William Shakespeare’s works have stood the test of time, and this is definitely not due to coincidence. The use of language throughout his plays to portray ideas and intentions are what set him aside from other play writes of his time, and the tragic Othello is no exception. The play is driven by the depiction of the transformation of the play’s leading role, Othello, whose love for his wife Desdemona is manipulated and twisted by the antagonistic Iago. The outcome of the ordeal is that Othello’s character drastically changes. It is this change that creates this masterpiece.
The setting of the play is a vital part in defining the character Othello, as it places him against a back drop of political chaos which acts as a perfect catalyst to the confused marital issues faced by the character due to the clash of his public and private life. Initially the play is set in Venice, where all is well. A land of peace without confusion and conflict, it is here where Othello is regarded as a highly respected general, and a war hero. His status is shown by the articulate nature of his speech, which is apparent in his meeting with the Duke in Act one, scene three “Most potent grave and reverend signors,” “my very noble and approved good masters,” The rhythmic pace and fluency of the lines is superb.
Shakespeare is prone to the use of rhyme to illustrate the intelligence of a character, as a character that is able to speak with such confidence is obviously of a high intellect. He is respected even by those above him in the political chain of command; this is clear from the words of the Duke as he says to Othello “Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you”. The common sense of Othello is maintained at this point, as he has the apparent ability to keep his personal life from interfering with his occupation, he says “let housewives make a skillet of my helm”, but as the reader is able to see he is mistaken, and in Cyprus his real character emerges.
The setting in Cyprus is completely opposite to the setting of Venice, and it is important to understand this in order to draw parallels between the violent and unstable environment of Cyprus to that in the decline of Othello’s character. As Iago is able to create doubt concerning the loyalty of Desdemona in Othello’s heart, we as an audience are able to see a change in the personality of Othello, and as Iago’s “poison” works itself into Othello his insecurity (the tragic flaw of his character), begins to deteriorate ‘Work my medicine, work, work.”. Othello becomes manic, blinded by love, this is evident in the pace, tone and structure of his speech. In dissimilarity to previous events, Othello’s expression becomes unstructured, spoken in irregular bursts, and is an indication to the irrational state of mind he is in. “I had been happy if the general camp!”
The bestial imagery created by Iago to describe Othello earlier in the play, when he uses “‘black ram’, and ‘Barbary horse’ as indications of what he truly believes Othello is, is adopted by Othello. His new bestial nature eventually makes itself obvious upon in his public attack on Desdemona. It is the first point in which other characters from the world of the play are able to see the decline of Othello as his problems with his private life are seen in public with this offensive act. This leads to Roderigo to comment ‘My Lord this would not be believ’d in Venice’. By bringing up Venice at this point is create a contrast, as the audience is able to visualize the honorable respected Venetian Othello in direct comparison to the savage like acts of Othello. This emphasized the anarchy of Cypress. At this point Othello has become manipulated by Iago to the extent that they are beginning to switch roles. The surprise in Rodrigo’s comment also shows the obvious change in Othello.
Othello’s fall to madness is seen through his inability to separate private feelings and public duties, and through setting, Shakespeare signals the changes which occur in Othello’s character and make it consistent with his surrounding transformations. The description of Cyprus and Venice is significant, and shows the transformation of Othello’s character. It also shows the transformation if Iago as in Venice Iago is insignificant but once in Cyprus he works his way up the hierarchy to being the next in line to Othello’s role.
The most important signal which is used by Shakespeare is Iago without him the play would have no backbone and would make no sense…