In Othello by the ever insightful Shakespeare the rise and fall of Othello is portrayed in fantastically painful clarity. Initially he displays characteristics of integrity, intelligence, honesty, faith and passion. All of these traits are challenged almost forthwith. His integrity is tattered when he does not even attempt to excuse his physical abuse of Desdemonda, the valued intelligence is assaulted by Iagos managing to convince him of the increasingly far fetched, his honesty, to himself, in that he accepts as proof what is truly less, to others in that if he simply told them exactly what he was thinking things might have been less tragic, his faith, in Desdemonda, in that, though initially he trusted her with his life, he fails to apply such touching trust with regard to her loyalty. Ultimately he is faced with the problem of an apparently disloyal wife. Being a man partial to the extremes of passion and, perhaps, overly simplistic in his approach to most things he knows that she must be killed and yet, finds himself struggling to do it, deal with the supposed adulterous act itself, and afterwards, unable to live with the magnitude of his crime.
The audience could only have been as affected by Othellos struggling with his conscience had they first seen what he was before; the strong, assertive figure, if anything most sure of what he was to come to doubt than of himself.
If you find me foul in her report,
The trust, the office I do hold of you
Not only take away, but let your sentence
Even fall upon my life.
The power of trust displayed here lends the audience to a more sympathetic view as they see this balmy season of faiths perfection slowly turn cold. The loss is untranslatable into any language other than that of exemplification, hence the dramatists use of this scene. Not only does it succeed in furthering the plot but also in giving a reference to the reader later as to the fall from virtue, truth and conviction that is later to plague the atmosphere of scenes but also Othello individually.
Additionally, we see that from the outset Shakespeare is determined that we should see the events before they hit. From the initial I follow him to serve my turn upon him to the openness with which Shakespeare allows us to see Iagos campaign of manipulation. Sympathy with Othello would be impossible if the audience were ignorant of these things, they would interpret them similarly to the other characters, their awareness of this only adds to the empathy.
The concept of an exaggerated before and after is used again in the turning point III iii. This scene begins with a repeated I will deny thee nothing and by line 345 Othello is saying good bye to all that he associates with Desdemona and presumably also his faith in her.
Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troops and the big wars
That make ambition virtue O farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, thear-piecrcing fife,
The royal banner and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!
And, O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
Thimmortal Joves dread clamours counterfeit,
All that he felt, all the strength of his love for Desdemona and his faith in her has gone. The audience sympathises with him not because he has been wronged or betrayed by his wife but rather because they know he has not been. The viewer can see the waste and the tragedy through Shakespeares before and after method, both in this scene and in the play as a whole. It is the heros inconceivable and unequivocal loss of such precious and invaluable faith that induces this feeling; not his being lied to by Iago, his thoughts that he has been betrayed or the confusion. This loss of faith is only saved from condemnation from the audience by their awareness of just how great a loss it was. Truly, Othellos lack of faith is his flaw, would his love not be all the more commendable if in not understanding, in the face of what seemed the impossible and where there was undeniably no out, however nonsensical it seemed - he kept faith? His was a lazy, maybe even a selfish love. Only through the perspective of Othello and by an awareness of the magnitude of this loss can sympathy from the audience be expected.
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