Othello Key critical interps, key themes and analysis

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  • Othello + critical quotations
    • characters
      • Othello
        • Warren-“Othello has a propensity to jealousy and possesses a weak character”
          • Not a typical view of Othello as a noble hero tricked by Iago. Warren expresses that Othello himself is flawed and something as ordinary as marriage is enough to see a  degeneration of his character showing he like Iago.
      • Iago
        • Cox- "Iago destabilises Othello's trust and faith by exposing them as irrational substitutes for knowledge"
          • Iago's manipulation of Othello's weaknesses. Othello has what Iago doesn't and therefore he seeks to destroy something he cannot have himself
          • Iago is cynical of the world and takes pleasure in erasing Othello's innocence.
        • Warren-  Iago revels in his ability to revel and destroy
          • It also establishes that Iago is firmly in control of the plot with the execption of the change in location.
            • Warren- "stage manager...controlling his victims effortlessly"
              • Iago as a master manipulator- The manipulation of Othello, Desdemona and Cassio seems to come naturally to Iago as he does it with ease
        • Warren- "stage manager...controlling his victims effortlessly"
          • Iago as a master manipulator- The manipulation of Othello, Desdemona and Cassio seems to come naturally to Iago as he does it with ease
      • Emilia
        • Matt Simpson- "She dies in service of the truth"
          • Emilia's redemption, she initially deceived Desdemona and her actions allowed Iago to frame Desdemona however she reveals Iago's machinations and restores Desdemona's image.
        • AC Bradley- "she nowhere shows any sign of a bad heart"
          • portrays Emilia as Iago's innocent wife, disillusioned by men but not complicit in his schemes, merely furfilling her obligations to survive.
      • Desdemona
        • Jarvis- "A whores death for all her innocence"
          • Desdemona is strangled by the one she loves for a crime she did not commit. her death highlights the tragedy of Othello since Iago's villainy results in the unjust death of a pure woman.
        • Cox- "damned if she does and damned if she doesn't"
          • the futility of Desdemona's struggle. She wholly believes that Othello loves her and even in her last moments hopes that shall continue. She has done nothing wrong yet was damned by jealousy.
      • Cassio
        • AC Bradley- "We trust him absolutely to never pervert the truth for the sake of some doctrine or purpose of his own"
          • The presentation of Cassio as the anti-Iago, he will not lie to make himself appear in better standing. He is over honest.
    • Summarised by Warren - “Othello has a split consciousnesses  and is ‘a near schizophrenic hero’
      • Othello is heavily flawed, with an underlying mental instability perhaps created by the same tales he tells to woo Desdemona. In a time that was unforgiving to a black person without any mental instability, Othello’s position was insecure but his mental instability ultimately causes his downfall as he becomes consumed by jealousy.
    • Themes
      • Race
        • Othello’s  status as a Moor General appears contradictory for a Jacobean audience and it is clear that his position is incredibly perilous. Othello’s final plea at the end of the play serves to highlight this as despite his act of murdering Desdemona, he desires the senate to remember all the good he has also achieved.
          • Cowhig-‘the black villian  in a white society”
          • Warren - “Othello is an honorary white...but becomes a total outsider”
      • Honour
        • In a patriarchal society, women were seen as an extension of their husband. A man’s honour was integral to his position in society and a women chanting on him would make him a cuckhold and his reputation would be affected which is why both Iago and Othello seek revenge for this. As essentially to them, their wife’s infidelity has ruined them.
          • Cox “death was preferable to dishonour” “ a man’s honour was inseparable from his wife’s behaviour” “honest is used 52 times”
      • women
        • The three women present in the play all serve as key motivators in the plot. Emilia is complicit in her husbands schemes, Desdemona is the tragic martyr to the tragedy of the play and Bianca is the other women though ironically despite her job, she is the most honourable character within the play.
          • Cox- ‘Men wished to marry virgins” “fallen women...necessitating suicide or entrance into a nunnery”
      • Dangers of isolation
        • Roderigo is isolated as he has no one but Iago and serves to be easily manipulated. Desdemona is a noble Venitan with no one of her class around her and her settings being unfamiliar. Emilia must serve a woman she doesn’t know. And Othello is separate from all due to his race. Iago also isolates himself which means he has no real allies
          • loomba- “women and blacks exist as the other”
      • Jelousy
        • Iago’s warning “beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on”- is highly ironic due to the fact his intense jealousy for Cassio causes him to ruin his life. Iago does mock those he manipulates and he acknowledges his evil nature
          • “Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light”
        • Similar to Iago, Othello’s life is completely destroyed by jealousy. Through this it could be argued that Shakespeare is presenting Jealous as a dangerous quality whic has the capacity to ruin otherwise ‘noble’ men
      • Justice
        • Justice appears to be a key motivator for actions within the play- though it is questionable to what extent  characters are truly motivated by this. Iago for example claims to be taking revenge for Othello sleeping with Emilia but his true motives remain unconfirmed.
          • Warren “Iago is driven by latent homosexuality”
        • Othello  himself claims to be motivated by Justice seeking Cassio and Desdemona’s death for their alleged betrayal- it is here the clash between domestic and war relationships , is apparent  Othello shaped by war only knows violence and as a commander, would see the death penalty fit for traitors. Cassio is able to fit into both spheres and survive.


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