When focusing on Othello, there are numerous philosophers with different with different view points on the tragedy behind Othello. Three more celebrated philosophical thinkers are Hegel, Nietzsche and Girard. When the principles of a Hegelian tragedy are applied to Othello, there needs to be a society in conflict, as well social forces which destroy each other. Throughout the first act of the play, Venice is at war with turkey; Othello is a general and plays a key role in the war. Eventually the venetians beat the Turks and Othello, Desdemona and the rest of the key characters go to stay in Cyprus.
The first social conflict to mention is black versus white. White people are seen to be generally higher up in society and black people lower down. It is clear that some of the white venetians strongly believe this statement should be the way forward for Venice and consequently they very raciest. This point is backed up firstly by Iago’s hatred of Othello as being partly racially motivated is emphasised especially in his description of Othello as ‘his Moorship’ which implies that Iago sees Othello’s high status as incompatible with his race.
This raciest hatred for Othello is also evident in his use of racially disparaging names for Othello such as ‘thick lips’ and ‘black ram’ as well as always referring to him as ‘the moor’. Hierarchy – There are many forms of imagery used in Othello which are used to present conflicting ideas of the men and woman in the Venetian society at the time. Firstly there is how Othello describes Desdemona’s reactions to his stories; “… She’s come again, and with a greedy ear, devour up my discourse… This line basically means that Desdemona would pull Othello aside and ask to hear the parts of his story that she had missed. However Shakespeare used words such as “greedy ear” which could be portrayed to mean that Desdemona was desperate, lacking in control or maybe that she showed a forceful and intense selfish desire to hear his stories. By using the word “ear” this could be seen as being juxtaposition because it could have two meanings.
It could just simply mean that she listened to Othello with an open ear and stood there listening sympathetically, but it could also mean that that using her ears was actually the only thing she felt she could do, she could have felt trapped in the sexist venetian society at the time and didn’t feel as though she could use her mouth as well as her ears and express her thoughts, because Othello was there to tell Brabantio because he was a senator and man of high standing ,not Desdemona because she was just a girl. Lastly there is when Emilia gives Desdemona her views of men; They are all but stomachs, and we all but food.
They eat us hungrily, and when they are full, they belch us” What Emilia is saying her is that men are all the same, they are all like stomachs, and were just their food, they eat us up hungrily but when they are full they will just vomit. This portrays imagery of men having sexual appetites and woman being consumed by them. Also imagery of men being above woman to such an extent that they are in charge of them and basically being able to do whatever they like with them until they get bored. Hungrily” portrays the image of men to be greedy and selfish. “Belch” gives us vivid imagery of just disgustingness and basically men’s behaviour to be on the whole vile when it comes to how they treat women.
Chaos and order – There is a battle between order and chaos and this is shown throughout the entire play. Although Iago goes through lots of trouble to create chaotic events at the beginning Shakespeare tends to bring a sense of order into the play that calms down the previous events. “Keep up your swords, for the dew will rust them. This is what Othello says to all the men who have all drawn swords when Brabantio and his men arrive. These wise words imply that there is no need for weapons as Brabantios age and status inspire more respect than weapons do. However Iago never stops trying to cause the chaos and as Othello sinks deeper into distrust of Desdemona and is more consumed by his jealousy, chaos increases and threatens to devour him. His suspicion of Desdemona’s affair overpowers him and makes him mentally chaotic, leaving him in deep despair.
Girard, on the other hand, believes instead that a tragedy is made up of a violent society in need of a sacrificial victim to purge the society and cleanse it. When Girard’s theory is applied to Othello, in order for the sacrifice to restore order they already must be both hated and admired. One could argue that both Othello and Desdemona are sacrificial victims in the end of the play. First of all we have Othello; he was definitely very much hated by both Iago and Rodrigo, Iago says in Act One; “I hate the Moor”.
Iago hates Othello because Othello promoted Cassio over Iago to be his leftenant even though Iago has more field experience. Othello is also admired my many and especially by Desdemona; “the heavens forbid But that our loves and comforts should increase even as our days do grow”. In the last scene of the play, when Othello realises that he had been tricked by Iago and had killed Desdemona as a result, he takes his own life; “killing myself upon a kiss”.
The sacrifice of Othello restores order because two people have dies because of his jealousy and violence and when he dies we know nothing else bad can happen. Second of all Othello feels he has to kill Desdemona in order to restore order. Desdemona is hated by Othello; “would though hast never been born” Othello hates her because he has been fooled in to believing that she has been having an affair with Cassio. Desdemona is also greatly admired, Cassio complements her saying; “he hath achieve’d a maid that paragons description”.
After Othello kills Desdemona and has ordered for Cassio to be murdered too, Othello feels wretched about Desdemona but he still feels that now that they are both dead, order can be restored and he can carry on with life as he knew it before he married Desdemona, with much less chaos and hurt. However, some more than others would argue that the sacrifice of Othello is much more effective in bringing order to society than the sacrifice of Desdemona because although Desdemona is a better representative of society, Othello is more hated.
The death of Desdemona brings more hurt and resentfulness to society and the death of Othello brings order to the awful tragedy which has just happened. A third philosopher, Nietzsche, said that the world was an irrational place that was driven by basic instinct and the most primitive of forces and desires. When applying the ideas of Nietzsche to Othello, one must take into account his ideas of representation and will. In the beginning of the play Othello seems to uphold the Nietzchean idea of representation.
Representation is the sphere of ideas such as order, reason, art, individuality and creativity. Towards the end however, Othello is manipulated and influenced by Iago and upholds the Nietzchean of Will which is the sphere of ideas of those primitive urges that people feel and act upon such as; lust, jealousy, violence, fear, death, pain and pleasure. Othello in the beginning of the play appeared to be so wise and always rose above any situation, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them”. These words represent order and reason and they are used to prevent chaos from the situation.
In act 3 scene 3 after Iago has put the idea of Desdemona and Cassio in Othello’s mind he appears to lose the Nietzchean idea of representation and has moved on to his idea of Will. “I’ll tear her all to pieces! ” it’s hard to believe these animalistic words were coming from Othello after how differently he spoke at the beginning of the play. The words represent jealousy and violence which both spout from the aspect of Will. Othello’s language becomes so violent and angry; “Blood blood blood! ” Blood gives us imagery of violence and betrayal, like someone being stabbed because they have betrayed someone.
In this instance it could be because Othello thinks Desdemona has betrayed him. He could be crying it out because he wants to either stab Desdemona or Cassio because of what they have done, or because he feels like he has been stabbed in the back and he is thinking about his own blood. Thinking about his own blood would resemble his pain and pain is an aspect of Will. In conclusion, it could be argued that the principles behind Hegel and Girard’s ideas are more accurate when applied to Othello, because a lot of their values match what happens in the play.
A great deal of Nietzsche’s beliefs do not imitate the events of Othello, particularly the ending because Othello turns back to being a representative rather than following the idea of will. Othello speaks in prose just before he kills himself; “of one not easily jealous, but being wrought”, the word wrought symbolises that he was battered and changed by Iago and following will was him not being himself. By speaking in prose this implies that he has gone back to his old self who always used to speak in prose and always used to act in a representative manner.