Othello

4.Brabantio’s comments to Othello regarding Desdemona in 1.3 are a cautionary warning that she may betray her husband, having already betrayed her father. What does this reveal about Venetian society’s attitude toward women and connect to the tragedy at the end of the play?

As a father, Brabantio warns Othello that her daughter, Desdemona, may betray him. It is something that seems to be unreasonable. A father does not protect his daughter’s reputation but choose to ruins it. One of the reason is that he thinks Desdemona choose to love Othello is an act that betrayed her father. He chooses to be ruthless and does not care about his daughter. What he have said might not be the direct cause of his daughter’s death, but that has planted a seed of suspicion in Othello’s mind.  In the other word, he is also been responsible for his daughter’s death.

Just like Desdemona, Emilia, the wife to Iago does not have a good ending. These two female character has shown that women do not have a social position in Venetian society at that time. They can not even control their lives. Even their Father and husband do not really loves or respect them. If Brabantio loves his daughter, he would not say such thing to Othello. If Othello really loves and respect his wives, he would not kill her. The Tragedy is actually an image of the helpless women who live in a man-dominated society.

Othello

2. What do we learn about the nature of Iago in Acts I and II? You may focus on Iago’s exchange with Cassio (I, iii, 305-360) or any other exchange in Act II that reveals information about the character.

In Acts I and II, Iago shows his insidious nature. He is not willing to truly follow his master. In fact, he despises those people who truly serve their lords. (Act1.1)He does not love his duty but he tries to pretend he is a loyal servant. Meanwhile, he is planning that one day he can develop his own power. He does not agree on the appointment that Othello made. When Roderigo pays him to plot against Othello, who is his master, he accepts the asking and plan for Roderigo. However, even though he helps Roderigo, his plan is only applicated by Roderigo, he does not have to take any risk of it. When Brabantio comes to confront Othello, he pretends that he is loyal to Othello and wants to fight with Roderigo.  Right after the argument, he goes to appease Roderigo. What he has done shows that he is full of craft and cunning. He is an insidious character.

Othello

5. Harold Bloom’s claim that Iago’s “passion for destruction is the only creative passion in the play” is not an exaggeration as every other character in the playwright displays a rather simple way of living than Iago. Othello is the leader of Venice and is portrayed in the story as that, as well as romantically entangled with Desdemona but with no real substance or insight into their love life. At that point, Othello has everything he asked for, which disables him from having further development throughout the play. Roderigo is being manipulated by Iago which falls into Iago’s grand scheme against Othello. Emilia is too scared to stand up or put a stop to her husband’s, Iago, plan of retribution against Othello. Desdemona is also on the same level of passion as Othello as they do not seek any other personal goal in the play. Iago is left with this unmatched feeling of retribution against Othello that he will go to the end of the Earth and manipulate how ever many people he can to get his vengeance on Othello. Whether he is manipulating Roderigo, Emilia, Cassio, or even Othello himself, the passion he exerts for this goal is unmatched in the play.

9. Iago’s famous line “I am not what I am” (1.1.65) do force an examination of duplicity and identity in the play. Though Iago himself is examined through his deceptive nature by playing the antagonist, his motives were known since the beginning by the audience even though he hid it from the characters portrayed in the play. However, one other figure of examination of identity and duplicity would be Othello. From the start, his self-examination is put in check as he is described as a moor, and not from the city of Venice. Though he is a righteous and courageous man, his examination is further put in check throughout the play as his feelings intertwine with his leadership. His emotions control his actions at the end as he kills Desdemona and later regrets it as he figures out it was Iago’s plan all along. His identity is questioned as one may raise the question on whether this was the same man from the beginning that was destined to rule Venice with all the great attributes that any leader could have and how could a true leader give into his emotions like that without stopping himself before being pushed to the edge.

Iago- the puzzled character

  1. What do we learn about the nature of Iago in Acts I and II? You may focus on Iago’s exchange with Cassio (I, iii, 305-360) or any other exchange in Act II that reveals information about the character.

