Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ tells the tragic story of a man manipulated into believing his wife is being unfaithful, where throughout the play chaos is fed into Othello’s mind like poison. This is done to such an extent that he ends up killing his wife and then committing suicide, hence making the play tragic. Throughout the play Shakespeare gradually builds on this chaos level through the character Iago, Othello’s supposed ‘friend’, who uses many devious methods to make the lies seem true and eventually drive Othello crazy.
I will explore these methods and techniques in different parts of the play and whether they are effective, as well as their impacts on Othello. In the opening of the play Othello proves to be a very rational soldier with a calm state of mind a sense of pride for his rank. He says, “My parts, my title, and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly,” through which he clearly illustrates how he has a high opinion of himself, and despite his race he still feels worthy of praise.
Where he mentions his ‘parts’, ‘title’ and ‘perfect soul’ Othello is referring to all that he has worked for and the rank he has earned, then where he says that they shall ‘manifest him rightly’ he conveys that they will be made known to people, again showing how he is proud of his job. It is this sense of nobility Othello has that makes Iago jealous of him, then leading to later events of manipulation in the play. In the opening of the play it is Iago’s goal to take over Cassio’s position as lieutenant, which he goes about by getting him drunk, later forcing Othello to fire him and promote Iago to Cassio’s previous position.
However, later on Desdemona talks to Othello about his actions and pleads for him to give Cassio his job back. After their conversation, Othello says, “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee; and when I love thee not, chaos is come again,” where he expresses his undying love for Desdemona with deep passion through his words by saying he would rather be condemned to hell than lose his love for her. At the time when he says these words, Desdemona is exiting the stage, suggesting that Othello is not only confessing his love to her but also telling himself, again showing how much meaning he put into these words.
After Desdemona has left, Othello is left on stage with Iago, who then begins the next part of his plan by planting seeds of doubt of Desdemona’s fidelity into Othello’s mind. This is cunningly done through the usage of short interjections, for example, Iago questions Othello, “Indeed? ” then forcing Othello’s reply to by, “Indeed? Ay, Indeed. ” At hearing his own voice agree with what Iago had said, Othello himself then begins to believe the lies.
It is as if he is a stunned man, and with each doubt that enters his mind, out come more words, as if planted inside him by Iago, convincing himself Desdemona is unfaithful. It is at this point that Othello’s mind first begins to descend into chaos, and the short interjections show this, for Othello’s short and perhaps meaningless replies suggest that his mind is drifting elsewhere, and his mentality is slowly edging away from calmness. Soon after, Othello is left on stage alone where he conveys his feelings to the audience.
He says, “Oh, curse of marriage! If she be false, oh, then heaven mocks itself. I’ll not believe it. ” This is soliloquy, for he is alone on stage, yet announcing this out loud to allow the audience to understand what he is feeling. Through the above quote Othello begins to question his relationship with Desdemona, but then he states that he does not believe it, showing how although he may have reason to believe she is being unfaithful he still cannot come to terms with the situation and is unsure of what to think.
However, later on in the scene, again whilst he is alone, Othello says, “She’s gone, I am abus’d, and my relief must be to loathe her. ” Here Othello says ‘she’s gone’, suggesting how he now proves sure of her infidelity by assuring himself that he has lost her, and then states that the only thing left to do must be to hate her, showing how his language is becoming more aggressive. This is a contrasting view to the quote mentioned earlier, for now his doubt in his wife is becoming stronger.
This sudden opposition in his view implies that Othello is becoming more and more insecure and his state of mind becoming evermore chaotic, and through the technique of soliloquy instead of stating these emotions to another, Othello is telling himself how he feels giving the quotes a stronger sense of sincerity. Between the two key scenes of Act 3. 3 and 5. 2, Iago persists in his suggestions to Othello that Desdemona may be being unfaithful to him, until he can be certain Othello is assured it’s true.
A distraught Othello, now convinced of his wife’s guilt, insults Desdemona and accuses her of adultery, causing distress on her as a well as himself. Act 5. 2 is perhaps the most dramatic scene of the play, with various techniques used to express the increasing chaos levels present in Othello’s mind. In the opening speech where Othello is justifying the murder of Desdemona, he uses repetition, for example he says, “It is the cause, it is the cause. In this quote the first ’cause’ he speaks of is referring to the offence, therefore adultery, and by saying this he is to himself justifying the murder he is about to commit and in a way reminding himself why it must be done. The second ’cause’, however, is of different implication meaning the charge, and therefore the thing Desdemona has to answer to based on her actions. By saying this, Othello is conveying that Desdemona’s act of infidelity is the cause of the charge she would now have to face, and by saying this Othello is rationalizing with himself that what he is about to do is only right.
