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The relationship of Othello, Desdemona and Iago can be seen as warped kind of love triangle. It leads directly to the tragic outcome. However, is Iago entirely to blame for what happens? I believe it’s necessary to access a range of factors between character’s relationships in order to arrive at a conclusion about the extent to which tragic imagery is represented in “Othello”. These factors include the relationship between characters, Othello’s characterisation, and the Elizabethan context of the play.
Our first impression of Othello is having quiet confidence and sincerity about his love for Desdemona. However, F.R Leavis suggested that Othello’s ‘essential make-up’ and property for ‘self – deception’ lead to his tragedy. I believe this is true, as the audience can see that our noble character has been ‘ensnared’. This can affect his relationship between characters, especially Desdemona. Iago is aware of this weakness and decides to use it as an advantage to control his victim’s fate. By the time Othello descends into murderous jealousy, we can see a change towards his relationship other characters. Iago’s ‘proof’ make makes Othello trust him more than Desdemona , referring him as ‘honest Iago’. His relationship and trust to Desdemona continues to fade compared to ‘honest Iago’.
In spite of his weakness, the handkerchief is also a convincing catalyst for tragedy. In the Renaissance of Europe, handkerchiefs were important signifiers of status and wealth. In Desdemona’s hand it is a symbol of love and faithfulness. The handkerchief defines Desdemona as guilty if she has it, altering their relationship. However when Desdemona loses it, the audience can understand the tragic hero’s distress since it is a part of Othello’s personal heritage. The fact how it’s given to Iago, turns the handkerchief into a sinister object which can destroy relationships and become a symbol of destruction. In Act V Scene II, Othello talks about how ‘that handkerchief, the one he “so loved” and given to Cassio. Othello’s strength of character becomes a weakness, when his intense feelings of love turn into overwhelming jealousy – he wants to ‘tear (Desdemona) all to pieces’.
Othello jealousy has made it clear to us that he will use his hands to kill Desdemona when he says, ‘Give me your hand. This hand is moist my lady’. In Act V Scene II, Othello uses the language of justice and the law to justify killing Desdemona (‘it is the cause’) which shows the tragic intensity of his relationship between her. Some critics asserts that Othello’s opening is ‘part of a ritual of denial’ (Stanley Cavell). I agree, as the film by Oliver Parker shows that he appears, carrying a light, with black shirt and trousers. This ironically makes him seem like a priest officiating in a religious ritual, conveying Othello’s fall from grace. The words Othello uses to describe Desdemona’s body can be linked to the imagery of light. He did not want to “shed her blood” or “scar that whiter skin of hers than snow/And smooth as monumental alabaster”. This proves that he still loves Desdemona.
Othello’s tragedy was that he loved too much. I believe Othello denies responsibility for his actions after killing Desdemona. However Helen Gardner sees the murder of Desdemona as having upon it ‘the stamp of the heroic’ in the final scene. In fact, I believe Desdemona’s death is considered a heroic. Her final words are intriguing and contradictory in a situation where she tries to preserve Othello’s good name by saying she has been “falsely, falsely murdered”. Her unselfish dying words and refusal to give up her love for Othello prove that love has triumphed.
The differences between Othello and Iago need to be reasserted. During Acts IV, V , the ‘valiant moor’ destroys his good name by acting more and more like Iago in his words and actions. He’s starting to act like a villain in a revenge tragedy. This prevents an audience from sympathising with him. He is no longer the Othello we know in the early scenes. Only now does he learn from Emilia the truth how ‘honest Iago’ has deluded him. Like many Greek and Roman tragedies, Othello commits suicide for his excessive-self-love. Like Desdemona, Othello’s last words and actions are loving: ‘I kissed thee ere I killed thee: no way but this,/ Killing myself, to die upon a kiss’. By linking kissing and killing, Othello is suggesting that he cannot live without Desdemona. We know that he accepts responsibility for his crime and will pay for it.
The audience needs to consider the final scene before judging Othello’s conflicted identity and his relationship with Desdemona. Just before Othello kills himself, he shifts from ‘honest Iago’ to ‘devil’ which indicates the inversion of their relationship. Othello also makes it clear that he is destroying the evil part of himself; he compares himself with the ‘base Indian’ who threw away a ‘pearl’ (Desdemona). We can see the relationship between them has changed back to the way they were in Act I. Othello knows he deserves the torments of hell for killing his innocent wife when he says ‘Wash me in steep-down gulfs on liquid fire!” This powerful language destroys the idea of baptism and shows that he is preparing to commit suicide when he realizes naïve and jealous he was.
Although the relationship of human nature is one of the central themes, “Othello” is also a play which proves that honesty means nothing against a hard heart. Othello died, but he died with a ‘great of heart’.
You’ve made a good start at answering the question. The foundation for it is there – I think you just need to develop on the ideas a little more. Instead of simply stating what happens and giving a few lines of explanation, be a little more clear about how and why certain actions happen in the play, and then develop on your analysis of why it happens. At the moment, your analyses are a little too short, so try and think a little more about the themes you’re discussing and see how you can expand on them.
I’ve also pointed out where you’ve missed out on including words like “with” and “to”. I haven’t pointed out every situation where that happens, so keep an eye out for that when you re-read/review your work.
Also, it’s usually a good idea to include the page numbers for the quotations you’ve used, and in relation to plays, usually the acts and scenes are required as well. For example, “Quotation from Othello,” (Act I, Sc. I). Like that. But that’s up to your teacher, of course, and if they haven’t asked it of you, then you obviously don’t have to include it at this stage.
The question also asks you to focus a little on stage/film techniques. You give one example of the lighting, with Othello carrying the torch, but perhaps one or two more examples might be required? And you might have to specifically state that it is a film technique, otherwise the reader won’t know if that’s what you intended or not.
However, this is a good start and you’ve grasped the main themes of this play
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