Shakespeare uses many amazing devices to show the themes of the play. In the first scene, themes are introduced to the audience theses are expressed through the characters and there actions.
Iago is the first character we see, a very important character. The first impressions of the play are expressed from Iago and Roderigo. They use phrases and curses associated with conflict, hatred and jealousy. Othello is referred to as “fat lips” which expresses hatred and jealousy. There impression of Othello is slowly built by two villains who are evil.
Iago then reveals that he is jealous of Cassio because of his higher rank. He then talks of hatred for Othello for promoting Cassio instead of himself. So in the first scene Othello’s portrayal is being built, tinted by evil. The audience is being prepared for jealousy and hatred when Iago says “unless the bookish theoric” and “mere prattle without practice”. These explain his reasons for his hatred and jealousy for Cassio. He is saying he maybe good in front of a book but not well trained on a battlefield like himself. Hatred and jealousy are entitled are entitled in evil and prepare the audience for later in the play.
Evil is expressed again when Iago and Rogerigo awake brabraintio. Iago uses a metaphor, which grips the attention of brabrantio. He says “thieves thieves”. Once again Othello is being expressed as a thief and has stolen his daughter. Already in the first scene Othello’s portrayal is getting clearer to the audience. Brabrantio only recognises roderigo in the light but does not recognise Iago for he is in the dark. In those days light and dark were related with knowledge. Iago was in the darkness to stop brabrantio having knowledge he was there. Again Shakespeare uses superstition, which is also related to evil.
Deception is another form of evil and Iago himself admits to being deceptive. He says “I am not what I am”. He says this like he enjoys being deceptive and evil towards other people. This portrays him as the villain of the play and the audience obviously expects him to cause conflict in the rest of the play. Iago fulfils himself as the villain by scheming and plotting against Othello and Cassio. He uses Cassio as an instrument to plant suspicion and doubt into his mind about Desdemona.
He talks of Othello being evil and shows hatred to him so prepares the audience to maybe do something to him to make his life worse. Iago is a very persuasive man as shown when Roderigo challenges him and says “I take it much unkindly that thou Iago, who hast my purse as if the strings were mine”. This means he has took Roderigo’s money at his own disposal. He eventually persuades him later in the scene-which creates suspense, hat it was to buy Desdemona gifts. He finally reveals late in that scene that he delights in making trouble. He has a soliloquy and explains his intentions to the audience, enjoying the moments when he explains his careful planning. Iago is a very evil character; Shakespeare knew this and had to prepare the audience to meet such a powerful character.
In the first scene Roderigo and Iago talk of Othello. In my opinion Shakespeare does this to prepare him to enter in the story and the audience should have a portrayal which causes expectations. Then if the expectations are different to what he really is, this makes the play more exciting and full of suspense.
Othello is referred to as “lascivious” meaning lustful and doesn’t really love Desdemona; we later discover he is madly in love with Desdemona, which changes the expectation of the audience. To build an evil portrayal of Othello Iago once again refers to Othello of using witchcraft, maybe to make Desdemona love him. He also is portrayed as being associated with the devil and some people think Iago was the devil. People think this for his drive and ambition to ruin Othello’s life. Othello is modest and uses eloquent speech to win over the duke and the audience in scene two. He is smart and well dressed and the portrayal created by Iago is very different and there isn’t a hint of evil in the wasy he talks. Iago also says Othello is “lascivious” meaning he is maybe with Desdemona for a sexual purpose. Iago refers to him as “making the beast with two backs” and “the black ram is tupping your white ewe”.
He says these words to Brabrantio, which feeds the evil mind when he encounters the Duke and Othello in Scene two. Othello being the nice man that he is in scene two says he loves Desdemona and says “It is most true; true I have married her”. Iago accuses him of being manipulative when he persuades the Duke he has done nothing wrong in marrying Desdemona. Iago describes him as being a “Barbary horse” once again Iago uses evil terms to describe Othello. Othello in this scene is being proud and boastful which is once again exceeding expectations of Othello. Later on in the play portrayal and expectations of Othello will be changed again.
In scene one the portrayal of Othello is built by two quite honourable and powerful men. Roderigo and Iago are not yet known to be Thieves or villains in the play, so are trustworthy men to the audience. This would definitely affect the audience to be on the side of Iago. Many people in the audience are working people and can relate to the situation that Iago is in. Most people in the audience would have had a person promoted instead of themselves. So remember in the first scene Othello has no yet been introduced but only portrayed by Iago and Roderigo. In the first Scene Iago talks of his distress and his sorrow that he has not got the job of Othello’s right hand man.
He sends his mediators to try and persuade Othello he is the man for the job. Othello says “I have already chosen my officer” and sends away Iago’s mediators. The audience at this moment in time feel sorry for Iago for not getting the job, he then goes on and explains why he is better than Cassio. He says “One Michael Cassio, a Florentine” so he is basically saying that he is an outsider and is useless. He goes on and gives more reasons “That never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows”. So from the audience’s point of view Iago has been cheated out of the job and rightfully he should have the job. The audience is know involved with the play and are not on the side of Othello.
The audience’s expectations of Othello are so intense which builds up suspense for Othello’s entrance. Othello enters and totally changes the audience’s opinion of Othello. Mainly when he talks of his love with Desdemona, he says “but that I love the gentle Desdemona”. Again the mentioning of love affects the audience and changes character portrayal, also expectations.
The evilness and hatred talked by Iago continues to tint the lives of Othello and Desdemona. So character portrayal of Othello in scene one tells true in his inner self, causing disaster and tragedy.
Scene one is a perfect starter to the play, which builds expectation and character portrayal of Othello. Only for the portrayal and expectations to be untrue and expectations broken.
Shakespeare made his plays so good leading the audience to expect maybe things that are very obvious about certain characters. Expectations would be exceeded and character portrayal changed to build suspense with the audience. Then the audience maybe doubt Iago because his accusations are false. So Iago’s portrayal changes which also builds suspense.
Shakespeare knew suspense would make good plays and used this in others also. In Macbeth he also changed portrayal and expectations to build suspense. Macbeth himself was an honourable man and was tainted by evil like in Othello to do something terrible and his life ended also in misery.
The first scene was perfect to set expectations and portrayal but the man he used to do this was still alive at the end of the play but Desdemona, Emelia nor Othello were alive at the end of the play. Iago was a strong man to keep alive and that is why he used him because he was the strongest character and no other would do.
Maybe Shakespeare himself said to other people when writing his plays “I am not what I am”