Othello - Change Of Character Essay
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Othello's character in the duration of "The Tragedy of Othello", by the world's greatest writer, William Shakespeare, is first shown as a hero of war and a man of great pride and courage. The other main characters in the play all form their own opinions of him and, as the play continues, his character begins to deteriorate and become less noble. Othello's character changes from a flawless military leader, to become a barbaric murderer.
Throughout the first act of the play, Othello is shown as many different characters depending on who is speaking. Iago complains of Othello's pride and "bombast circumstance" and is angered by the appointment of Cassio, an educated military theoretician of Florence to…show more content…
These answers to Iago's persistence show that he is still a character of calmness and dignity, and he still has the self-assurance suitable to command armies of men.
When Cassio finds Othello, he seems to be relieved because he does not like personal conflict, which would have occurred if Brabantio had found him instead. After he is found, Othello is taken to Brabantio where he is interrogated on how he possessed Desdemona enough in order to make her run off with him. Brabantio damns Othello and calls him an enchanter, saying that the "tender, fair, and happy" Desdemona was too shy of marriage, which is why she shunned all of the suitors sent to her. This entire scene helps to establish Othello as an alert and composed leader. Later in this act, Othello offers to explain how he won Desdemona. He chooses not to contradict or deny that he has used "magic" but when the true meaning of the "magic" comes to light, it is shown that he used the magic of love and not a conjured magic.
Iago also suspects Othello of having some kind of relationship with his own wife, although he does not know or even seem to care whether or not his suspicions have any foundation at all. Again, according to Iago, Othello is an "ass" because he has a "free and open nature." This act works as an introduction to the Othello character and shows how other characters react to his presence.
The remaining acts of the play
Brabantio thinks of Othello as the Moorish soldier—a well-behaved barbarian—and will never accept him as a son-in-law. Iago’s fixation on revenge rules him absolutely and drives him to ruin. Roderigo thinks he can buy Desdemona’s love. Desdemona loves Othello and will continue to love him no matter how he treats her. Othello thinks the guilty must always be swiftly punished.
The objective characters have a fundamental need to be loved and admired. Othello, growing older, craves a woman’s love. Desdemona, seeking love and adventure, falls for the experienced general. Brabantio needs the love and devotion of his flesh and blood, and when Desdemona pledges her allegiance to Othello, he’s heartbroken and soon dies. Roderigo, needing Desdemona’s affection, fights to win her even after she’s married. Iago needs an overt sign of Othello’s admiration, the lieutenant post, and works to get it after Cassio is promoted ahead of him.
Even when Brabantio discovers his daughter has run away from home, he can’t believe she’s married to Othello, saying that Desdemona has refused all her young Venetian suitors and would never marry the old, Moorish soldier. Brabantio accepts Othello as an occasional house guest, but not as a son-in-law. When called to the senate to explain her actions, Desdemona refuses to back down from her father’s disapproval of her marriage to Othello. As a young woman in love she’s unwilling to see that the differences between her and Othello may lead to heartbreak. Roderigo refuses to admit he’s lost Desdemona even after she marries Othello and they are obviously happy together. Iago can’t let go of his jealousy and hatred of Cassio and Othello, devising scheme after scheme to destroy them. He’s so blinded by this maliciousness he can’t see how his plan can backfire and destroy him as well.
Brabantio, heartbroken when Desdemona places her husband above him disowns her, ending their relationship. Othello’s driven toward closure, so much so he can’t wait a few hours to let Desdemona defend herself. He must “put out the light,” ending his torture immediately.
Although closure is illustrated in the story, it’s the use of denial that dominates and leads the characters to their sad end. Once Iago sets upon a course of revenge he’s relentless, and completely unwilling to let go of his grudge over losing the lieutenancy. He destroys everyone around him, including himself. Once Othello’s suspicions are aroused, he can’t let the notion of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness go. Desdemona’s so much in love with Othello that when she sees his shocking change toward her, she can’t accept that he doesn’t love her anymore. She keeps trying to appease him and makes mistakes that worsen the situation.
The objective characters bring enormous problems upon themselves by indulging in immediate gratification without thinking about the possible consequences. Othello is tempted by Desdemona’s compassion and affection when she pursues him. He disregards any ramifications their engaging in a relationship may have; Desdemona is tempted by Othello’s romantic life story, status, and courage, and eagerly elopes with him knowing her father will disapprove; Iago is tempted by the prestige of the rank of lieutenant and lies to get it; Roderigo is tempted by Iago’s offer to help him win Desdemona and pays the man, making himself a pawn to Iago; Cassio is tempted by drink when he knows he’s in charge of the guard, gets drunk and loses his rank; Emilia, although married, is tempted by other men.