In Act I and II Iago has a manipulative, self centered and phony nature. The very beginning of Act opens with Iago sharing his feelings with Roderigo stating how upset he was of Othello’s decision. Othello chose Cassio as his officer and Iago thinks Cassio lacked experience in battle field and didn’t know much about warfare. We share our feelings with our friends and here Roderigo and Iago shares their feelings to one another. Even more in Act I,iii,305-360, when Roderigo states that he has no purpose of living anymore, Iago give him advice and assert his point of self value, happiness and emotions. He lucidly explains in very rhetoric way that we human have control over our emotions and our happiness shouldn’t be relied on some other person. Here we can conclude that Iago was a man of word and he knows how to persuade and manipulate people as after his advice Roderigo decides not to end his life and rely on Iago’s plan. Roderigo and Iago’s bond of friendship ends when money comes in between. Roderigo: “I will sell all my land” (ActI,111,374). In addition, Iago states to the audience that he is just using Roderigo for his plan to destroy Othello. “Thus do I ever make fool my purse” (I,iii, 375). This show the egocentric nature of Iago as he gives false hope to Roderigo so that he can make him a part of his plan and make it easier to ruin Othello. His plan was really well schemed and he was aware of what he was doing.

Iago has a phony nature as he tries to make everyone happy by stating bad about their opposition. Such as in Act I, Iago describes Othello to Barbantio in a very repulsive way. He compares Othello to animals by stating that Barbantio daughter Desdemona will be covered by a Barbary horse and also they will make a beast with two backs children. But in Act II, Iago states to Othello that he wasn’t able to resist the saying of Barbantio as he insulted Othello. Iago states that Barbantio was the one who spoke with dishonor when he talked about Othello. Iago clearly states to the audience that he will pretend to be on Othello’s side by showing the flag; in the war we raise flag to show loyalty and support towards our country. He says he hates Othello but will pretend to love him as it is in his best interest. “Though I do hate him as I d hell pains, Yet, for necessity of present life, I must show out a flag and sign of love” (Act I,i,152-154).

 

2.Iago’s famous lines “I am not what I am” (1.1.65) force an examination of identity and duplicity in this play. Is Iago the only character who could make this statement?

Iago is the only character that could state the famous line “I am not what I am” as he doesn’t reveal his true character to any of the characters in the play. To every character he shows his different side and tries to make everyone happy which always bring his manipulative side. He manipulates people through his word by showing that he is doing for their best interest where in fact it is for his own. Iago uses this quote while he talks about pretending to love Othello by showing is loyalty flag even though his actual goal is to bring destruction. But he only tells the audience what his actual goal is. “Though I do hate him as I d hell pains, Yet, for necessity of present life, I must show out a flag and sign of love” (Act I,i,152-154). Even to his wife Emilia, who truly wants to gain praise and affection from him, he doesn’t tell her what his up to when she gives the handkerchief to him. To Roderigo he tries to provide false hope and pretends that his plans is for Roderigo’s best interest but to the audience it is clear that he was just using Roderigo to achieve success to his goal. “Thus di I ever make my fool my purse”(Act I,iii,375).

Furthermore, Iago was the one to arose jealousy in Othello. “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (Act III,iii,206). This line states that Desdemona is capable of cheating. But he pretends not to know anything about Othello’s anger towards Desdemona as he aske her why did Othello called her whore. He also states her as a “fair lady” (Act IV,ii,117). To Cassio he shows no sign of jealousy and instead he pretends to like Cassio by offering drinks to him. But his main purpose was to make him drunk and create chaos so he could lose his position. Iago plotted very precisely to bring destruction to Othello and for this purpose he doesn’t show who he really is to any other character.

 

 

 

 

The Strict Military Code in Venice (Question 8)

Throughout the play, Shakespeare shows the audience the tenets of the military code in Venice. Othello, as the moor of Venice, is respected by people who are under his class, including Cassio and Iago. Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, is at a higher class than Iago is. Iago hates them both but in front of them and other people, he must show respect and follow the military code.

Iago uses his language wisely to Othello and Cassio, which fools them both successfully. Iago addresses Cassio “lieutenant” every time when he talks to Cassio, and speaks very politely. In Act II, Iago tries to make Cassio drunk. He offers to drink for Cassio when Cassio rejects his request. In order to implement his plan on Cassio, he even sings for him: “O man’s life’s but a span, why then, let a soldier drink” (II, 3,64-69). Iago chooses English songs to win Cassio’s trust. When Montano suggests Iago that he should tell Cassio to the moor, he says, “Not I… I do love Cassio well and would do much to cure him of this evil” (II, 3,133-137). Iago hides his jealousy for Cassio from others, especially those who are at a higher class, but at the beginning of the play, he reveals to Roderigo, who has no association with military, that Cassio is lack of experience and he does not respect him. After Cassio is stabbed, Iago pretends that he is eager to him and shows his sympathy to Cassio, “O me, lieutenant! What villains have done this?” (V,1,56). Lodovico is there when the accident happens, but Iago does not recognize him, as he is a messenger from Venice to Cyprus, but once he realizes he was being rude to Lodovico, he says, “I cry you mercy”, similarly, he does not greet properly to Signor Gratiano as first, he then says, “I cry your gentle pardon. These bloody accidents must excuse my manners that so neglected you” (V, 1,94-95).

