Within the William Shakespeare tragedy Othello we find a full spectrum of loves and self-loves. Let’s put these under the microscope in this essay.
In the volume Shakespeare and Tragedy John Bayley explains the love and self-love in the play:
A sentimental response to the play is in some sense in league with love, the love to which Desdemona consecrates her soul and fortunes. No doubt in loving Othello with her we are also loving ourselves; but that may be no bad thing, indeed a necessary one, for a kind of self-love – among other things what his reputation means to Cassio – is at the basis of all honour and decency. (201)
Initially the play presents a very distorted type of love. Act 1 Scene 1 shows Roderigo, generous in his gifts to the ancient, questioning Iago’s love for the former, whose concern has been the wooing of Desdemona. Roderigo construes Iago’s love for him as based on the ancient’s hatred for the Moor. Thus the wealthy suitor says accusingly, “Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.” In order to prove his love for Roderigo, Iago asserts in detail the reasons for his hatred of Othello, who has given the lieutenancy to Michael Cassio, a Florentine.
Secondly, Iago shows his love for his wealthy friend by rousing from sleep Brabantio, the father of Desdemona. Once the senator has been awakened, Iago makes a series of loud, crude, bawdy allegations against both the general and Desdemona. David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies describes how “love” is attacked from the outset of Othello:
Daringly, Shakespeare opens this tragedy of love not with a direct and sympathetic portrayal of the lovers themselve...
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... The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare: The Pattern in His Carpet. N.p.: n.p., 1970.
Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955.
Mack, Maynard. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
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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