One way, albeit a partial way, of reading the tragedy of 'Othello' is too see it as the destruction of innocence, trust, and idealized love by a cynical and maliciously motivated worldliness, which regards the very existence of innocence and beauty as its motivation: 'the divinity of hell'. Iago's manipulative malignity is a crucial factor in the tragic catastrophe but it also serves to highlight through contrast the alternative values in the play, amongst which one can include innocence and naivety. In the argument below innocence is understood to be inexperience of the world but also that which is separated from evil. Naivety has the meaning of gullibility, even folly but more positively is the condition of the child, trusting, artless and unaffected by the cynical questioning and deceit which characterizes the worldly.
Shakespeare portrays naivety and innocence principally, but not exclusively, through the characterization of Desdemona and Othello, and through a whole range of dramatic techniques: their language, behavior, their interaction with other characters, the imagery applied to them etc. The portrayal of the qualities is a complex one which is significant in the following ways. Firstly, the vulnerability of innocence and naivety helps drive the play towards its tragic conclusion, although it is matter of debate whether the principal cause of the catastrophe is the vulnerability of innocence or the ingenuity of wickedness. Secondly, the values of innocence and naivety comprise values which are dramatized in opposition to those represented principally by Iago; each illuminates the other. This is one of the conflicts central to the dramatic action. The contrast betwe...
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Bloom, Harold. "Introduction" Modern Critical Interpretations, Othello Ed. Harold Bloom, Pub. Chelsea House New Haven CT 1987. (1-6)
Hale, Steven. Class lectures. Georgia Perimeter College. April 20th -30th, 1999
Jones, Eldred. "Othello- An Interpretation" Critical Essays on Shakespeare's Othello. Ed. Anthony G. Barthelemy Pub. Macmillan New York, NY 1994. (page 39-55)
Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
Neely, Carol. "Women and Men in Othello" Critical Essays on Shakespeare's Othello. Ed. Anthony G. Barthelemy Pub. Macmillan New York, NY 1994. (page 68-90)
Snyder, Susan. "Beyond the Comedy: Othello" Modern Critical Interpretations, Othello Ed. Harold Bloom, Pub. Chelsea House New Haven CT 1987. (page 23-37)
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