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Analysis of Othello Essay


The tragedy of demise, caused by the innate flaw of an individual, is encapsulated in the Shakespearean drama, Othello. Through the effective employment of form, in the use of structure, language and tone, Othellos fall from the pinnacle of societal hierarchy is depicted in a horrifying and powerful way.

The vulnerability of humankind is a particularly evident theme throughout the play. Othello holds a position of immense respect and value within Venetian society as both a solider and leader. Despite this, Othello is ostracised by the society in which he lives, referred to by most of his associates as merely he or him for much of the opening scene, and later addressed by the racially vilifying title of The Moor. Othellos status as an outsider is constantly reiterated throughout the play in this kind of prejudiced imagery, demonstrating his ultimate susceptibility to ruin. Again, the idea of appearance verses reality is heavily explores the idea of deceit preying on the ultimate human vulnerability of trust. This is especially seen in the characterisation of Iago, who, despite his reputation as an honest man, is in reality treacherous, deceitful, and manipulative. He heavily impacts the characterisation of Desdemona, who, despite being considered impure and deceitful by Othello because of Iagos actions, is actually innocent. Pride and power and their manipulation of this same vulnerability, are also powerful themes in the text. It is especially significant with regards to Othello himself as he is highly defensive of himself and his achievements, and especially proud of the honorable position he holds in the eyes of the Venetian people. Desdemonas alleged affair directly affects this self worth, and inflames his jealousy in a horrifying way, as he wants to appear powerful and in control at every possible instance. This egocentric perception of self-causes Othello to be easily manipulated by Iago. Once Iago fuels Othello's jealousy and ignites the darker side of Othellos character, we see Othello switch from a sense of pride and accomplishment, to one of uncertainty and denial, as a result of his own vulnerability to deception.

Human weakness is also shown to be a major contributing factor in Othellos downfall, particularly in the idea of truth and belief. The allusion to magic and myth throughout the play is used prevalently to convey this. Othello is charged with using magic to court Desdemona, which is a reflection of the perception of black society at the time, as they were seen as pagans. Magic becomes a recurring motif when Desdemona's handkerchief cannot be found; Othellos superstition around the handkerchief leads to his hyperbolising of its importance. Iago weaves his own, more spiteful form of magic, through his exploitation of this significant concept of truth and honesty. Although honesty is used in an ironic way throughout the play, a great number of characters go through a dilemma regarding trust of self and others. This is most prevalently seen in their blind trust of Iago, which ultimately leads to the downfall of many of them, in particular, Othello. Their humanity and resultant weakness shows, in a horrifying yet powerful way, how misrepresentation and its repercussions cause much havoc, due to the inate flaws of mankind. Iago, through his misrepresentation of himself, is able to gain trust and manipulate other people; he is able to appear to be "honest," in order to deceive others. Misrepresentation is not exclusive to Iago however; Othello also misrepresents himself, as being unintelligent and uneducated, but unlike Iagos deception this is not for immoral purposes but it still presents an image of him, which is not exactly the truth.

Human nature itself dictates that, as a result of Othellos own weakness and vulnerability, he is destined to experience the dramatic downfall that leads to his demise. His lack of trust, yet propensity to be manipulated is shown in Desdemonas singing of the symbolic willow song throughout the play which is a representation of the unfaithfulness of men and women to one another. It is ironic as, despite her innocence, Desdemonas supposed affair leaves her marriage with Othello destroyed and ultimately results in her death. The song shows her alienation from Othellos affections, and the loss of all emotion within their relationship. The symbolism of sight and blindness also hold a significant place within the tragedy; those that experience a downfall are often those who fail to see truth, to keep us in a false gaze. The majority of the play depends heavily on characters failing to realise things; Othello is willing to accuse his wife although he never actually witnesses her infidelity, and many other characters assume things but something poisons sight and they never actually observe any evidence themselves. It is this lack of certainty, and an opportunity for misunderstanding, that results in the ultimate tragedy of the play in the form of Othellos suicide. In the final moments of the play, Othello presents the audience and the characters within the play with a verbally profound speech, powerful and horrifying in its nature, revealing he is killing (himself) to die upon a kiss. The speech that precedes his suicide is one filled with guilt, deepest sadness and a sense of helplessness. Othellos willingness to end his life proves his overwhelming inability to cope with the destructiveness of his life as a result of misunderstanding, weakness and vulnerability, and it is ultimately this that reveals that his innate flaw of naivety and blind belief has led him to his own death.

Through the use of powerful motifs, evocative symbolism and effective characterisation, Shakespeares depiction of a protagonists fall from supremacy, is revealed. The powerful way in which Othello pursues contentment and his resultant paralysis with jealousy, deceit and corruption, shows the horrifying nature of this futile seeking, and the ultimate devastation that ensues. The summation of Shakespearean tragedy is evident in the descent of such a strong character to the pains and hell of death.

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