William Shakespeare’s drama Othello is one concentrated contest between the forces of the morally good and the morally bad. Let us analyze this contest in detail in this essay.
Standing out like a dark silhouette on a white background is the sinister character and master of deception in the drama – the general’s ancient. Morton W. Bloomfield and Robert C. Elliott in Great Plays: Sophocles to Brecht highlight the dominant evil force in the play, Iago:
For critics, the chief problem in the play is the character of Iago. The debate usually centers around whether he had sufficient motives for his cruel actions or whether, on the other hand, he is an example of “motiveless malignity.” The question cannot be resolved here, nor is it necessary to try to resolve it. Iago, whether because of his disappointment at not having been given Cassio’s position, or because of his belief that Othello had cuckolded him, or because of his love of evil for its own sake, is nevertheless a man who has rejected all ties of morality and idealism. (39)
Totaling the lies which the ancient tells to everyone about him would require considerable effort and time. In Shakespeare’s Four Giants Blanche Coles comments on the lack of veracity in Iago’s speech:
The story that Iago tells Roderigo about the promotion of Cassio over him is not true, although it has been accepted by many discriminating scholars. Careless reading alone can account for this misapprehension, careless reading which for the moment dulls their alertness to one of the most essential requirements of Shakespearean character analysis. That requirement is that the reader must never accept, or must always be re...
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...is final passion. From the stern general who had, as his first line, the cold “’Tis better as it is” (1.2.6), he has traversed a pilgrimage of known and feeling sorrow. And, it must be repeated, it will depend upon the beholder whether one judges or rejoices in the transfiguration of loving not wisely but too well. (66)
Bloomfield, Morton W. and Robert C. Elliott, ed. Great Plays: Sophocles to Brecht. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1965.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
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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