello has no idea. Earlier on in the scene Iago drops a subtle hint for Othello when he says: “Hah? I like not that.”(Act 3 scene iii pg.73 line 29) straight after Cassio leaves which makes Othello ask questions. Later on in the play Iago stops contorting the truth and starts lying to convince Othello of the reality of the affair, which includes making up the story of Cassio moaning Desdemona’s name in his sleep and having her handkerchief in his bedchamber.
Iago uses many techniques to manipulate Othello one of which is physical. The physical techniques he uses are no where near as potent as his spoken or psychological techniques, but they are more visible to the audience as in Act 3 scene iii pg.81 line 33 when Iago leaves the stage after telling Othello of the supposed affair. This puts questions into his mind and makes him think about the subject a lot more than he usually would if Iago just answered him.
This leaves time for Othello to perform a soliloquy which only the audience can hear, where he ponders his thoughts out loud just for the audience to hear so that he can explain what he is thinking without having to be talking to a character. This is the only noticeably effective physical ploy Iago uses on Othello, but he uses many psychological ploys against him, including repeating his questions which make him contemplate the question himself and answer it for himself before getting his answer from Iago this creates dramatic irony by getting the audience to answer the question in their minds as well (Act 3 scene iii pg.76 lines 1-20).
Considering the fact that Iago uses his power over language to corrupt and control Desdemona, Cassio and Othello, I think that most of the other characters and any normal person would be easily corrupted by Iago’s words and no matter whether they were jealous or not I still think they would be pushed towards being jealous by Iago.
I don’t actually think Othello is a very jealous person, or at least no more than anyone else. He takes no heed of Desdemona pleading him to reinstate Cassio at the beginning but once Iago plants his seed of corruption in Othello’s ‘proud’ brain his eyes glaze over green with jealousy and he becomes jealous very quickly and is brought further and further into Iago’s snare until he kills his wife.
Iago and Othello are only in this situation because Othello promoted Cassio above Iago even though Iago has been working his whole life towards being a lieutenant and Cassio just studied books. His severely angered Iago and he vows his revenge against Othello and says: “If I were the Moor, I would not be Iago” (Act 1 scene I pg.25 line 2) he says this right at the beginning of the play meaning that if he was the Moor he wouldn’t want to be because of what Iago is going to do to him. Shakespeare says this right at the beginning of the play to explain to the audience what has happened and the intentions of Iago. At the beginning of the play, Othello has such confidence in his skill with language that he can claim that he is “rude” in speech, knowing that no one will think so (Act 1 scene iii pg.36 line 13). He then dazzles his audience with a forty-line speech that effortlessly weaves words such as “hair-breadth” and “Anthropophagi” into blank verse lines.
But in the moments when Iago tells him of the supposed affair in detail, Othello’s language deteriorates into fragmented, hesitant, and incoherent one or two word sentences. Throughout Act 3, scene iii, Othello speaks in short, sharp exclamations and half-sentences such as “Ha!” (Act 3 scene iii pg.78 line 23), “O misery!” (Act 3 scene iii pg.78 line 30), and “Dost thou say so?” (Act 3 scene iii pg.79 line 33). There is also notable repetition, as in “Not a jot, not a jot” (Act 3 scene iii pg.80 line 14), “O, monstrous, monstrous!” (Act 3 scene iii pg.87 line 24), “O, blood, blood, blood!” (Act 3 scene iii pg.88 line 18), and “Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her, damn her!” (Act 3 scene iii pg.89 line 13) he speaks like this as he becomes more and more concerned for his marriage and his language deteriorates along with his hope.
Times, when Othello shifts from his typical seemingly effortless verse to near-nonsense, demonstrate the extent to which Othello’s passion has broken down his self-control. In Act 3, scene iii, he is still speaking in mostly understandable sentences or phrases; but this is no longer the case in Act 4, scene i. This scene begins with Iago saying, “Will you think so?” and Othello can only helplessly echo, “Think so, Iago?” (Act 4 scene I pg.97 line 1-2). Iago then introduces the word “lie” into the conversation, which sends Othello into a frenzy as he visualises Cassio and Desdemona lying together as he gets mixed up between Cassio “lying on” (lying about) Desdemona and “lying with” (having sex with) her (Act4 scene I pg.98 line 10-13).
The various words and images Iago has planted in Othello’s mind over the course of the play are transformed into non-sense eruptions out of Othello’s mouth: “Lie with her? ‘Swounds, that’s fulsome! Handkerchief-confessions-handkerchief” (Act4 scene I pg.98 line 13-14). These eruptions end in a random non-sense sentence of “Pish! Noses, ears, and lips!” (Act 4 scene I pg.98 line 19-20). Ultimately, Othello’s inability to speak properly seems to overcome him physically, as he collapses “in a trance” (Act 4 scene I pg 98 line 19, stage direction).
Although Iago is the only corrupt and venomous character in the play, Desdemona and Emilia are to blame, if only a little, because of the part they played. Desdemona can be blamed slightly for interfering with army business and trying to get Cassio reinstated, even though he had no right to be re-instated and he deserved to be ejected from the army, she kept pestering Othello, mentioning Cassio’s name to him all the time, even when he was angered. Emilia caused the biggest trouble and made the biggest mistake in the play by giving Iago, Desdemona’s handkercheif even though she knew he would use it to cause trouble.
In conclusion I think that Othello is not a jealous man but he was quite quick to become jealous and his jealously also got very out of hand in the killing of his wife. I think his jealousy was goaded on, not just by Iago and he had no controll over himself after a certain period of time was not responsible for his actions and were it not for the sadist snake Iago, none of Othello’s jealousy would have been created.