Othello and his Actions in the Play
How it works
In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello’s actions can be considered weak as Iago has twisted his mind into believing that his wife is being unfaithful. Iago manipulated Othello into believing that his wife was having an affair with his friend and lieutenant, Cassio. Othello’s love for Desdemona was very strong and became what appears to be his only weakness and vulnerability. Shakespeare’s presentation of Othello has the readers reacting more sympathetically towards the end more than they otherwise might. Othello’s actions contributed to the meaning of the work as a whole displaying that his jealousy led to the death if his wife and his own.
In the beginning, we know Othello is a black man surrounded by the white society in Venice. Although it has taken him a long time to work his way up and become an honorable man, he continues having to prove himself worthy of respect when facing discrimination. With Desdemona being a white, young woman and Othello being much older and black, it was easy for insecurities to surface only growing with Iago’s lies. Othello imagined being seen as a fool knowing his wife was cheating on him and couldn’t bear the thoughts running through his mind. Othello said, “Yes she must die, or else she’ll betray more men. Put out the light, and then put out the light. If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, I can again thy former light restore… But once put out thy light, Thou cunning’st pattern of excellig nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat That can thy light relume. When I have plucked the rose, I cannot give it vital growth again” (Shakespeare 235-237). Othello loved Desdemona with everything in him as she pitied and loved him for everything he had gone through. Once Iago convinced Othello his wife was sleeping with Cassio, his heart was broken and filled with despair. Othello in this quote shared his idea to kill her, the love of his life. The light mentioned is an analogy comparing the light being put out, to Desdemona’s life. It was saying that once that light is put out, it can’t be brought back, just like Desdemona’s life can’t be returned. He’s debating on committing this horrible deed because all he wanted was to live happy with her. Shakespeare uses this debacle as a way for the readers to feel sympathetic towards Othello as we can see that he is in love but he can’t stand being seen as a fool who was tricked and felt her life needed to end.
How it works
The readers feel sympathetic towards Othello because Iago cannivingly tricked him and things happened at the right time to make Othello trust Iago’s claims. Iago knew Othello would do anything for Desdemona and saw her as his weakness when seeking his revenge. Iago’s reputation of being an “honest man”, gave him credibility in Othello’s eyes and some “proof” only fueled by a valuable missing hankerchief. Once Othello suffocated Desdemona, Emilia tried to unravel the truth about Iago and his lies but Othello couldn’t believe it. Othello stated, “Had she been true, If heaven would make me such another world Of one entire and perfect chrysolite, I’d not have sold her for it” (Shakespeare, 247). In this quote we realize that Othello is only blinded by the fact that she was “unfaithful” but felt he did nothing more than love her. Othello uses imagery to share that even if heaven created a perfect world for him, he would have never traded a loyal Desdemona for it. Again, Shakespeare’s writing and use of imagery really have the readers feeling some remorse towards Othello because he loved her very strongly and was just broken and hurt by the affair he believed she was having.
Towards the end of the play, Othello gives a speech before ending his own life after discovering the truth. He discovered Iago lied to his face and couldn’t believe he actually murdered his wife because of false truths. Othello said, “I pray you in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice. Then you must speak of one that loved not wisely, but too well; Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, Perplexed in the extreme.. Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe…” (Shakespeare, 263-265). Here we see that Othello understands what has happened, and doesn’t want to be exaggerated about, just told as he was. He wants everyone to describe him as a man that loved to the point where he could not make wise decisions. He wants everyone to know he was never a man of jealousy, but he was manipulated and guided into believing lies. He became a foolish, close- minded man who threw away the most precious pearl, as he refers to in his quote, which was Desdemona. After his speech, he quickly ended his life and left everyone in shock. The readers feel sympathy towards Othello because we know he regrets killing his beloved wife with no way of bringing her back. He planned on spending his life with her and now that she’s gone because of his own doing, he had nothing to live for. Shakespeare’s way of writing here really made readers see that he was miserable. He regret believing the lies, taking her life from her, and felt the best decision was to also take his own.
Overall, many readers could say that Othello was not a man to be pitied or sympathized because of the way he viewed things and handled them. However, Shakespeare’s writing brought out sympathy in everyone with the way that he was manipulated by Iago, and his love for Desdemona was very real. He would never hurt her but hearing that she was being unfaithful and hearing “proof”, broke his heart and carried him into a mindset filled with rage and revenge. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello changed the meaning of the play as a whole especially with his death at the end. Once Othello said his last words and ended his life, it showed he made a mistake and knew he would suffer for it. He was a well- respected general with noble characteristics, but was blinded by his love for Desdemona which made her his weakness.