Comparing and Contrasting the Chiaroscuros Between Othello and Iago Essay examples

Comparing and Contrasting the Chiaroscuros Between Othello and Iago Essay examples

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In a work of typical literature, the blackness of something represents its darkness and how evil it is, and the whiteness represents the purity and goodness of something. William Shakespeare plays with the status quo of literature in his play Othello by giving Iago, a white man who should represent purity, an evil, black heart and by giving Othello, a black man, a noble, white heart when he should represent evil. Shakespeare “founds his play on the rupture between outward signifiers and inward signifiers, between the Moor’s evil-seeming black face and his ‘perfect soul’, between his ancient’s honest-seeming white exterior and the ulcerous evil that breeds around his heart” (Calderwood 59). Shakespeare brilliantly messes up the routine use of chiaroscuro in each character.
As the play progresses, we are shown how the other characters in the play view Othello and Iago. Othello has the negative stereotype of a black Moor: disrespected and hated, except to those who know him and his nobleness. He is referred to as “the Moor” constantly and disrespectfully. “Othello is not addressed by name until the Senate scene, when the Duke, paying tribute to his prowess as a soldier, greets him as ‘valiant Othello’” (Hall 82). Even though Othello is a valiant soldier, whom the Duke acknowledges, there are many characters in the play that choose to see only his skin color. “The audience is constantly reminded that Othello is a black African not only by his physical presence onstage, but also because almost all the other characters in the play, who are white, regard him as different from, and possibly inferior to, themselves” (Hall 82). Though some characters accept the stereotype of “the Moor”, others admire him and are able to look past his blac...


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...mpared to the devil. Othello’s soul is white and pure, though his skin is black, and Iago’s soul is black where his skin is white. In Othello, Shakespeare contrasts the light and dark imagery between Othello and Iago, breaking protocol and showing his skill of intertwining chiaroscuros.


Works Cited

Calderwood, James L. The Properties of Othello. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.
Hall, Joan Lord. Othello. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Hyman, Stanley Edgar. Iago: Some Approaches to the Illusion of His Motivation. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
Kolin, Philip C. Blackness Made Visible. Othello: New Critical Essays. Comp. and ed. Philip Kolin. New York: Routledge, 2002. 1-13.
Siegel, Paul N. Shakespearean tragedy and the Elizabethan compromise. New York: New York University Press, 1957.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Classroom Script.
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