Othello’s character is conveyed in a number of ways, ranging from the writing techniques such as stylistic features and dramatic devices to the more obvious quotations from the various unique and challenging characters Othello has to deal with. This essay will describe a number of these ways in which Shakespeare coveys ‘The Moors’ character. This essay will also explore his relationship with his new found wife, Desdemona and also how he his viewed not only by the other characters but also the society of Venice. Firstly this essay will explore the various ways in which Shakespeare conveys Othello’s character.
The most prominent way and also the most obvious method Shakespeare uses to convey Othello’s character is dramatic irony. This technique is when there is a discrepancy between what that particular character knows and what the viewer’s/audience knows. For example in this play Othello truly believes that his friendship with Iago is genuine. On the other hand the audience know this trust is ill placed. We know that Othello is a brilliant general, the most trusted in the Venetian army. He is totally at ease and confident with his ability to command men but the same cannot be said with his social ability, and his confidence in his own character.
He is aware that he is possibly way above his station within the army and Desdemona’s choice to marry him is similar in that some would believe the match is not suitable. Therefore dramatic irony helps show the audience the flaws in Othello’s character. This flaw allows space for Iago’s deceptions. He is obviously a bad choice of character, saying that ‘Iago is most honest’ (II. iii. 7). This is ironic because Iago is anything but honest, and the audience knows this. Othello throughout the play makes ironic statements about Iago similar, such as ‘I know, Iago, Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter’ (II.
III. 251-52) and ‘O, thou art wise! ‘Tis certain’ (IV. I. 87). These statements only highlight Othello’s inability to judge a person’s character. I believe he knows he is weak in this trait, increasing his paranoia and lack of confidence when even the slight chance his trust has been misplaced. Even though his heart is saying he trusts Desdemona, him saying he would make her an “emblem of purity and trustworthiness” and to place her on a pedestal suggests that his head isn’t totally sure of her honesty.
Furthermore Othello is aware of Desdemona’s strong personality because he has seen it forehand when she married Othello against her father’s wishes. When Desdemona’s father utters the line ‘Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father, and may thee’ (I. III. 317), this would of played over and over in Othello’s head when he starts to doubt his wife. If she deceives he own father in order to get what she wished, then what’s stopping her doing it to Othello, especially when he knows she wouldn’t of otherwise married him had it not been for his stories and experiences.
Dramatic irony is hugely important in this play. When the audience knows something a character does not it makes it more interesting and helps the audience want to invest more inot the plot in order to find out whether what they no comes to light. Dramatic irony is also a way of making the audience feel closer to the characters by watching first-hand the horror of a once great and proud man as Othello gradually crumble under the whispers of Iago until he kills the one person he loves. Another method Shakespeare uses throughout the play of Othello is Motifs.
A motif is a recurring feature within a novel or play that may offer further insight into its complexion. Othello does indeed have a number of reoccurring motifs within the novel such as the use of Hell, the Devil and monsters. Ironically Iago tells Othello to beware of jealousy with the lines ‘green-eyed monster which doth mock/ the meat it feeds on’ (III. iii. 170–171). This once again highlights the flaws within Othello’s character by comparing the jealousy within him to a monster.
Further along in the play Emilia also compares jealousy, and indirectly Othello’s weaknesses as a ‘monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself’ (III. iv. 156–157). And finally when Othello hears of Desdemona’s supposed treachery he cries out “monstrous, monstrous’ (III. iii. 431). This final quote gives the impression that the ‘green eyed monster’ has succeeded, with the help of Iago in overcoming Othello and from what he once was into a monstrous, jealous wreck. Othello’s relationship with Desdemona is that of a complex one, with the contradictory fact that they really don’t know each other.
In my opinion Othello, even at the beginning is slightly wary of the fact that even he believes she is too good for him, questioning why she would defy her culture and marry him, a moor. Some interpretations believe that Othello’s love was more sincere and true at the start of the play, until other influences (Iago) crossed with his weaknesses lessened the love somewhat until he commits the unthinkable and kills her. My interpretation is that the way he treats Desdemona before and after Iago plotting only suggests to me that Othello isn’t a whole lot different to any other man during that period.
He probably believes himself to be different to those around him; therefore his treatment and respect towards women would differ accordingly. Yet I believe he still sees her as his possession, he wishes to put her upon a pedestal. He blindly loves and trusts her up until the point when that possession is questioned. She is an object that entails his pride, so when it threatens to taint his pride by proving him a ‘cuckold’ he reveals to the audience his true nature.
His relationship with Desdemona in various points throughout the novel and how it changes also gives an insight into Othello’s weakness in judging people’s character highlights his vulnerability and proves how manic his reactions are. For example at the start of the play he and Desdemona are at a point when it really doesn’t get better. They are together, married and trust each other to a point. When he fears he may become a ‘cuckold’ his opinion and feelings towards her couldn’t be more different to that of Act 1. After he kills her and realises Iago’s treachery he goes back to worshipping her again.
An example of Shakespeare using Foreshadowing as a technique that does indeed foreshadow this irrational change in behaviour is a quote in Act II, Scene 1 by Othello himself, ‘And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas, Olympus high, and duck again as low as Hells from heaven’. How Othello is viewed in Venetian society is a complex feature within the play. Venetian culture in the vague period Shakespeare has set the play in was very much a hierarchical system but where certain classes and cultures have their glass ceilings in where they can find themselves in that society.
During that time it would have been unheard of, of an African, or anyone none Venetian to be at the pinnacle of the military hierarchy. Yet Othello, a moor finds himself being the most trusted general within the army. This in itself tells the audience that Othello is respected for his achievements. Yet during Act 1 he is constantly referred to not as by what he is, a general, or at least by his name but as a Moor. Iago constantly refers to him as ‘his moorship’, ‘the moor’ and Rodergo even calls him ‘the thick lips’.
This shows that he may be resented, and even mocked by those who may be jealous of his title and achievements. Shakespeare has used a number of techniques in order to give the audience a deeper insight into Othello’s character, his relationship with his wife Desdemona, and how he is viewed by the characters within the play. From foreshadowing to motifs Othello is a deep character with various levels to his personality that aren’t necessarily obvious to the reader. Shakespeare creates a multi-dimensional character that could change with each and every interpretation.