The First Act of Othello by William Shakespeare

The First Act of Othello by William Shakespeare

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The First Act of Othello by William Shakespeare

Most of Shakespeare's tragedies consist of one of the characters in
the play seeking revenge to right a wrong, many are seen to be
achieving vengeance , this can often includes one character using
wicked or brutal behaviour against another. This character may be seen
as troubled or may just be the show of a bitter character who is
revengeful of another . Shakespeare tries to portray his evil
character speaking of God and being blasphemous. Shakespeare also
tries to use religion to describe and illustrate how the plot works
and to show a more philosophical side to it. In many of the plays
behaviour of a wicked kind is used to show desire for a possession or
power. In many cases this is an object of great importance or status
among the characters of the play. Many plays show a woman fighting for
control over her own life and often caught in a secret love affair,
often looked upon as a negative issue or a forbidden aspect.

In 'Othello' many of these ideas are used to show how the play is a
tragedy. The play also uses racism and negative terms towards women
and others, this is also showing acts which involve tragedy as it
hurts and upsets many of the characters. In act 1 of Othello Iago and
Roderigo are shown to be plotting against Othello and Desdemona,

Iago has been paid by Roderigo to separate Othello from Desdemona.

(A1S1L2) "…thou, Iago, who hast my purse"

However this is not made instantly clear, the start of the play is
very confusing. This captures the audience's attention as now they
need the answers, which are shown as the act continues..

(A1S1L97) "My daughter is not for thee"

Roderigo finds out of Othello and Desdemona's secret love affair and
is bitter as he himself wanted Desdemona to become his wife. Roderigo
then hires Iago (a villain) to separate Desdemona and Othello, at the
same time Iago wants to seek revenge upon Othello as he was denied the

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right to get a job as Othello's lieutenant. Iago wanted a better
position than he got and is becoming close to Othello to get revenge
on him for himself and not just Roderigo.

(A1S3L385) "I hate the Moor"

(A1S1L32) "God bless the mark, his Moorship's ancient"

(A1S1L41) "Serve my turn upon him"

This quote is saying how it is a disgusting wrong in not choosing Iago
for the position. Iago also openly admits to being a dishonest man and
a self-serving deceiver.

(A1S1L64) "I am not what I am"

"Moorship" is a form of racism and shows how Iago feels about Othello.
Racism is used to a great extent in Act One as it shows how people in
this time treated the other races and how Othello was looked down

Iago and Roderigo then go to Desdemona's home and tell her father what
has happened to his daughter with Othello, who is a military man,
known as the Moor because of his skin colour. It is because of this
that Brabantio (Desdemona's father) objects so strongly against the
idea of his daughter marrying the "Moor".

(A1S2L) "Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom"

Brabantio had told Roderigo that he was not allowed to marry his
daughter, and now hearing the news of her marriage to Othello, is so
shocked that he wishes that he had agreed to the marriage.

(A1S1L173) "O, would you had had her!"

Brabantio also objects as his daughter has disobeyed him; daughters
were seen as objects to their fathers in the Jacobean day and
Desdemona has run away without her father's permission or knowledge.
This already shows how Desdemona and Othello have been part of a
secret love affair, a forbidden love. The breaking of social rules is
apparent in Act one scene one lines 120-124 as it shows how Othello is
thought to be " a lascivious Moor" where as Desdemona is still
described as "your fair daughter", showing how their unity is looked
down upon.

(A1S1L167) "O treason of the blood

Fathers, from hence trust not your daughter's minds"

The first act also shows Othello to be a tragedy as many of the
characters are convinced by the villain Iago that Othello has no real
love toward Desdemona, only a lust. Iago tell Brabantio of how Othello
and Desdemona are together and refers to them both as animals
portraying a very unromantic and unloving picture of the relationship
that they share.

(A1S1L110) "..Your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you'll have
your nephews neigh to you"

This animal imagery makes Othello seem sub-human, and not worthy of
Desdemona or feelings. However in

(A1S2L25) Othello is shown to say "but that I love the gentle

Iago and Roderigo use wicked and evil behaviour , negative and
destructive speech. Shakespeare does this so that the characters are
shown to be putting ideas into Brabantio's head and trying to persuade
him that this is a lot worse than he might originally have thought.
Iago is also shown by Shakespeare to be unable to understand the ideas
of a loving relationship, as he talks of relationships consisting of
only lust and other crude references.

(A1S3L335) "It is merely a lust of the blood"

Both Roderigo and Iago need Brabantio on their side. This will gain
them power and they hope will help Roderigo in eventually marrying

Women in 'Othello' are also shown and portrayed to be incapable of
making decisions and Iago talks of them to be merely sexual objects,
he thinks all women to be Venetian courtesans. In Act1 Scene 2
Brabantio says that his daughter could no "… fall in love with what
she feared to look upon" (Line99)

This again shows racism.

Towards the end of Act one in scene three Brabantio is seen to be
warning Othello that Desdemona may not be as trusty worthy as he may

(A1S3L293-294) "Look to her Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:

She has deceived her father, and may thee"

This will put doubt into Othello's mind and may make him doubt
Desdemona in the future.

In the first act of 'Othello' , Shakespeare uses many ideas that are
used in tragedies in his time of writing. Othello is shown to the
audience to be a good man who is very powerful , yet thought of by
many other people as a bad man just because of the colour of his skin.
This idea of racism is seen throughout the act as is the animal
imagery used by the bitter and evil character of Iago. Shakespeare
uses the character Iago to show the negative and malcontent man who
seems to see no good in anything in the world around him. The
behaviour shown by Iago is typical of a villain in a Shakespeare play.
Desdemona and Othello's relationship is also already seen as a tragedy
as it was forbidden and looked down upon by many people, it also
started off as a secret as both knew how the relationship would be
perceived by other people. A plot is seen to be made against the
marriage by the end of the Act. Roderigo has also been used to show a
man who is needy and not very wise, he is in love with a woman who
will not return this love.

The language Shakespeare uses is intense and severe. He uses animal
and sexual imagery to convey his point to his audience. Corruption
also features greatly in the first act of the play. All these aspects
show 'Othello' to be a tragedy and help the audience to understand the
different characters in a clear and comprehensible manner.
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