Analysis of the Tragedy Othello
William Shakespeare is considered to be among the greatest playwrights that have ever lived. He has written dozens and dozens of brilliant plays, most of those plays have been made into movies. One such play that has been made into a movie is “Othello. ” The play “Othello” is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. It is about a black general in the Italian army, Othello, and what happened between him and his wife, Desdemona. The main villain in this play is Iago; who is a soldier under Othello’s command. Iago tells Othello numerous lies about Desdemona and Othello’s friend, and former right-hand man, Cassio.
Shakespeare covers quite a few of the major issues that are still facing society today. These themes such as ethnicity, betrayal, and love are what make this play one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. One of the more noticeable themes that Shakespeare discusses in this play is Ethnicity. Othello is a moor that somehow managed to climb his way up the ladder to the rank of general. At this time in history, blacks were considered to be barbarians, and murderous heathens. It is a very rare thing that a black man would be able to obtain the rank of general in a predominantly Caucasian army.
It caused quite a bit of jealousy among the other officers serving under Othello. This element may have fueled the fire behind Iago’s lies and hatred for Othello. Another example when the ethnicity of Othello caused a problem was when he and Desdemona were married. Desdemona’s father is furious over his daughter marrying a moor. They even end up going to an Italian court to settle this matter. Normally Othello would have been executed for his actions, but because he was needed to lead the army he was allowed to stay married to Desdemona.
This decision by the courts is another element that contributed to Iago’s betrayal, because if the court had ruled against Othello, Rodrigo wouldn’t have had a reason to pay Iago to spread his lies and deception. The Element that Shakespeare uses most in this play is Betrayal. There is one person at the center of most of the betrayal that takes place in the play—Iago. Iago has no loyalties to anyone throughout the entire story, not even to his own wife. He betrays every character at some point. He betrayed Cassio by getting him drunk and letting him shame himself in front of
Othello. Then he betrays him further by telling him to go to Desdemona and plead his case with her so she will try to convince Othello to reinstate him. Iago even betrays his own wife when he gets her to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, and leaves it in Cassio’s room. But, the person that he betrays most of all is Othello. Iago blatantly lies to Othello’s face with every word he speaks. Through Iago’s lies and manipulation, Othello begins to believe that Desdemona doesn’t love him and that she is in love with Cassio.
Iago does such a good job at deceiving Othello, that Othello believes that the only way out of this situation is to kill his wife. Like most villains Iago’s treachery only leads to his own downfall. Iago isn’t the only character that betrays another person. Most of the other characters commit acts of betrayal that were much worse than the betrayals committed by Iago. Iago’s wife, Emilia, betrays her husband by telling Othello about the handkerchief that she stole for Iago. Even though it may have been the right thing to do this betrayal led to her and her husband’s deaths.
Desdemona is the only one that seems innocent in this play, but she also contributes to the theme of betrayal. She lies to Othello about losing the handkerchief, and tells him that she still has it. This only furthers Othello’s suspicion that Desdemona is having an affair with his friend Cassio. But, Othello makes the largest betrayal of all when he believes the lies that Iago has told him rather than word of his own wife. Iago’s lies convince Othello that the only way to deal with the situation is to murder his wife. Not trusting a person that you love is one of the worst betrayals of all.
Another theme that stands out in many Shakespearian plays is love. In “Othello” as in most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, love is one of the main driving force behind the actions of the main characters. Love was the reason why Desdemona lied to Othello about the missing handkerchief. Because, she knew how much it meant to him and she didn’t want to hurt him by telling him that she had lost it. Also Othello’s love for Desdemona might have been the reason that he went through with his betrayals. Desdemona’s betrayals wouldn’t have mattered as much to him if he didn’t love her.
He also showed that he loved her when he killed himself after he found out that Iago had deceived him and that she was innocent. On the other hand Iago’s betrayals were fueled by nothing more than hate and greed. Ethnicity, betrayal, and love are difficult issues for the characters of the play to cope with. It ends up being too much for the characters and as in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies the majority of the people are killed. Shakespeare’s blending of these different elements is what made this play so enjoyable to watch. “Othello” is, by far, one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.
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