Othello Essay, Research Paper
Irony in Othello
One of the main themes that runs throughout William Shakespeare?s ?Othello? is that of irony. Both verbal irony and dramatic irony are found in the play. This irony is used to show the audience outside views on characters and situations. In Shakespeare?s ?Othello?, irony is present in the lives of Othello, Desdemona, and Iago to further the development of their character and the plot.
Irony is present in Othello?s life in numerous cases. The play centers on the irony that Othello believes Iago is his friend, and Iago is informing him about Desdemona?s suspected affair out of friendship. Iago is actually plotting against Othello the entire time as seen when he says ?I hate the Moor. My cause is hearted; thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him? (I,iii,348-349). An example of verbal irony occurs when Othello is speaking to the Duke and says ?Rude am I in speech? (I,iii,83). Here Othello is anything but rude. Making this situation even more ironic, Othello goes on to say that it is his storytelling that has won Desdemona over. When confronting the Senate about Brabantio?s accusations, Othello addresses them as ?Most potent, grave, and reverend signors, / My very noble and approved good masters? (I,iii,78-79). Othello continues by telling what he has done saying ?I have ta?en away this old man?s daughter, / It is most true; true, I have married her. / The very head and front of my offending / Hath this extent, no more? (I,iii,80-83). Othello is telling the worst that he can be accused of. This is ironic because Brabantio has made many accusations, but the only thing Othello has done is marry Desdemona. Another ironic situation deals with Cassio being second in command under Othello. Cassio?s rank means ?place-holder? and ironically, Othello begins to believe that Cassio holds his place in Desdemona?s heart. Even more ironic is in the end when Cassio takes Othello?s place as governor of Cyprus after Othello dies. The last ironic situation is dealing with the final outcome of Desdemona and Othello. Out of jealousy of the suspected affair, Othello kills Desdemona along with himself. This is ironic in that such a brave and noble man could commit such a horrible crime.
Desdemona encounters irony in two distinct situations. The first is when her father, Brabantio, is upset with the fact that she marries outside of her race. Brabantio confronts Desdemona and she says ?I am hitherto your daughter. But here?s my husband, / and so much duty as my mother showed / To you, preferring you before her father? (I,iii,187-189). The irony in Desdemona?s remark is that Brabantio is mad at her for betraying him, but his wife, Desdemona?s mother, also betrayed her own father to marry him. The second ironic situation that Desdemona faces is when she sings the willow song while trying to sleep. This song cannot leave her mind, and she remembers a maid that once sang the same song. Desdemona says ?She was in love, and he she loved proved mad / And did forsake her. She had a song of willow? (IV,iii,28-29) and continues with ?she died singing it? (IV,iii,31). Ironically, Desdemona also dies this night after singing the willow song just as the maid did.
Iago?s character is surrounded by irony. Dramatic irony is seen when Iago and Cassio discuss the worth of reputation. Cassio is upset because he has lost his reputation as a good lieutenant. Iago steps in and says ?As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some bodily wound. There is more sense in that than reputation.? (II,iii,239-240). Iago is telling Cassio that reputation means nothing. This dramatic irony is seen with Iago?s reputation as being honest, which gains him success in his manipulations. Another ironic situation is that Iago is ranked third below Othello. This is ironic because he is the deceiver. Iago knows of this irony and is amused by it. Iago says ?Must show out a flag and sign of love, / which is indeed but sign? (I,I,157-158). Iago likes this irony but does not like his rank because he is behind Cassio. The final and major irony is how Iago is seen by all as being an honest man. This could not be farther from the truth. When plotting to break up others he uses the phrase ?As I am an honest man? (II,ii,239). This phrase, along with many others, does not portray the true feelings of Iago. The irony of Iago as being seen as an honest man is at extremes when discussing Othello. Othello is being manipulated the worst by Iago, yet still sees Iago as honest, even more than the others do. Iago is even described by Othello as ?fellow?s of exceeding honesty? (III,iii,274). This allows Iago to manipulate Othello into believing that his own wife is having an affair without any concrete evidence.
Shakespeare develops the characters and the plot through the use of irony in the lives of Othello, Desdemona, and Iago. In Othello one sees that both verbal and dramatic irony are important factors. This technique provides the audience with a better insight on what is going on in situations along with the characters? personalities.