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Othello Essay Research Paper OTHELLO ACT I

Othello Essay, Research Paper ^OTHELLO: ACT I Shakespeare’s story of jealousy, betrayal, and murderbegins on a street in Venice in the middle of the night. Roderigo has just learned that Desdemona, the womanhe loves, has eloped with Othello, a Moorish general hired to lead the Venetian army against the Turks.Roderigo is angry at Iago, the young Venetian he’s been paying to play “matchmaker-” for him andDesdemona.

Othello Essay, Research Paper

^OTHELLO: ACT I Shakespeare’s story of jealousy, betrayal, and murderbegins on a street in Venice in the middle of the night. Roderigo has just learned that Desdemona, the womanhe loves, has eloped with Othello, a Moorish general hired to lead the Venetian army against the Turks.Roderigo is angry at Iago, the young Venetian he’s been paying to play “matchmaker-” for him andDesdemona. But Iago has other problems. He’s furious with Othello for having chosen Michael Cassio as hisLieutenant instead of himself, who has served loyally as Othello’s ensign. Iago hides an evil nature under amask of honesty, and he delights in the suffering of others. With his jealousy as a partial excuse, he sets out toarrange Othello’s downfall. Roderigo and Iago awaken Brabantio, a Venetian Senator and Desdemona’sfather, to tell him that his daughter has run off with Othello. Despite the respect Brabantio has for Othello as asoldier, he is suspicious of him personally because he is a foreigner. Iago convinces Brabantio that Othelloseduced Desdemona using charms and spells. Iago finds Othello at the inn where he and Desdemona arespending their honeymoon. Iago warns him that Brabantio’s angry, but Othello feels he has done no wrong. Agroup of men, led by Cassio, arrives to summon Othello to the Senate for an emergency war council.Immediately following, Brabantio arrives with his supporters to put Othello in prison. Othello calmly suggeststhat they all go to the Senate and let the Duke decide who is in the right. In the Senate chambers, Othelloexplains how he and Desdemona fell in love: as he told her of his adventures throughout the world, she listenedwith awe and sympathy. Their mutual attraction was undeniable, and it happened without charms or potions.Desdemona is sent for, and she not only confirms Othello’s story but pledges her love for him. Brabantio,seeing that he’s defeated, is devastated. Othello is sent to Cyprus to fight the Turks. Desdemona will join himthere, accompanied by Iago and his wife, Emilia. Meanwhile, Iago formulates a plan capitalizing on Othello’sopen and trusting nature and Cassio’s good looks. The details of the plan are still tentative, but Iago’sobjectives are firm: to see Othello ruined and to win Cassio’s job as lieutenant. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: ACT IIThe war ends suddenly and unexpectedly when the Turkish fleet retreats, overpowered by a storm. Othelloarrives and is joyfully reunited with Desdemona. The Moor calls for a celebration in honor of his marriage andthe end of the war. That night, Iago urges Roderigo (who has come to Cyprus in the hopes of winningDesdemona after all) to pick a fight with Cassio and get the young lieutenant in so much trouble that he willlose his job. Iago gets Cassio drunk, Roderigo starts an argument that leads to a sword fight, and Montano,the retiring governor of Cyprus, is injured trying to stop the brawl. Othello is awakened by the ruckus andpromptly fires Cassio. The humiliated lieutenant is encouraged by Iago’s advice to approach Desdemona andbeg for his job. Cassio doesn’t realize that this is all part of Iago’s plan. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: ACT III Cassiogoes to Desdemona, who promises to help. Seeing them together, Othello–prompted by Iago–feels thestirrings of jealousy. When Desdemona asks her husband to give back Cassio’s job, Iago quickly points out toOthello that her behavior is indeed suspicious. Othello demands that Iago prove his insinuations regardingCassio and Desdemona. Unfortunately for her, Desdemona has dropped the handkerchief given to her byOthello. Iago “plants” the handkerchief in Cassio’s room and cites it as the “proof” Othello demands. Cassio,suspecting nothing, gives the handkerchief to Bianca, his mistress. Meanwhile, Iago tells Othello that he hasseen the handkerchief in Cassio’s hands. When Othello asks Desdemona to show him the handkerchief, shelies and says she still has it, but can’t show it to him. Othello, convinced of her guilt, resolves that she andCassio will die. