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Discussing Othello as a play I want to mention that at a maintenance edge the lines of subject, it is affirmed that the story Venetian Moor (1566) served as a source of the plot for Othello, in key moments, in creation psychologically of difficult characters of heroes, Shakespeare processed a feedstock substantially: modified reason to sweep the scoundrel of Ensign, on a short story, falling in love in Desdemona and rejected by her, gives the elevated character of love of Desdemona and Othello whom she “came to love valour”, and he did it “for sympathy to him”. For example, we see it in the words:
“She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.”
Reason of jealousy of Othello also was considerably changed: for Shakespeare it is dictated the hurt not sense of honor or offended pride of husband-owner, but is execution of the real debt of hero, aspiring to destroy evil in the world. Othello is not melodramatic villain, killing from jealousy; on such conditions a poet would not interest us with his fate and yet less – to cause in us the impression touching and elevated tragic. Drama here loses narrowly the personal, love sense and rises to higher tragic reason – to the collision of personality with an environment.
In Othello development of play’s action is in most, as compared to all mature tragedies of Shakespeare, degrees are concentrated round the events of the personal plan. Here is neither Trojan War nor collision of Egypt with the Roman Empire. Even a military conflict ready to flame up between Venice and Turks appears outspent already in the first stage of the second action: the storm, sparing the ships of Othello and Desdemona, foundered the Turkish squadron.
Such construction of play easily can result in the analysis of Othello as tragedy of the especially personal plan. However, any overstatement intimately-personal began in Othello in harm to other sides of this work eventually inevitably turns around an attempt to limit to a Shakespearian tragedy the narrow scopes of drama of jealousy. True, in verbal everyday life of the whole world the name of Othello became the synonym of jealous man already a long ago. But the theme of jealousy in a Shakespearian tragedy comes forward if as second-rate not element, in any event as derivative from more thorny problems, determining the ideological depth of the play.
Gallery of images, showing by itself different generations of Venetian civilization, crowns appearance of its most frightful representative – Iago. I think that this person is bright figure of the play and I want to discuss his internal characteristics with more details, because exactly this personage influenced Othello by his sharp words and mind. Mainly, a mighty and effective weapon of Iago is his sober, practical mind. Iago is a man, provided with remarkable observation which helps him to make the faultless picture of circumferential him people. Iago very often, insidiously pursuing own secret aims, talks a notorious lie about other acting persons of the play, but in minutes, when he, remaining one on the stage, frankly speaks of people with which he has to clash, his estimations strike penetrating; in them laconically, but expressly and the most secret essence of characters is objectively expressed. Iago’s opinions about women, as a rule, are full brutal cynicism; and however, he does an exception for Desdemona, speaking about her virtue and kindness.
Describing Iago’s mind we should note that it is not an ordinary person, because the mind of Iago looks something like the mind of chess-player. Sitting down for a board, a chess-player has before itself a main goal – winning; but he does not yet know, what concrete a way this winning can be attained. However, much an experimental player, looking after that, how return actions not enough a geared-up opponent bare by the weaknesses of his position, very soon creates the tactical plan of attack and begins to foresee, in what consequences his motions will result and as an aggregate of these motions will allow him to obtain victory. So, Iago declares war of Othello, yet not having a concrete plan of offensive. Iago uses the best qualities, inherent to Othello and to Desdemona, in an order to ruin them. I think that even nowadays it is an ordinary thing, when person with sharp mind ruined people’s lives, because he wants s to do it.
Besides a penetrating Iago’s mind, he is armed another property, allowing him to fulfill the “black” plans on which Othello reacts in the next way:
“I know, Iago,
Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter,
Making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I love thee
But never more be officer of mine.”
It is his magnificent ability to hide the essence under the mask of soldier’s straightforwardness and simple-heartedness. Iago on ability to carry a mask, on an artistic capacity for a reincarnation does not have itself equal among all Shakespearian villains. At the first appearance before the audience, Iago utters an aphorism in which he as impossible more exactly determines a sum and substance of the character:
“Sblood, but you will not hear me:
If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.”
Continuing our discussion we see that up to a finale none of heroes of play can notice duplicity of Iago; all continue to consider him honest and brave person.
On motion development of action Iago demonstrates not only brilliant actor capabilities, he comes forward and as a producer of planned by him criminal theatricals. A mind and ability to mask the projects allow Iago to use in necessary to him aims the features of characters of other acting persons and to do them the instruments of the policy.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, we could come to the conclusion that Othello is the prominent Shakespeare’s tragedy that can’t leave ordinary reader’s hearts calm. I was greatly impressed how pervasive Iago’s egoism, based on argued that man to the man is a wolf, eliminates possibility that in the soul of Iago there was a place for love to somebody. In strict accordance with it all system of Iago’s relations is built with other characters. All Iago’s hatred is concentrated on Othello. It is so great, so full lays hands on the soul of Iago that even is beyond that egoistical self-interest which serves as villain a reliable compass in other cases of life.
I want to say for the conclusion that Shakespearian tragedy fills with the hearts of audience a hatred to society which ruins Othello and Desdemona, – to frightful the businesslike self-seeking depravity to society, in which Iago takes like a duck to water. But it infuses with pride for humanity, able to generate people, similar Othello and Desdemona. Herein, is great force of tragedy of Shakespeare, opening before it a centuries-old triumphal way on the stages of the whole world.
Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Bantam Books, 1988.