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The Admirable Lieutenant in Othello

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Othello, William Shakespeare’s moving tragedy, gives the audience a number of victims, one of whom is Cassio. But this rugged guy keeps recovering and coming back to enter the fray. Let’s talk about him in detail.

Kenneth Muir, in the Introduction to William Shakespeare: Othello, explains the ins and outs of Cassio’s personality:

Cassio is defined partly by the exigencies of the plot, which require him to have a poor head for drinking and to have a mistress; but his chivalric worship of Desdemona, his affectionate admiration for Othello, which enable him even at the end to call him ‘Dear General” and to speak of his greatness in heart, and his professional reputation, which only Iago impugns, build up a complex portrait of an attractive, if flawed, character. In spite of his weaknesses, we can understand why Iago should be envious of the ‘daily beauty in his life’ and why Desdemona should speak so warmly for his reinstatement. (41)

The opening scene finds Iago explaining his hatred of the general to Roderigo. Part of his bad feeling concerns Cassio, who reportedly has no military battlefield experience. In his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, A. C. Bradley rejects the ancient’s accusation that Cassio is an inexperienced soldier:

That Cassio, again, was an interloper and a mere closet-student without experience of war is incredible, considering first that Othello chose him for lieutenant, and secondly that the Senate appointed him to succeed Othello in command at Cyprus; and we have direct evidence that part of Iago’s statement is a lie, for Desdemona happens to mention that Cassio was a man who ‘all his time’ had ‘founded his good fortunes’ on Othello’s love and had ‘shared dangers’ wi...

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...Othello’s safety, in his abstaining from taking part in the bold and suggestive comments of Iago to the two women as they wait for Othello’s ship and, a little later, in his sincere regret about the loss of his reputation after he has partaken of the wine which Iago has forced upon him. (85-86)

WORKS CITED

Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.

Bradley, A. C.. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin, 1991.

Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.

Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
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