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: ACT IV Though a lot has happened, Iago has just begun. He arrangesfor Othello to eavesdrop as he maneuvers Cassio into talking about Bianca’s love for him. Othello thinks he’sreferring to Desdemona. In a fury, Othello vows to strangle Desdemona that very night. He asks Iago to killCassio. Lodovico, a relative of Desdemona, arrives from Venice. He brings a letter from the Venetian Senateasking Othello to return to Venice, and giving Cassio control of Cyprus. Desdemona is delighted by the news,and Othello, thinking her joy is for Cassio, hits her in front of their guests. That night, Othello tries to pressureEmilia into admitting that Desdemona has cheated on him, but Emilia swears that her mistress is pure andinnocent. Othello refuses to believe her. Iago persuades Roderigo that killing Cassio is the best way for him towin Desdemona. With premonitions of death on her mind, Desdemona prepares for bed.^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: ACT V Roderigo attacks Cassio, but only wounds him. Cassio, in turn, manages towound Roderigo, and Iago, hidden in the dark, stabs Cassio in the leg. Cassio’s cries bring Lodovico andothers running from their rooms. Cassio identifies Roderigo as his attacker, and Iago, pretending to avengethe lieutenant, kills Roderigo to prevent him from confessing their plot. In Desdemona’s bedroom, Othello looksat her sleeping figure with a combination of love and hate. She awakens, and he announces his intention to killher for her acts of adultery. Desdemona protests that she is innocent, but Othello smothers her, certain that themurder is an act of justice. Emilia comes in with news of Roderigo’s death. Othello admits to having killedDesdemona, but says he had to because she was unfaithful. The grief-stricken Emilia protests, until Othellotells her Iago told him of Desdemona’s affair with Cassio. Emilia cries out, and Lodovico, Iago, and otherscome running. When Othello cites the handkerchief as proof of his wife’s infidelity, Emilia finally realizes thather husband’s evil. Iago kills her to protect himself, then makes a run for it. Montano and Gratiano rush out tochase Iago, and when they return with the unrepentant villain, Othello tries to stab him. He only wounds him,though, and Lodovico orders Othello’s sword be taken from him. Lodovico tells of letters found in Roderigo’spocket linking Iago with the conspiracy to kill Cassio. With his last words, Roderigo also accuses Iago. Afterbidding those around him to remember him as “one that loved not wisely, but too well,” Othello stabs himselfwith a dagger he had hidden in his cloak. Kissing Desdemona, he dies. Lodovico takes charge, orderingCassio to govern Cyprus and sentencing Iago to death. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: OTHELLO Shakespeare’stragic hero is a strong, powerful, dignified Moor. He has come to Venice as a soldier-of-fortune, hired by thestate to help Venice win their war against the Turks. He spends nine months in Venice, where his leadershipand kindness have made him a popular general. Although born a pagan (a non-Christian) he has converted toChristianity. While in Venice, he spends many evenings in the home of Brabantio, a Venetian Senator. Heentertains Brabantio and his guests with stories of his travels around the world. He tells marvelous and exotictales of strange people with fantastic customs and unusual appearances. His stories attract the attention ofBrabantio’s beautiful daughter, Desdemona, who listens to his words with such eagerness and sympathy thathe falls in love with her. She returns his love, and they elope, knowing that Brabantio would disapprove of hisdaughter marrying an older man of another race, class, and country. To hear Othello’s story up until theelopement with Desdemona is almost to hear a fairy tale–the story of a handsome warrior sweeping abeautiful young princess off her feet, away from the clutches of her possessive father, and on to happiness.One reader has said that it’s almost as if Othello has appeared from wonderland; his stories of his past arethat rich and magical. Shakespeare, however, has made Othello a human being, not a character from a fairytale. Unlike other Shakespearean tragic heroes, Othello is not a prince or a king, although he is descendedfrom “men of royal siege” (rank). In Venice he is seen as a professional soldier, a fine and courageous one,but still a hired general. By placing him closer to the common man, Shakespeare makes Othello easier toidentify with, more sympathetic. His story could be our story, and his faults our faults. Othello’s good qualitieseasily outweigh the bad. We know he’s powerful, brave, and authoritative; the respect given to him by theVenetian Senate tells us that. He’s also gentle and romantic. The story he tells of courting Desdemona is richand poetic, and his early scenes with his wife show