Humanity and Reason in Othello

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Humanity and Reason in Othello In Othello Shakespeare probes deeply into the human condition by creating characters, who, by their inability to think rationally, surrender what sets them above animals. Before he succumbs to Iago's poisonous innuendoes, Othello himself expresses his clear understanding of this role of the human intellect. He initially refuses to listen to Iago's suggestions that Desdemona cannot be trusted, "Exchange me for a goat/When I shall turn the business of my soul/To such exsufflicate and blown surmises" (3.3.194-96). Othello feels that he would be acting like an animal if he became irrationally jealous because someone would say "my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company" (3.3.198). He tells Iago that he will not blindly fall into jealousy, especially when he never has had reason to suspect Desdemona, "I'll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove;/And on the proof, there is no more but this--/Away at once with love or jealousy" (3.3.205-07). Othello is at this point a confident man, both in his wife's faithfulness, and in his ability to think rationally. However, Shakespeare shows that this confidence is often not enough. In his Sonnet 129, Shakespeare describes lust as another force that destroys the ability to reason effectively. The poet depicts lust as desire that is Past reason hunted, and no sooner had, Past reason hated as a swallowed bait On purpose laid to make the taker mad: ... All this world well knows, yet none knows well To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell. (7-8,15-16) In his sonnet, Shakespeare laments that even when we know that lust is dangerously irrational, most people cannot resist falling under its spell. Othello finds the same to be true ab... ... middle of paper ... ...mplete Works of Shakespeare . Ed. David Bevington. 4th ed. NY: Longman, 1997. Soellner, Rolf. Shakespeare’s Patterns of Self-Knowledge . N.p.: Ohio State UP, 1972. OUTLINE Thesis Statement: When the characters in Othello cease to use reason they lose their humanity and are associated with animal imagery. Roderigo Irrationally in love with Desdemona Wants to drown himself like "cats and blind puppies" Iago calls him a snipe Iago Irrationally jealous of Othello and Cassio Equates love with animalistic lust Encourages others to "be a man" A man is decisive A man looks out for himself A man loves himself Roderigo calls him an "inhuman dog", Lodovico a "Spartan dog" Emilia implores him to tell the truth "if thou be'st a man" Othello Irrationally jealous of Desdemona and Cassio Equates lack of reason with animals Refers to himself as a dog.
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