Othello: Moral and Immoral Aspects of the Play

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Othello: Moral and Immoral Aspects of the Play

Certain aspects of the moral dimension of the Shakespearean tragedy Othello are obvious to the audience, for example, the identity of the most immoral character. Other aspects are not so noticeable. Let us in this essay consider in depth this dimension of the drama.

Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” describes the deception of Iago: how he paints as evil a guiltless association between Cassio and Desdemona:

The main conflict of the play is a strange one, for Othello cannot see his opponent until too late. But the audience sees with extraordinary clarity. In Act II Iago tricks Cassio into disgracing himself, and then takes advantage of the guileless affection between Cassio and Desdemona to create, for Othello, the appearance of evil. He explains this scheme to the audience, with mounting pleasure, as it develops; and by Act III he is ready to snare Othello himself. . . .(133)

The moral and immoral dimension of Othello, especially the latter, is enhanced simply by its location in Italy. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “The Engaging Qualities of Othello” comment on how the exotic setting of this play satisfied the Elizabethan dramatist’s dream of portraying evil:

Elizabethan dramatists were fond of portraying characters of consummate evil, and if they could lay the scenes in Italy, all the better, because the literature and legend of the day were filled with stories of the wickedness of Italy. [. . .] Venice especially had a glamor and an interest beyond the normal. Every returning traveler had a tall tale to tell about the beauty and complaisance of Venetian women, the passion, jealousy, and quick anger o...

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...reenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare: The Pattern in His Carpet. N.p.: n.p., 1970.

Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.

Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. No line nos.

Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.