him full of love and devotion. Cassio’s loyalty to him showsthat Othello is well-liked by his soldiers. When Cassio feels he has lost Othello’s respect, he is broken-hearted.There are also qualities about Othello that have a good side and a bad side. One of these is his open andtrusting nature. Othello believes that others are honest and sincere until he has proof that they’re not. Thisopen-hearted love of his fellow man makes Othello an attractive and generous friend. But it also leaves himsusceptible to Iago’s scheming; Iago knows his plan will work because Othello trusts him and has no reason tosuspect that his loyal ensign would scheme against him. Othello is also naive, particularly about women. Hesays: For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith Tiff now some nine moons wasted, they have usedTheir dearest action in the tented field; Act I, Scene iii, lines 83-86 Having spent most of his life in armycamps, Othello knows little of women and love. This naivete has charm in the first act, where the strong andpowerful general admits to being a shy and cautious lover. In the third act, however, Othello’s inexperienceallows Iago to convince him that he doesn’t understand Venetian women, that they are known for cheating ontheir husbands. As a professional soldier, Othello has gained a strong reputation. The discipline he haslearned has earned him the respect of the Venetians, who badly need his help. When he fires Cassio, it’s tomake an example of him to the rest of the soldiers. And he refuses to reinstate him as a matter of principle.Sadly, it is this strict code of honor–both military and private–that forces Othello to kill Desdemona. When aman’s honor is lost, according to this code, he must win it back. For Othello, this means Desdemona’s death,which he sees as an act of justice, not of revenge. As painful as it is for him, he doesn’t see that he has achoice. He is a soldier, trained to live by the rules. The last of these “double-edged” virtues is Othello’spowerful poetic imagination. The stories he weaves for Desdemona are rich and impressive. As Othello retellsthe story of his courtship in the Senate office, the Duke is so struck that he understands how his daughter waswon by such stories. Othello can weave magic with his tales and transform the truth into poetry. Yet this richimagination has a handicap: it makes Othello vulnerable to Iago’s stories of Desdemona’s infidelities. Othello’simagination runs wild with Iago’s invented details and “proofs.” The most common view of Othello’s “tragicflaw” is that he’s a jealous person who allows jealousy to prevail over good sense. But is jealousy Othello’sproblem? Or is he, as he says, a man who is not easily made jealous? Is this the tragedy of a man not jealousby nature, who is made jealous by the cruel manipulations of Iago? Read Act III, Scene iii carefully, and judgefor yourself whether Othello is by nature jealous. Othello is also a passionate man, and this makes himexciting. But he admits that he has a fiery temper (Act II, Scene iii, lines 207-212). Iago capitalizes on Othello’sexcitability. Once Iago has convinced the Moor that Desdemona’s having an affair with Cassio, Othello movesto his deadly revenge quickly and single-mindedly. Always remember that Othello is a stranger. Despite hisstrength and pride, he is never completely at home, and is constantly aware that others consider him aforeigner. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: IAGO What is Iago’s motivation in ruining Othello’s life? This question haspuzzled readers and scholars for centuries. Iago is a fascinating, complex character who can’t be analyzed insimple terms. Like many people you meet, Iago can be mysterious and baffling. Just when you think youunderstand him, he does or says something completely mystifying. Shakespeare was obviously fascinated bythe man–he gave Iago more lines than any other character in his work–more than Hamlet, King Lear, orOthello. Here are some of the facts we know about Iago: He is a 28-year-old Venetian who is Othello’s”ancient” or “ensign,” a comparatively low-ranked commissioned officer. He seems to have no history of dirtydeeds; in fact, almost every character in the play calls him “honest.” (The word is applied to Iago 15 times inthe play.) He’s married to Emilia, a salty outspoken woman; they seem to tolerate each other. If theirs was alove match, we’re never told, and it’s difficult to guess. Let’s look at some possibilities that might explainingIago’s behavior. 1. He loves evil for evil’s sake. Some characters in Elizabethan drama are just thoroughly bad;they were born that way. From this point of view, Iago needs no motive. He simply loves to see people suffer.2. He is motivated by jealousy. In the play he expresses openly his jealousy of Cassio and Othello. He isjealous of Cassio’s job and of Othello’s success as a soldier and with Desdemona. 