My Perception of William Shakespeare's Othello Othello, by William Shakespeare, is perhaps not as exciting as a ravishingly sexy poster of Laurence Fishburne and Irene Jacob. Yet, with its intoxicating mix of love, sexual passion and the deadly power of jealousy, Shakespeare has created an erotic thriller based on a human emotion that people are all familiar with. It all depends on how those people receive it. There is an extraordinary fusion of characters' with different passions in this tragedy.
Every character is motivated by a different desire. Shakespeare mesmerizes the reader by manipulating his characters abilities to perceive and discern what is happening in reality. It is this misinterpretation of reality that leads to the erroneous perceptions that each character holds. After reading this tragedy, the depth of Shakespeare's characters continue to raise many questions in the minds of the reader. The way Ipercieve the character of Othello and what concerns me, is that Othello is able to make such a quick transition from love to hate of Desdemona. In Act 3, Scene 3, Othello states, 'If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! I'll not believe 't.' (lines 294-295) Yet only a couple hundred lines later he says,' I'll tear her to pieces' (line 447) and says that his mind will never change from the 'tyrannous hate' (line 464) he now harbors.
Does Othello make the transition just because he is so successfully manipulated by Iago? Or is there something particular about his character which makes him make this quick change? I believe that 'jealousy' is too simple of a term to describe Othello. I think that Othello's rapid change from love to hate for Desdemona is fostered partly by an inferiority complex. He appears to be insecure in his love for Desdemona (as well as in his position in Venetian society). Othello's race and age ('Haply, for I am black... for I am declined into the vale of years,' 3. 3.
279-282) and his position as a soldier contribute to his feelings of inadequacy. Othello admits to Desdemona that he doesn't have 'those soft parts of conversation' possessed by well-bred Venetian noblemen, those to which (as a senator's daughter) she has become acclimated (3. 3. 280-281). Othello's speech (1. 3.
130-172) also conveys his feeling that Desdemona loves him for his exploits and achievements rather than for his mind. Othello apparently feels a constant responsibility to prove to Desdemona (through his heroic deeds) tha the is worthy of her love. It is my opinion that Othello is a man governed by a subconscious need or impulse to believe ideas rather than reason. In believing Iago's lie, Othello apparently is controlled by his aforementioned inferiority complex -- his feeling that he just doesn't measure up to (young, suave, and of course, white) nobleman Michael Casio in Desdemona's mind. Othello is more naturally predisposed to believe this 'idea' rather than to engage in rational discourse in an attempt to find the real logic of the situation. It is also unclear weather or not the position of soldier and that of husband can be as two separate role's.
Yet the two seem inextricably intertwined. Military operations are Othello's primary priority. Othello had been a soldier since he was seven years old ('... since these arms of mine had seven years' pith...
they have us'd/ Their dearest action in the tented field'1. 3. 83-85). So Othello was not a newcomer to the battlefield. Yet, Othello encounters a battlefield the likes of which he has never seen when he marries Desdemona and enters Venetian society -- the rules are different, the enemy has more cunning, and words are used for weapons. Military service and marriage are not incompatible -- Othello has the potential to make a perfectly suitable husband (as well as lover) to Desdemona.
Othello only self-destructs because he and his inferiority complex fall victim to the duplicitous and vengeful Iago on society's battlefield. Perhaps Othello's precipitous change from ordered general to chaotic killer occurs because he is black. Africans were starting to appear in London at the time of Shakespeare and were viewed with suspicion, to say the least. Itis not inconceivable that Shakespeare exploited this popular fear of the nature of these black Africans and portrayed Othello as a vengeful savage. Is Othello noble minority with jealousy as his single fatal flaw, or is he an over-reacher whose pride causes his ultimate downfall? I don't believe he is.
He is an outsider who has tried to believe he has been fully integrated in a society he really knows only tolerates him. He could hardly believe that Desdemona would love him from the beginning, and it actually makes more sense to him that she would love Casio than that she loves him. Iago plays on this insecurity by presenting his lies as more believable than reality. Othello's flaw is that he loves Desdemona blindly and unrealistically. For that reason, Iago knows that such a naive man as Othello who loves his wife in this way can be corrupted. In Act 2, Scene 3, Iago speaks of Othello's relationship with Desdemona and joyously proclaims that Othello's 'soul is 'd to her love/ That she my make, unmake, do what she list, / Even asher appetite shall play the god/ With his weak function' (351-54).
Iago is absolutely determined to pervert this man who has declared that he will deny his wife nothing. Iago is certain that Othello can be corrupted simply because of his idealistic love for Desdemona. Othello's inclination to trust Iago is easily perceived, as I have already noted (' The Moor already changes with my poison' (3. 3. 325).
Iago almost assumes here the role of a Frankenstein-kind of doctor, creating and delighting in the making of a monster. Readers hearts respond greatly to the final breakdown of Othello's once ordered existence as he desperately clings to the one thing that seems certain to him: Iago's sincere friendship: 'O brave Iago, honest and just, / Thou hast such noble sense. .' (5. 1. 31-32).
In this tragedy, Othello is torn by a terrible dilemma, whether he can trust his new bride or whether he can trust his ensign. Why does he choose to trust the latter? Time after time, Othello fails to see through the machinations of Iago. Othello trusts too easily. Iago is a military man; Othello is used to dealing with men on the battlefield, men whom he must trust and, moreover, Iago has a well known reputation for honesty. In order to disguise his deep disappointment and conceal his plans for revenge, Iago begins early in the play to reinforce his image as an honest, loyal soldier. In Act 1, Scene 2, for example, in a bit of boasting, Iago says that ' in the trade of war I have slain men, /Yet do I hold it very stuff o' th " conscience/ To do no contrived murder.
I lack iniquity... .' (1-3). This is an outright lie, but he has just come onstage with Othello, and he is saying this for his generals benefit, posing as the rough and ready, good hearted soldier. In the same speech, he alludes to having had the opportunity to kill Rodrigo, a man who has said evil things about Othello: 'Nine or ten times/I'd thought to have york'd him here under the ribs' (4-5). Clearly to me, Iago is lying about what he would actually have done, yet he wants to show that he is a loyal man of action, but one who would not kill impulsively.
This, he is sure, will appeal to Othello, a professional military man.