Othello’s Physical and Psychological Journeys

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Othello’s Physical and Psychological Journeys Othello is the tragedy, and, incidentally, the name of a Moor who serves as a general in the Italian military. He spends the first act of Shakespeare’s play in Venice, but is ordered shortly to Cyprus to fight the Turkish invasion. His journey isn’t officially noticeable at all in the play. One moment he’s defending himself in the Senate of Venice, the next he’s in Cyprus, taking credit for being victorious in a battle the storms fought for him against the Turks. The story unravels from there. His soon-to-be-lieutenant, Iago, whispers in his ear about his wife, Desdemona, and the unforgivable crime of adultery, throwing Othello’s orderly world to the winds of fate. ......Still, if the starting point and destination of Othello’s initial journey were to be compared to Othello’s psychological journey throughout the play (and, more importantly, the development of his relationship with the villain, Iago), they are found to be startlingly similar. Whether Shakespeare intended the parallel or not, and there isn’t really any sure way to tell, the coincidence is great. ......Venice, where the story starts, is a place of order, rich and wonderful. Likewise, Othello’s relationship with Iago is shown by the third scene of Act One to be, on the surface, based on honesty, respect, and admiration. He says, as he prepares to lead the ships to war: “honest Iago, my Desdemona must I leave to thee.” (1.3.336) While it may seem naïve for Othello to do such a thing when trouble is obviously brewing and the sense of foreshadowing is nearly tangible, the reader must keep in mind that Venice is an orderly, respected city and the General’s relationship with Iago can be summed up neatly in one sentence spoken by Brabantio: ......“This is Venice. My house is not a grange.” (1.1.119) ......But while Venice is certainly not a grange, there is plenty going on behind the scenes. One could even argue that Iago’s first scene when he incites Desdemona’s father to go and take revenge on Othello by using racist and bestial slurs is very similar to the first talks of war in the Senate and the general being told he must leave his homeland to defend Cyprus from the Turks. ......“An old black ram is tupping your white ewe,” (1.1.98) Iago shouts to Brabantio, at the same moment that Othello is being informed of his new assignment.

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