Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello (circa 1601) reflects the turbulent and contradictory world in which Shakespeare lived I Tudor England. Each character in the play experiences their own struggles to comply with the expectations of strict social and cultural values. Each character experiences their own personal and public battles with the unpredictable power of human emotions. For over 400 years, audiences have been mesmerised by the play’s profound depiction of the fine line between reality and illusion; good and evil; loyalty and betrayal; joy and disillusionment; right and wrong; control and chaos and; acceptance and discrimination. In short, Shakespeare paints a confronting picture of what it means to be a flawed human being in a turbulent and ever-changing world. Whilst the enduring appeal of Othello, to a large extent, is in the dramatization of loyalty and disillusionment, another key aspect of the play’s appeal is in its treatment of jealousy. The theme of loyalty is explored through the characters Iago and Desdemona. Disillusionment is explored in the characters Cassio and Othello. Jealousy is explored in the character Iago.
Loyalty is explored through the characters Iago and Desdemona. Iago’s loyalty to Othello becomes treachery after being overlooked for promotion. Opening scene act 1, outside of the nobleman Brabantio’s villa Iago speaks with Roderigo. “I will follow him to serve my turn upon him… I am not what I am”. The repetition of personal pronouns, “I, me” vs “him” places Iago in an opposing position to Othello. The paradox in “I am not what I am” hints at a second side to Iago that is hidden from those he is ‘faithful’ to. The juxtaposition of “I will follow him” and “serve my turn upon him” shows that in reality Iago is not at all dedicated to Othello. This explores loyalty as being both fickle and complex while also being duplicitous. Later, in the same scene, Desdemona speaks with her father, Brabantio. She has found forbidden love with Othello and her duty has shifted from her father to her husband. She tells her father “much duty as my mother show’d to you… /So much I challenge/that I may profess due to the Moor my lord”. While Desdemona has found a new man to be faithful to she has done so by betraying for father. She excuses this deceit by comparing the duty shown by her mother to her husband – whilst challenging values of the Elizabethan period. Repetition of personal first person pronouns clearly emphasises that Desdemona has asserted her own individual desires and wishes. The possessive “my” makes it clear that Desdemona’s loyalty lies with Othello. This shows that, yet again, loyalty is fickle and complex but it has also been explored as devotion. It also raises the question of whether it is possible to find new loyalty to someone without betraying someone else. The critic Richard Pho, Dec. 5 2010, made the comment that “these two characters contrast good and evil” or that they contrast loyalty and treachery which supports my interpretation except that to a small extent Desdemona shows aspects of betrayal to her father. Through the effective language techniques and the characterisation of the characters Iago and Desdemona the themes of loyalty and betrayal have been explore in Othello and this has entertained while perplexing audiences throughout history.
Disillusionment is explored through the characters Cassio and Othello. Cassio has been sacked, by Othello, after a fight with Montano. Act 2 scene 3, Cassio speaks with Iago after the fight with Montano, “Reputation, reputation, reputation! … I have lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is bestial”. The repetition of “reputation” reveals the value Cassio has for it and the concern he feels for losing it. The juxtaposition of “immortal” and “bestial” shows that Cassio values his position as an upstanding soldier as it is would be his legacy, without it he considers himself nothing more than a beast. The fact that the