When first introduced, Othello, the Moor, seems to be committed to his beautiful wife, Desdemona, and to the army of which he is general. Yet, as time progresses and after being put in difficult circumstances, his loyalty takes a different form. A struggle between opposing loyalties begins to emerge. Convinced his wife is cheating on him with Lieutenant Cassio, Othello seeks to preserve his honor of having a chaste wife, to the point of murdering Desdemona, out of loyalty to himself. When deposed from his position, he finds no meaning to his life, having been stripped of all honor, and is driven to suicide. Yet, he does so after making one last request. He pleads, “speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak of one who loved not wisely, but too well; Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme…” (5.2.338-42). To the end, even after murdering his wife, Othello is driven by his own glory and begs others to preserve his reputation. At ...
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..., he realizes the deep-seated self-loyalty in others and draws it out of them as he seeks their downfall. The web he weaves is ironic and egocentric.
In this tragedy, Shakespeare explores the issue of loyalty in the dimensions of honor, deception, and narcissism. As an embodiment of honor, Othello’s loyalty exposes itself in his selfish pursuits. The defense of his honor is grounded in his self-loyalty, just as Iago’s commitment to telling the truth is ground in his self-loyalty. Although being the hero of this story, Othello is the not heroic; he is equally self-committed as the antagonist. The parallel between Othello and Iago, hero and villain, brings light to the ambiguity of loyalty and the fact that reality is not always as it appears. Shakespeare projects the fickleness of people’s loyalty onto these characters and demonstrates how egoism reveals itself.
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