The Power Of Ambition In Othello

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Roosevelt once said, ‘In our ambition, we are individualists.’ Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, set in Venice, examines the damaging power of an ambitious individual through the use of dramatic techniques. Geoffrey Sax’s 2001 adaptation, a post-modern film, is set in London in the 1980s, at a time of heightened racial hostility between the police force and black people. Both texts showcase human nature and mirror the values of their era, suggesting humanity’s inevitable desire for personal advancement.

In Shakespeare’s play, Iago’s malevolent character is made evident through his ambition, which is the catalyst for the destruction that follows. The play explores human nature, through his Machiavellian character, the symbol of evil. He wants
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The film is set in late 20th Century Britain, where racial prejudice against black people was widespread. In the scene where Jago and Othello are in a sauna, Jago falsely tells Othello that the DNA evidence of ‘A, B and C’ are detected on the robe which, like the handkerchief, is used to symbolise Desdemona’s adultery. The mis-en-scene of Othello and Jago, in the high-angle shot, positioned at the same level, indicates that Othello now holds equal status with Jago, suggesting his vulnerability and easy manipulation. The juxtaposition between light and dark suggests that the truth is not always fully revealed, foreshadowing Othello’s downfall and how Jago will attain what he desires. Both texts end differently, suggesting the shift in values in the different contexts and that today’s society normalises evil. The distinctive black and white tile patterns create a visual irony, that Jago places himself in a ‘chess game’, while Othello remains ignorant of his situation. After Jago announces the results he ‘got back today’, a close-up shot focuses on Othello’s eyes, widening in disbelief. The non-diegetic music, accompanied by ringing bells, acts as a symbol that Othello’s murderous side is suddenly awakened. His soliloquies are transformed through the use of this evocative shot, to reveal his thoughts. Sax suggests the destructive power of personal ambition, which is still prevalent in a contemporary context.

The change in Othello’s character, from a loving husband to a man suspicious of his wife’s adultery, is due to the manipulation by the antagonist. Shakespeare’s play challenges the traditional Elizabethan context and values, in its exploration of the development of personal ambition. This is mirrored in Sax’s modern appropriation, which entertains the contemporary audience, while still retaining the original characterisation of the