3. He is seeking revenge.The rumors that Othello has slept with Emilia and the possibility that Cassio has also slept with her hurt Iago’spride and make him want to see both men ruined. 4. He is motivated by a force he simply doesn’t understand.The reasons he offers throughout the play are often contradictory. Iago snatches at whatever excuse he can tojustify his horrible behavior. As you look over the text, try to decide which of these (or other) reasons explainIago. Remember that his motives may overlap. If there were a simple way to explain Iago, he wouldn’t be theintriguing character that has appalled and thrilled audiences for hundreds of years. Iago does have qualities onwhich everyone can agree. Here are some of them: 1. He is a wonderful actor. For years, he has fooled

everyone into thinking he’s honest. Even if Emilia suspects him of being a rascal, she has no idea that he’struly evil. You’ve seen newspaper reports about the mild-mannered person who suddenly is discovered to be amass murderer; neighbors who are interviewed often say, “He was the nicest person, so polite and friendly! Ican’t believe he was capable of such a crime!” Friends of Iago would have said the same thing about him. 2.He is amoral. An amoral person has no moral standards at all. Iago never thinks twice about his behavior. Heplunges ahead without a twinge of guilt or regret. Even when the innocent Desdemona becomes a victim of theplot, Iago has no pangs of conscience. He moves to satisfy himself, no matter who suffers. And he goes to hisdeath without a word of regret! 3. He is highly intelligent. Iago plots his actions knowing how everyone willrespond. His insight into the behavior of others is practically perfect; he can adapt himself to the personality ofwhoever he is with–from Roderigo to Desdemona to Cassio to Othello, knowing just how to “play” him or her.Ironically, the one person he misreads is Emilia; he doesn’t suspect her loyalty to Desdemona outweighs herfeelings for him. 4. He is an egotist. His opinion of everyone except himself is very low. He laughs at Othello’strusting nature, thinks Roderigo is a gullible fool, treats Emilia as a shrew, and scorns Cassio’s honest virtues.The only person he respects is himself, and everything he does in the play is for the satisfaction of his ownego. 5. He is a cynic. He shows contempt for all conventional standards of decency. He is loyal only when itserves his own needs. He delights in dishonesty. He doesn’t believe in romantic love, attributing it to a sexualitch. His opinion of the human race is so low that he allows innocent people to die without a word of regret. 6.He is extremely proud. Suspicions that Othello has slept with Emilia eat away at him. Othello’s appointment ofCassio makes him furious. Iago sees anything that threatens his self-esteem as a personal insult, which mustbe avenged. He isn’t angered by the thought of Othello in bed with Emilia because he loves her, but becauseanother man has gotten the best of him! Villains in literature are always a source of scary fun. Shakespeare,fortunately, has created in Iago more than just a villain. Iago is a complex character who combines enormousintelligence with an impulse to see others suffer. We may get a vicarious thrill as we watch him operate, butfeel a great sense of relief when justice is finally served. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: DESDEMONA As a youngVenetian woman, Desdemona has lived a sheltered life in her father’s home. She falls in love, probably for thefirst time, with a man several years older than herself, from a faraway land, and of a different race. She’scaptivated by the man’s stories and wishes she were a man so that she might also have an exciting life.Knowing that her father would disapprove of her marriage to such a man, she elopes with Othello and goeswith him to the war zone. Desdemona’s portrait is that of a lovely, courageous, gentle woman, deeply in lovewith her husband. Is she a perfect character, free from flaws? Most Elizabethans wouldn’t have thought so.They would have seen her as disobedient and disrespectful. A nice young lady simply didn’t marry behind herfather’s back. They would have shared Brabantio’s disapproval of her marriage to a man of a different class,age, and race. And when Desdemona pleads with Othello to reinstate Cassio, Elizabethans would haveconsidered her a pushy, interfering wife. This is not to say that Shakespeare’s audiences weren’t moved byDesdemona’s death. It’s just that their opinion of her was influenced by social customs no longer current.Today, her behavior toward