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The character of Othello - Essay Example

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The character of Othello. The character of Othello is quite difficult to sum up because it comprises a number of different elements which stand in contradiction to each other, making him appear inconsistent at times. The other soldiers in the play make much of his Moorish origins, which means that he has “thick lips” (Act I, Scene 1) signifying African features, and he is unflatteringly compared to “an old black ram” (Act I, Scene 1) because of his love for the fair Desdemona…
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The character of Othello
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The character of Othello

He is proud, and a good husband, but he is vulnerable to the vicious slanders of others who resent his presence among them. Othello himself is obviously deeply loved by Desdemona, and he claims that “She loved me for the dangers I had passed” (Act I, Scene 3), which Desdemona agrees with. He is highly thought of as a soldier, and apart from Iago, most people respect him for his achievements. Part of the crisis that occurs in this play has to do with the social context of a non-Christian outsider coming in to Western society and taking on high position in court and the hand in marriage of a desirable white woman. Diyanni puts the blame for Othello’s downfall squarely on the influence of Iago: “Othello’s language later in the play reveals his decline from a courageous and confident leader to a jealous lover distracted to madness by Iago’s insinuations about his wife’s infidelity” (DiYanni, 2004, p. 927). It is true that Othello is driven to distraction by the second-hand tales of assignations between Desdemona and her alleged lover Cassio. One criticism that could be made of Othello is that he is not a very good judge of character. He is duped by Iago, and he accepts the account of events that he is given, and the piece of evidence in the form of the missing napkin is enough to convince him that something untoward has happened. The way he goes about finding out the truth is deceitful, since he makes up an excuse to ask Desdemona about the napkin, and this shows that he is gullible, and easily led when it comes to matters of romance. Desdemona is a feisty woman, but she shows admirable deference to her husband’s authority. It is a pity that he did not trust her word and give her the same loyalty and respect that she gave to him. The real tragedy of Othello’s character is that he jumps to a wrong conclusion and kills his wife in haste, not because he hates her, but because he loves her, and he has built his whole life, and his military career, on being a good and upright husband to her. Seeing her run off with someone else would make other people laugh at him, and he is extremely angry, even to the point of cursing her with the words “Damn her, lewd minx! Oh damn her, damn her!” (Act III, Scene 4). He is deeply hurt, because he thinks she has deceived him, despite all their vows and his absolute loyalty and commitment to her. There is a violent side to Othello, and he imagines all kinds of ways of killing her, with an emphasis on destroying her beauty and emphasizing his power over her. Although this reaction is very extreme, it is also understandable, and even in modern times the newspapers are full of stories of masculine rage being taken out on former partners when relationships break up. It is very human to feel this way, and the audience can identify at least with how he feels, even if they do not agree with what he does about that feeling. There is evidence in the last scene that Othello comes to realize his error, not just in distrusting his wife, but also in thinking ill of other people involved in the story. Even though he is not a Christian, he displays all the features of a Christian penance, asking forgiveness of Cassio, and admitting that he has done something terribly wrong. He mentions the fact that he ... Read More
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