In Othello Act 5 scenes 1 and 2 Shakespeare invokes pity and sympathy for Othello in a number of ways. He uses the character of Desdemona, an innocent young woman who loves and cares for Othello. She was set up for committing adultery by the devious, conniving character known as Iago. I feel that black audiences would feel extreme pity and sympathy for Othello as back then black people were thought of as the minority race, they would be inspired by Othello’s rise to the top, being respected and daring to love a white woman, these qualities’s in a black man back then were not known of.
In my opinion Shakespeare saw the prejudice and racism towards black people in those days and wrote Othello as an attempt to challenge the attitudes towards black people in Elizabethan times. He perceived Othello as strong, hansom and intelligent to show people that black people were not an inferior race. If this was Shakespeare’s aim then he succeeded as today the white and black race work in harmony in their everyday lives.
At the very beginning of Act 5 scene 2 in Othello Shakespeare invokes pity and sympathy for Othello in his audience by showing that Othello really cares and loves for Desdemona and killing her is actually hurting him and against his own will.
“Yet I will not shed her blood”
This quote by Othello shows that however much hatred he has for Desdemona at the time he will not kill savagely kill her, he will put her to death peacefully. I feel that this is a noble act by Othello because he believes Desdemona has committed adultery with Iago, Othello’s former right hand man. As adultery was considered a serious offence back then, much worse than adultery is considered today, in my opinion Othello had no choice to murder Desdemona and audiences of Othello may have felt this as well.
“She must die or else she’ll betray more men”
This shows that in a way Othello is killing Desdemona for her own good so that she will not commit adultery again. However these views are not true, Desdemona is innocent, Othello only believes this because the two faced Iago has set Desdemona up. The audience will be the only people along with Iago to know the purity of Desdemona; they will feel pity and sympathy for Othello because they will know that Othello has been tricked.
Othello thought Iago was his friend and could be trusted; this is the reason for him believing Iago’s lies about Desdemona. Iago only convinced Othello that Desdemona had committed adultery because Othello was promoted ahead of him, so this act by Iago was revenge, one of the major themes of the play.
“She has deceived her father and may thee.”
Brabantio was warning Othello that Desdemona will betray him because she has betrayed her own father. This quote by Brabantio is adding to the thought of this affair being true in Othello’s mind, audiences may notice this and feel sympathy for Othello because they will know that he has been tricked into killing the love of his life, it is the evidence and what people have said which makes the affair look so true. It is to my knowledge that men in Elizabethan times were allowed to have relationships outside of marriage and not be punished whereas women would face the harsh penalty of death even if they were only suspected of being unfaithful.
In my opinion the main reason for pity and sympathy being shown towards Othello is because he shows great remorse for the death of Desdemona, he shows this by portraying that there is no point in living without her, so he commits suicide. On the other hand Iago, the culprit of Othello and Desdemona’s deaths shows no remorse.
I believe that Shakespeare intention to invoke pity and sympathy for Othello was in order to show Elizabethan audiences that the black race were equal to whites. He portrays Othello as noble and trustworthy to show audiences that a black man can be everything a white man can be, also through the character of Iago Shakespeare shows that a white man can be in the wrong, and just as cruel and deceiving as a member from another race. If showing the world that all races are equal is Shakespeare’s ambition, then I believe that through Othello he has achieved his goal, because in the 21st Century everyone is judged equally.