Brabantio, though perhaps insensitive, is forgivable; her begging Othello, even if itcomes close to nagging, is hardly a major flaw. If Iago represents evil in the world, Desdemona may representthe good that evil often destroys. She is guilty only of loving her husband too much. She has no defenseagainst his terrible accusations because she is young and inexperienced. There’s been no room in hercloistered world for the kind of thoughts Othello thinks she is hiding. She doesn’t even believe that there arewomen who are unfaithful to their husbands! If you look at what other characters say about Desdemona, you’llfind that everyone praises her innocence, her goodness, her generosity. She risks her husband’s angerbecause she promised Cassio she would help him. Desdemona inspires such devotion in Emilia that she isprepared to die for her. Even on her deathbed, she won’t betray her husband. Rather than have him accused ofthe murder, she takes responsibility for it. Is Desdemona a believable character? Is there anyone who can beso self-sacrificing? Shakespeare is careful to give her a few minor flaws–her treatment of Brabantio, herstubborn persistence about Cassio, her lie about the handkerchief–to make her realistic. But our overallimpression of her is highly favorable, it’s her very innocence that makes her a victim of circumstance. Howcould such a person know about or prepare herself for the likes of Iago? ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: CASSIOCassio is an attractive, likeable young man who seems to be a good choice for Othello’s lieutenant. He’s loyalto Othello, and is crushed when he errs and Othello fires him. It is partly Cassio’s determination to make thingsright with Othello that allows Iago to succeed: Cassio tries to win Othello’s favor by going through Desdemona;it’s this friendship Iago misrepresents to Othello. Cassio has many youthful faults: he’s rash, impatient, and notvery serious about his relationship with Bianca. He also can’t handle his liquor. Yet the offenses Iago suspectshim of–sleeping with Emilia, having an affair with Desdemona–are all in Iago’s mind. The innocent Cassioalmost becomes a victim of Iago’s treachery. Roderigo and Iago almost succeed in killing him. At the end ofthe play, however, Cassio is awarded control of Cyprus, and we believe that the island is in good hands. Hissurvival tells us that order and decency will survive, despite the price that has been paid. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO:EMILIA It’s astonishing how quickly our opinion of Emilia changes. When she first appears, she seems littlemore than coarse, hard-edged, and world-weary. Her opinion of men is very low–after all, she says, it’s owingto men’s faults that women cheat on them as much as they do. We’re also distressed when Emilia findsDesdemona’s handkerchief and doesn’t return it to her. She’s merely following Iago’s instructions, and can’tknow what he has in mind, but still, she’s being dishonest. However, she redeems herself when she discoversDesdemona near death. Emilia’s grief and her willingness to die for the truth tell you that her rough exterior hashidden a good and generous heart (at least where Desdemona is concerned). As one critic said aboutEmilia’s last moments: “If she lived forever she never could soar a higher pitch, and nothing in her life becameher like the losing it.” ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: RODERIGO Does Roderigo fall into Othello’s clutches becausehe’s foolish or because he’s unlucky? This is a difficult question to answer. All we know of Roderigo’s past isthat Desdemona rejected him when he tried to court her. There’s no question that Roderigo makes somestupid assumptions: 1) that he can “buy” Desdemona; 2) that she is having an affair with Cassio just becauseIago tells him it is true; 3) that killing Cassio will make Desdemona turn to him for love. We watch Roderigowith amazement. We wonder when he’s going to realize that Desdemona doesn’t love him and never will. But,in his defense, Roderigo may be just unlucky to have fallen into Iago’s clutches. As we know, Iago is a mastermanipulator. He is able to deceive people who are stronger and smarter than Roderigo. And remember thatRoderigo is a man in love and particularly susceptible to being fooled. If you’ve ever had a crush on someone,you know that people in love don’t always think clearly. As Iago convinces him there is hope with Desdemona,Roderigo will do anything he asks. He’s that fixated on her. Do you have sympathy for Roderigo when he’skilled? On one hand, he’s played a role in Iago’s wicked plot. On the other hand, he dies because he wasfooled by someone he trusted. Is Roderigo punished too harshly for his failure to see that Iago is wicked?