Themes Of William Shakespeare's Othello

Themes Of William Shakespeare's Othello

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Honor, along with envy, is probably the biggest theme in Othello. It is either present

or non-existent within each character in the play. Moreover, honor versus reputation is a

prominent theme as well. Honor is having personal values and morals. Also, it's doing

what's right no matter what the circumstances. Reputation is simply what others think

of you. What others think of you is not necessarily always truthful.

Iago is a perfect example that the difference between reputation and honor is like the

difference between appearance and reality. Iago has a wonderful reputation, but no true

honor. He is a monster who really could not care about his honor. In Act II, Othello says

"Iago is most honest" (2.3, p. 41, line 7). Also in that same scene Cassio calls Iago

"honest Iago" (2.3, p. 52, line 335). These two quotes show that Iago's reputation is quite

good. The other characters in the play think quite highly of him. Both Cassio and Othello

go to Iago for advice and help because they find him to be a very honest man. However,

they are being fooled because in their doing that, it is only helping Iago with his

treacherous plan. It's very ironic that they trust him so highly while all Iago is doing is

trying his best in order to deceive them. Iago is one of the characters that has absolutely

no honor. Unlike with Cassio and Othello, Iago's honor cannot be disputed. It simply

does not exist within him. He is indeed the villain.

For other characters in the play, especially Othello, it is tougher to distinguish between

honor and reputation. Cassio is another character in which it is hard to decide whether he

is really honorable or if it is just his reputation. He is personified as a loyal man and the

"honorable lieutenant" but as I said earlier, those things are not necessarily true. In my

opinion, I find Cassio to be an honorable man. Yes, he does mistreat Bianca and uses

her for his own purposes but that is the only thing I find to be dishonorable about him.

Now, I do not know if that one thing makes him dishonorable overall but I feel that

it shouldn't. He never wronged Othello, Desdemona, or Iago. It is true that Cassio

does set much store upon reputation as is said in Act II, scene iii. Cassio says

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Themes Of William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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"Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the

immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my

reputation" (2.3, p. 50, line 261-164). He does care very much about what others

think of him, but in this case I think what people say of Cassio is true. Therefore,

I find Cassio to be an honorable character. Roderigo, on the other hand, I feel to

most certainly be dishonorable. He knew of Iago's plan, not entirely, but he still knew

it was wrong yet he went along with it anyways. He did it because of his love for

Desdemona, but that does not make it right. Honor is doing what's right no matter

what! If Roderigo had honor, he would have gone about things in a different way and

not helped Iago hurt others.

Lastly, there is Othello. Othello is definitely the hardest character in which to

determine between honor and reputation. He had always been held as an honorable man.

Yet, as the end of the play nears, you can see his honor diminishing. After he murders

Desdemona he says "Why anything: An honorable murderer, if you will; For naught I did

in hate, but all in honor" (5.2, p.125, line 298-291). Though, is that true? I disagree, I

feel he did not kill in honor, but in jealousy. He had no evidence to show that Desdemona

was unfaithful to him. Before he killed her, he would not even let her get a word or an

explanation out. All he did was tell her to confess before he would murder her. I think it

may have been different had Othello had irrefutable evidence that Desdemona had indeed

been cheating on him with Cassio. Othello did not murder his wife out of honor, he

murdered her because his own jealousy was driving him mad. Not exactly a very

honorable thing to do. After he murdered Desdemona, Othello took his own life.

I suppose you could call that honorable. He realized the truth of the matter and that

he had killed his wife for absolutely no reason. Therefore, he could no longer live. Even

if that is to be considered an honorable deed, I do not think it outweighs the fact that he

murdered her. This is what makes Othello a tragic hero. This incident is Othello's tragic

flaw. His problem is that at heart is indeed an honorable man but he lets his passions

rule him and they cause him to lash out with devastating consequence. The honor of

Othello is something that will be disputed for many years to come.

It is plain to see that the role of honor plays a large part in Othello. It is intertwined

with all of the happenings in the plot. It shows you the difference between honor and

reputation and how sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish between the two of them.

It plays a prominent part in the play's central conflict and is used in order to show and

justify the characters' actions.
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