Similar evidence that reveals Iago respects the moor as a lower-class soldier can be found everywhere in the play. Iago addresses Othello “my lord”, “general”, “noble lord” whenever he sees him, even if when he was wounded by Othello, he still calls him “sir”, for a person who hates much, Iago is indeed following the military code.

The Cruel Truth of Venetian Society (Question 4)

Brabantio, father of Desdemona, said to Othello that Desdemona had deceived her father, and she might betray Othello one day (I, 3,292-293). This ridiculous claim by Brabantio is a ticking bomb to Othello. His words imply to Othello that Desdemona cannot be trusted. How can a father claim his own daughter a traitor just because she marries to a person that he disapproves? This reveals to the audience that women in Venetian society are mistreated and they have no voice for themselves.

Desdemona and Emilia, two main female characters in Othello, are both in a disadvantaged position in Venetian society as we can see from their encounters with their husbands. Desdemona is framed by Iago, however, as her husband who claims that he loves her, Othello simply believes in Iago’s trickery instead of giving his wife a chance to explain. She is assumed by her husband Othello as disloyal and sinful. He murders her at the end as if she deserves it and he has the right to do so. Similarly, Emilia is doubted by her husband, Iago. She is treated by Iago rudely all the time. When Emilia finds the handkerchief and gives it to Iago, she asks him what he is going to do with it, he responds disrespectfully, “why, what is that to you?” and snatches the handkerchief from her (III, 3,315). When Emilia attempts to reveal the truth where the handkerchief is found, he yells at her, “Zounds, hold your peace!”, and “Be wise, and get you home”, yet she does not give up, he threatens her (V, 2,220-224). At the end of the play, Iago stabs Emilia as if she is his property and he could do whatever he wants, including killing her.

Shakespeare unfolds a cruel and sad truth of Venetian society: women have no voice nor no place. They are dominated and defined by men, particularly by their husbands.

Othello

(2) We learn from Iago’s interaction with Cassio in Act II.3, that he is a master of manipulation. This whole scene is a result of Iago’s cunning acting and deception. In the beginning of the conversation with Cassio, he first tries to tempt Cassio with making leading comments on Desdemona and invites him to drink with him as well: “But one cup! I’ll drink for you.” (II.3 33-34). From the start, Iago has a master plan to get Iago drunk so he could lure him into doing something foolish to lose favor with Othello. This shows Iago’s masterful skill in making his plans into a reality. He further shows this skill after Othello basically dismisses Cassio in his drunken state. Iago takes it a step further and in a facade of trying to give good advice, tells Cassio to urge Desdemona to help him in his pleas: “Confess yourself freely to her; importune her help to put you in your place again.” (II.3 306-307). To Cassio this is great advice from a kind man who has his best interests in mind, but to the audience, it is a blatant play at manipulating Cassio to torture Othello. Iago has a mastery of manipulating people to follow his will and navigates his interactions with different characters with a deliberate strategy. He doesn’t let his personal emotions get in the way of his interactions with people he claims to hate, although his emotions do motivate him to scheme against them.

(9) In Acts I and II in Othello, we are introduced to Iago and see his true nature behind the scenes of the story. When he says “I am not who I am” (I.1 65), he accurately depicts his role in the play. I believe he is the only one in the play able to say this because of his nature. He does a very good job of hiding his ill intent to the other characters in the play, but as an audience we see the painfully obvious conniving side to him. This is due to the monologues that Iago has throughout the play. Iago shares his true thoughts with the audience while hiding them to the other characters when they are present. I find Iago’s monologues extremely interesting and important in the play because although the play is named Othello, we learn about Iago’s character a lot more intimately. In his monologue at the end of the first Act, he shows his devious intelligence when he thinks of a plan to not only get Cassius out the way, but also hurt Othello: “Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now: To get his place, and to plume up my will in double knavery- How, how?- let’s see:- after some time, to abuse Othello’s ears that he is too familiar with his wife.” (I.3 384-388). This monologue has great significance because Iago not only shows his true ways once again, but this is the monologue where he actually decides on the plot that ultimately leads to the tragic ending. Throughout the play though, we can tell that Iago is an extremely intelligent character and maybe the smartest character in the whole play, which is tragic due to his ill intent and expert ability to trick other people.

