William Shakespeare gave us a most moving drama in Othello. In this play we witness the demise of a “paragon” of a wife and a “valiant Moor”, Othello. Let us consider the Moor in detail, with professional critical input, in this essay.
From the text of the play a number of clues can be gleaned which round out the description of the general. In William Shakespeare: The Tragedies, Paul A. Jorgensen describes the general in Othello:
Though scarcely the “barbarian” (1.3.353) he is called, the Moor is emphatically black, probably rough, even fearsome, in appearance, and a foreign mercenary from Mauritania in refined Venice. Though of royal blood, since the age of seven he had a restrictive, painful life, being sold into slavery and spending most of his life in “the tented field” (1.3.85).
His “occupation” (3.3.357), to a degree found in no other Shakespearean hero, is war. He can therefore speak of the great world little “more than pertains to feats of broil and battle” (1.3.87). But that he loves the gentle Desdemona, he would to have given up a life of unsettled war and his “unhoused free condition / … For the sea’s worth” (1.2.26-27). (58)
The first appearance of the protagonist is in Act 1 Scene2, where Iago is pathologically lying about Brabantio and himself and the ancient’s relations with the general and about everything in general. Othello responds very coolly and confidently to the pressing issue of Brabantio’s mob coming after him: “Let him do his spite. / My services which I have done the signiory / Shall out-tongue his complaints.” However, Cassio’s party approaches first, with a demand for the general’s “haste-post-haste appearance” before the Venetian council due to the Turkish attempt on Cyp...
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... rises to the occasion and refutes the lies of her husband – at the price of her life. Her martyr-like example inspires Othello to sacrifice his life next to the corpse of Desdemona; for he “Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away / Richer than all his tribe [. . .] .” He dies a noble death, just as he has lived a noble life. Michael Cassio’s evaluation of his end is our evaluation: “This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon; / For he was great of heart.”
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
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