If the characters listened to their conscience, the tragic ending could have been avoided. Desdemona might have gone to Brabantio, declared her love for Othello, and faced her father’s opposition instead of first sneaking off with the Moor. Roderigo should have gracefully acknowledged Desdemona’s marriage and gone on with his life, but he plots with Iago to destroy her union with Othello. Cassio should have listened to his conscience and refused that first drink since he was on guard duty, but he lets Iago persuade him to “celebrate” with everyone else. His lapse of conscience allows him to be used to hurt the people he loves.
The objective characters deal with the effects of the story’s problems which occur when “help” is used. Cassio helps Othello court Desdemona by acting as go-between before their marriage, and his kindness is used against him later; Brabantio hopes to save his daughter’s reputation by rescuing her from Othello on her wedding night, yet he only alienates Desdemona; Iago offers to help Roderigo steal Desdemona away from her husband; Iago gives advice to Cassio after his reputation is ruined. He suggests that Cassio ask Desdemona to influence Othello to reinstate him, causing conflict between husband and wife; Desdemona thinks she’s helping Cassio by insisting that Othello reconcile with him immediately, but she is only implicating herself; Emilia tries to bolster Desdemona’s spirits by telling her about the nature of men, advice Desdemona does not want nor need.
The objective characters attempt to approach the effects of the problem by using “hinder.” Brabantio tries to undermine Desdemona’s marriage by refusing to house her while Othello’s at war with the Turks; Roderigo works to thwart Othello’s marriage by luring Desdemona away from him with money and jewels; Emilia unknowingly hurts Desdemona’s position with Othello by stealing her handkerchief and giving it to Iago.
The use of closure accelerates the story. The Turkish fleet encounters a storm off of the coast of Cyprus and turns back, ending the threat of war. This makes Othello available to concentrate on his marriage, and frees Iago to execute his diabolical plot against Othello and Cassio. Brabantio’s ending his relationship with his daughter leaves her alone and dependent upon the will of her husband, thus, she has no place to turn when Othello changes toward her. Othello’s demand of quick closure to the situation fuels his need to have proof of his wife’s affair. This compels Iago to use Emilia to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief. It is planted it in Cassio’s room—Iago then arrange for Othello to believe he is overhearing Cassio making lewd remarks about Desdemona. Iago races to remove ties to his involvement in Othello’s downfall. He convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio; kills Roderigo when he only wounds Cassio; tries to make Emilia shut up about the handkerchief, then kills her when she reveals the truth.
Brabantio is prejudiced against Othello as a son-in-law, feels Desdemona is making a mistake, and disowns her. Desdemona’s unshakable love for Othello keeps her from realizing she’s in real danger, until it’s too late. Othello’s blind trust in Iago keeps him from seeing his ensign’s malice. Iago will never accept that Cassio will make a better lieutenant than he would. Emilia, having been trained to obey her husband, can’t see that he’s up to mischief with Desdemona’s handkerchief until her mistress is murdered.
The more the characters use “memory” the greater the problems become in the story. After Othello becomes suspicious of Desdemona, whenever he recalls his tender feelings for her the more enraged he becomes; memories of Desdemona’s love tears Othello apart now that he believes he’s lost it. Lodovico witnesses Othello slap his wife, remembers Othello as a kind and composed man, and begins to believe the popular theory that all Moors are barbarians. Emilia remembers Iago asking her to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, recalls how she found it on the ground and gave it to him. Her recollections cause Iago to kill her for revealing the truth.
Additional Overall Story Information →
- Overall Story Throughline Synopsis
“. . . Othello, a heroic Moorish general in the service of Venice, appoints Cassio and not Iago as his chief lieutenant. Jealous of Othello’s success and envious of Cassio, Iago plots Othello’s downfall by falsely implicating Othello’s wife, Desdemona, and Cassio in a love affair. Desdemona cannot produce a handkerchief once given her by Othello; thanks to Iago’s machinations, it is later found among Cassio’s possessions. Overcome with jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona. When he learns, too late, that his wife is blameless, he asks to be remembered as one who “loved not wisely but too well,” and kills himself.” (Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature, p. 844)
- Overall Story Backstory
Othello has promoted Cassio to the rank of lieutenant over Iago, his long-time ensign. Iago has vowed revenge on Othello for the oversight. Roderigo, Desdemona’s rejected suitor, has been paying Iago to help him win her. The evening in which the story begins, Othello has eloped with Desdemona, a Venetian senator’s young daughter. Although Othello is a highly respected general in the Venetian army, he’s also a Moor. He’s a black man in a white world who’s generally considered a strange outsider. While his noble demeanor and sterling reputation allows him entry into Venetian society, he’s generally ignorant of the ways of polite society. Having been a soldier all his life, he has a military mind and is not prepared for life as a husband and gentleman.