The social dynamics of Venice

During medieval times social classes determined the wealth and opportunities that will come to you .Hard work did not result in success in life rather your family status ,and as a result many potential leaders would have succumbed to their birthright than their mental and God-given talents .In Othello we see this how Othello and Iago who are bright individuals and given their circumstances in present day society they would enjoy the fruits of the American dream .
Despite the latters achievements and accolades the Venice society is stuck in their class system and rising to power or moving from one class to another is nearby impossible .During the scene between Roderigo and Iago the setting showcases the lifestyle of Venice nobility and how they purposely separate themselves from the working population .Brabantio is shocked how his daughter escapes from a tightly protected neighborhood (Act 1 scene 1) to go to “the woods” .
Although the romance between Othello and Desdemona looks like a classic Romeo and Juliet epic ,but because of race and nobility Brabantio is more worried about his reputation amongst other noblemen and how allowing a peasant to marry into his family .He is worried about his standing in society than his daughters happiness and finds all avenues to tarnish Othello’s image to clean up his name in the process .
In modern times this still exists to some extent however people can rise and move classes based on hard work or in some instances luck.

Iago: The Prince

Building from Machiavelli’s The Prince, he states a Prince should adapt to different environments and be cunning always one step ahead his enemies .In Othello Iago shows these characteristics always playing people against each other .He is intelligent and uses his mental strength to manipulate other characters to get his way and plans .
In the first act we see his chameleon nature and how he uses it brew trouble at a tense period with Venice preparing for war with the Turkish ;he uses Roderigo and his emotions to rattle the senator .Following this passage we see how Brabantio focuses more on his own predicament instead of the danger that is looming from the enemy(Act 1 scene 2).Iago being a fox and chameleon he switches from being concerned for Brabantio and goes on Othello’s side acting concerned about his well-being .Iago uses his wits to hide his true intentions so that he can go ahead and rise in power in Venice ;he reveals this to Roderigo when he wants his favor .He uses Roderigo a man of nobility as his influence is bigger than himself a person of a lower class.(Act 1 scene1).
Being one step ahead of your enemy is another characteristic of the Prince as mentioned by Machiavelli, Iago has his ears around the city and uses information to play with his enemies. When Cassio appears in the beginning of scene 2 he spills information about Othello he isn’t aware of he responds in awe that Othello is married. Iago knowing Cassio is second in charge should know about these events, again he plays to his wits creating some tension amongst the two military men who are supposed to be working for a common goal.
In conclusion we see the Character of the Prince in Iago and he uses this to remain in power by being an obedient servant(seemingly)although Othello is in power he controls the strings knowing how cunning Iago is he gives the position to Cassio who may not be a hindrance to his position .

Iago: A Compulsive Instigator

Throughout Acts I and II of Othello, Iago takes on the role of a partial instigator. He has an agenda for everything that he does and does nothing out of the goodness of his heart. For instance, he helps Roderigo with his desire to win Desdemona’s hand because Roderigo is paying him to do so. Iago also agrees to help him because he is angry that Othello has chosen Cassio to be his new lieutenant, rather than himself (Act I.1, 19-23). Thus, Iago decides to double-cross both Othello and Cassio in order to enact revenge upon them. Iago particularly hates Othello, perhaps due to his immense military success and his ability to attract the attention of the desirable Desdemona. He also believes that Othello has had an affair with his wife, as see when he states, “And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets h’as done my office. I know not if’t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety” (Act I.3, 379-382). Although he makes various claims about why he dislikes Othello, it appears as if Iago is spreading lies about him to cover up the fact that Iago truly enjoys partaking in mischief. He finds it amusing to be a factor in Othello’s downfall.

In addition, Iago has a way with words; he is a true rhetorician. Unfortunately, rather than using his words to inspire others, he uses them to lie and put people down. For instance, when he talks to Roderigo about how Desdemona will eventually grow tired of Othello and leave him, he states, “Come, be a man! Drown thyself? Drown cats and blind puppies” (Act I.3, 335-336). He compares manliness to doing cruel things to innocent creatures, proving his evil and sadistic nature. Similarly, Iago uses rude longwinded phrases when he talks to his wife and Desdemona in Act II. He states, “You [women] are pictures out of door, bells in your parlor, wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries, devils being offended, players in your huswifery, and huswives in your bed” (Act II.1, 109-112). These statements, no matter how beautifully written, are misogynistic, showing that Iago has a strong hatred for women. He insults them to their faces and feels no shame for doing so. It’s all fun and games for him; he takes delight in hurting others, especially the innocent Desdemona. Thus, Iago can be seen as a truly evil and cold-hearted character.