Shakespeare’s play, Othello, is portrayed as a tragedy as it shows betrayal in
love, sadness, death and disaster; just some of the features the audience expect a traditional tragedy to have. The main feature in this play that makes it a tragedy is how fate conspires against the hero. Shakespeare was inspired to write this play by the works of Giovanni Battista Giraldi, an Italian writer.
Dramatic irony is used throughout the play to fulfil the expectations the
audience have of deceit. Characters such as Iago add dramatic irony by performing soliloquies, which reveal things to the audience that the other characters have yet to find out, and then saying something that we know is not true, but the characters do not. Other expectations they will have of the play include betrayal, duplicity and pretence. The play is set within roughly 2 days, which is supposed to make the play more intense as all the events happen on a close time scale. This will again allow the audience to realise that the play is a tragedy.
Prior to act III scene iii, Othello is very much in control of the relationship he
has with Iago. His role as general is evident in their conversations, and Iago is clearly subservient to him. Also they do not have many private conversations and they talk about common things rather then Othello’s private life. However during Act III scene iii Iago starts to manipulate Othello and begins to take more control. We see Iago subtly influence Othello’s thoughts and feelings for Desdemona. This is one of the main reasons why Act III scene iii is such as pivotal part in the play. Othello’s fatal flaw is also discovered and the audience start to realise just how insecure and gullible Othello can be. Another aspect of this section that makes it such a turning point in the play is that Iago’s plan begins to piece together and the audience get a chance to uncover more about Iago and he intends to do.
At the beginning of act III scene iii the relationship between Desdemona and
Othello is established to be a close and loving one. This is evident in the way Othello speaks to Desdemona and what he calls her. Throughout the opening pages of Act III scene iii Othello refers to Desdemona as “sweet Desdemon”. The abbreviation of Desdemona to Desdemon shows Othello’s affection. The use of “sweet” along side it emphasises his emotions further.
Also, at the beginning of the scene Othello and Desdemona are shown
to have an openly loving and caring relationship. This is portrayed through the comments Othello shouts out to Desdemona in public, suggesting that he is not ashamed of them;
“…and when I love thee not
Chaos has come again.”
This also shows that Othello believes that loving Desdemona is the best thing to do, and when he stops the only thing that could come of it is misery.
However, as Iago starts to put his plan into action, we see the relationship
between Othello and Desdemona start to collapse due to Othello’s suspicions.
Iago starts to use various persuasive techniques to really enforce his plan upon
Othello, this is one of the main reasons why Act III scene iii is a pivotal part of the play. One of the most frequently used persuasive techniques used by Iago is repetition. Throughout the middle of the scene iago uses repetition of the “honest” during his conversation will Othello. By repeating the word iago makes Othello think about it and possibly start to have second thought about the honesty of certain characters, Cassio and Desdemona. Repetition is also used by iago to make Othello feel like he is the one in control of the conversation, when in fact it is iago. Iago uses “my lord” numerous times throughout the conversation. This makes it seem that iago is still subservient to Othello, as he was prior to this section, and that iago still recognises him as a superior officer. It also makes iago sound loyal, so suggesting honesty and it also emphasises the respect he has for him.
Another example of repetition Iago uses is the repetition of what Othello says.
Iago does this regularly throughout their conversation, making it clear that he is doing it purposely. An example of this is when Iago replies, ” Think, my Lord”. By doing this Iago slowly draws in Othello and makes him eager to know more. This technique also makes Iago seem hesitant when answering the question, making it look like the news he has to reveal is bad.
An alternative technique Iago uses to make himself sound honest is by using
comparisons. He does this by comparing himself to a slave by saying “I am not bound to that all slaves are free to.” This portrays him as being completely loyal to Othello like a slave would his owner. It also shows that he is not free to think his own thoughts, which would again make him out to be honest.
Expressing doubt about himself is a persuasive technique used by Iago. It
makes him sound honest as he comes across as not totally believing what he has said. By saying “Though I perchance am vicious in my guess” suggests that there is a chance he misinterpreted what he has seen. By doubting him self Iago may come off as not wanting to believe what he has seen, making what he is saying sound, true rather then spiteful.
Another way Iago prevents himself from sounding spiteful is by falsely
complimenting Cassio and Desdemona. Doing this, again makes him sound like he doesn’t want what he is saying to be true (although we know he does, an example of dramatic irony) which suggests his honesty. By reassuring Othello about Cassio, and letting Othello know “he is honest” not only deceives Othello about Iago’s honesty, but also makes him think in more detail about Cassio’s.
False sympathy is used by Iago to make it look like he cares about Othello’s
Thoughts and feeling, as well as making it seem like making him upset is not his intention. An example of false sympathy is when Iago says: “in faith I see it has”. Iago makes this comment when noticing that Othello has been hurt by what has been ‘revealed’ and so tries to comfort him.
Lying is also a persuasive technique use by Iago. However it only becomes truly affective alongside the other techniques used. An obvious lied told by Iago is when he says, “I heard him say ‘sweet Desdemona’ “. Iago uses this technique right at the end of his second conversation with Othello. By this time Iago has already built on the trust Othello has shown, and so knows that Othello will believe him without questioning.
Act III scene iii is such a turning point in the play because we start to see
Othello braking down as a result of Iago’s plan, and we also witness a change in his actions. One of the ways Othello allows himself to be manipulated is shown right at the beginning of their conversation. Othello invites Iago to tell him what he thinks; “show me thy thought”. This shows Iago as well as the audience that he is interested and wants to know more. This gives Iago an indication that his plan is working, and so continues.
At the beginning of the scene Othello attempts to hides his feelings about what
Iago has told him, and pretends he doesn’t care; “not a jot, not a jot” this shows that he still has some belief that Desdemona is innocent. But by the end of the scene, Othello lets all of his anger out, showing how much he has been affected by what Iago has been saying. He shows this by replying, “I’ll tear her all to pieces!” This suggests that Othello no longer believes in Cassio’s or Desdemona’s honesty, indicating that Iago’s plan has worked.
Also during the soliloquy performed by Othello at the end of his first
conversation with Iago, he confesses to the audience how much he has been hurt by what he has heard. He admits that he is “abused” and the only way to go is to “loathe her”. This is the beginning of his changing attitudes, and a real indication of Iago’s plan piecing together.
Another reason why this section in the play is so significant is because we also
see how Iago has control over Emilia, his wife. Iago orders Emilia to “Go, leave …” along with her following his orders suggests that he is very much in control of their relationship.
This proves to be very important as it leads her to get the handkerchief, which is the main piece of evidence Iago uses to frame Cassio and Desdemona. The fact that she takes the handkerchief without questioning it’s use also suggests the power he has over her.
Act III scene iii is a pivotal scene in the play as it not only puts Iago’s plan
into action but establishes the rest of the play. From here on, Othello starts to turn to Iago for advice, which shifts the power even more. We also see his attitude towards Desdemona change significantly as he starts to accuse her and no longer enjoy her company.