Custom Written Term Papers: Othello’s Involved Imagery
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Othello’s Involved Imagery
The intricate imagery peppering the language of the characters in Shakespeare’s drama Othello is deserving of our detailed consideration in this paper. It has significant meaning, and nearly expresses a life of its own.
The play’s imagery is oftentimes reflective of the fortunes of the protagonist. As the Moor’s status declines, the quality of the imagery in the play declines. In The Riverside Shakespeare Frank Kermode explains the relationship between imagery and Othello’s jealousy:
It is very important to see that Othello’s self-estimate – “one not easily jealious, but, being wrought, / Perplexed in the extreme” (V.ii.345-46) – is, as Bradley says, “perfectly just,” and perfectly consistent with the release of unsuspected grossness of language and imagery under the shock of discovering infidelity in the loved one. The peculiar pain of sexual jealousy is deeply involved with the excremental aspect of the sexual organs, and the emotion in betrayal in a supremely intimate trust is involved with agonizing associations of filth and animality. (1200)
A surprising, zoo-like variety of animal injury occur throughout the play. Kenneth Muir, in the Introduction to William Shakespeare: Othello, explains the conversion of Othello through his increased use of animal imagery:
Those who have written on the imagery of the play have shown how the hold Iago has over Othello is illustrated by the language Shakespeare puts into their mouths. Both characters use a great deal of animal imagery, and it is interesting to note its distribution. Iago’s occurs mostly in the first three Acts of the play: he mentions, for example, ass, daws, flies, ram, jennet, guinea-hen, baboon, wild-cat, snipe, goats, monkeys, monster and wolves. Othello, on the other hand, who makes no use of animal imagery in the first two Acts of the play, catches the trick from Iago in Acts III and IV. The fondness of both characters for mentioning repulsive animals and insects is one way by which Shakespeare shows the corruption of the Moor’s mind by his subordinate. (21-22)
Just how strong a force is the imagery in this drama? Is it more powerful than the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy? H. S. Wilson in his book of literary criticism, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, discusses the influence of the imagery of the play:
It has indeed been suggested that the logic of events in the play and of Othello’s relation to them implies Othello’s damnation, and that the implication is pressed home with particular power in the imagery.