This repetition shows that Othello is still unsure about what to do and is still in need of assurance. Again in the opening speech, Othello uses images of opposition where he brings together two contradicting terms, for example, “This sorrow’s heavenly. ” This quote shows how he has described sorrow as ‘heavenly’, a positive adjective. This contrast in what he is saying already shows how he is unable to think clearly, but he may also be saying it because the ‘heavenly sorrow’ doesn’t make sense and is unnatural, and so is what he is about to do.
This may be implying that he is having second thoughts about whether he should in fact kill his wife, because in truth he knows it shouldn’t happen, again showing how he is still uncertain about what decision to make. Soon after, Desdemona awakes and, completely unaware of Othello’s chaotic state of mind, has a conversation with him. Throughout the conversation Othello uses continuous repetition to references to killing, for example, “Thou art on thy death bed”, “Thou art to die”, “And for that thou diest”, all said by Othello.
He is not at all vague in the references, distinctly informing Desdemona he is going to kill her. By doing this he is keeping the conversation flowing in his desperation for more time to justify in his mind whether his decision to kill her is ethical, and with each reference to killing he is confirming to himself that it would be the right decision. It is at this point that the instability levels of Othello’s mind are almost at their peak, for he is still doubtful over what to do and at the same time trying to prepare himself to kill his wife, which at some point he knows is going to happen whether it feels right or not.
Othello then kills Desdemona and it is at this part of the play that his mind reaches its pinnacle of chaos, and his language becomes coarse and his speech disjointed. An example of his coarse language is, “My wife, my wife! What wife? I have no wife. ” This implies how Othello is becoming more violent and perhaps angry at himself for what he had just done. He is still infuriated by Desdemona’s supposed infidelity, but now she is dead he is releasing this anger upon himself. Where he says ‘My wife! What wife? it is as if he is asking himself rhetorically where his wife is, putting the blame on himself for what happened and reminding himself he’d just taken her life. His speech becomes disjointed where he says, “Yes – ’tis Emelia – by and by – she’s dead. ” Here he is incapable of speaking in full sentences, and pauses between every few words, again emphasizing the fact that he isn’t thinking straight. It is as if he is blindly muttering to himself about whatever comes to his mind first, in order to comfort himself.
Both the above quotes state the fact that Desdemona is gone (“I have no wife”, “She’s dead”) showing that Othello is still coming to terms with her death by reminding himself and making it a reality. Still in complete chaos, Othello’s words reflect his state of mind, as he talks about images of nature and how they mirror his mind. He says, “Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse of sun and moon, and that th’affrighted globe should yawn at alteration. Here he is conveying that because he is in such a chaotic position, nature should be too. The ‘eclipse of sun and moon’ suggests that the Earth comes to a halt and the ‘globe yawning at alteration’ again suggests that the world has must come to a major change in its cycle, for this is what Othello feels his world has come to. Desdemona was his world, and now that she was dead he felt the world around him must no longer make sense, clearly showing how chaotic Othello had gotten.
In his final speech Othello then begins to use the third person as he speaks, for example, “Man but a rush against Othello’s breast,” and, “Where should Othello go? ” This does, in a sense, show that Othello’s mind is in extreme chaos, for it is as if he is becoming detached from himself by addressing himself from another point of view, and is perhaps uncertain to who Othello is. However, it also suggests that he is becoming calmer for it allows him to see himself from another point of view and helps him in his decision as to what to do.
It is as if he had for a moment left his body and mind and become another person, and by doing this he was able to judge himself from a calmer, more rational point of view. By doing this Othello then realises what he had done was wrong and that he must now face the consequences. From this point his mind ascends out of chaos and into a more rational state of mind, which can be seen where he says, “Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,” making his mind appear calm in his decision for he knows what is going to happen.
By saying this Othello is showing how he has accepted that what he has done was wrong, and is telling the people present to ‘speak of him as he is’, which is a man manipulated to his limit, which is where he commits suicide. This calm state of mind Othello has as he dies makes him a protagonist, meaning the tragic hero. This makes the audience feel sorry for him, for whether they agreed with his decisions or not, they are made to feel that in the end he made a rational decision, and he is heroic in the sense that he could accept what he did was wrong, and so accept his punishment, hence making him a tragic hero.