^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: BRABANTIO Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, is a Venetian Senator. When we firstmeet him, he’s terrified that his only child has been kidnapped by Othello and seduced with drugs and potions.When he learns that Desdemona’s in love with the Moor, he’s bitter and resentful. He accepts defeat, but notgraciously: he won’t allow Desdemona to stay in his house while Othello is in Cyprus, and he warns the Moorthat Desdemona could betray her husband if she betrayed her father. Yet Brabantio is not a villain. He’sdisappointed when his daughter marries a man so different from herself, and hurt when she does so behindhis back. So wounded is he by Desdemona, that when he dies in Act V it’s probably of a broken heart.^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: SETTING It’s not surprising that Shakespeare chose Venice as the setting of a storyfilled with passion, jealousy, and sexual tension. For the Elizabethans, the Italians were a wicked people, livinglives of treachery, murder, and loose morals. When playwrights of the day wanted to portray wickedness, theyoften created Italian characters causing problems in England, or set the plays in Italy. Venice was particularlyexciting to the English. The women there were rumored to be very beautiful, and very interested in making love.Venetian men were considered hot-tempered, aggressive, and easily jealous. An Elizabethan audiencewatching Othello would have been highly suspicious of Desdemona and her behavior. Running off to getmarried behind your father’s back was simply not done. Because Desdemona was Venetian, however,audiences wouldn’t have been too surprised. As for Iago, he probably represented the kind of villainElizabethans thought ran rampant throughout Italy! One interesting note is that the name Iago is Spanish. (TheItalian form is Giacomo.) Shakespeare gave his most evil character a Spanish name, probably because Spainwas England’s worst enemy. Italy may have been the home of romantic, exotic sin, but true evil, according tothe Elizabethans, came from Spain! ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: THEMES The major themes of Othello are 1)appearance and reality, 2) society’s treatment of the outsider; and 3) jealousy. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO:APPEARANCE AND REALITY Can we ever know the truth about a person? Is it possible to know if someoneis lying to us? How can we discover what lies behind the words someone tells us? Shakespeare wasfascinated with these questions. Many of his most evil characters were thought by others in the play to besincere and truthful. In Othello, this theme has its most potent and dramatic realization in the character of Iago.Iago fools everyone in the play into believing he’s honest. No one even suspects him of treachery, until the finalact when Roderigo first realizes how badly he’s been fooled. In short, Iago proves that evil intentions can bemasked behind a facade of honesty. The theme emerges in other characters: Brabantio is deceived byDesdemona’s reaction to Othello, assuming she fears him when she truly loves the Moor. Othello suspects thatDesdemona is unfaithful, despite her innocent looks. Othello also feels he’s being deceived by Cassio, whomhe trusts and who appears loyal. Emilia’s exterior suggests salty indifference, but she turns against herhusband and dies in defence of Desdemona. Even Bianca, who is suspected of dishonesty, is ultimately seenas a sincere and caring woman. And Othello, considered a barbarian by many in the play, is gentle and nobleuntil driven to near-madness by the cruel manipulations of his most trusted “friend.” The inability to judge truefrom false is a human dilemma that we have all faced. In Othello’s case, the dilemma proves fatal.Shakespeare dramatizes the problem by showing the consequences of trusting someone whose mask ofhonesty is perfect, almost to the very last. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: SOCIETY’S TREATMENT OF THEOUTSIDER Everyone has known the feeling of being alienated from a group, whether it’s as the new kid atschool, as a member of an ethnic or religious minority, or as someone who holds an unpopular opinion.Shakespeare points that problem in Othello by making his hero an outsider, one who doesn’t quite belong inthe society in which he lives. From the very beginning, when he’s held in suspicion by a man who accuses himof seducing his daughter with mysterious charms, Othello stands apart from everyone else. As a man ofanother race and from another country, much of the conflict he faces is due to the reigning opinion that hedoesn’t quite belong. Othello’s sensitivity to the issue becomes clear when Iago uses it as proof thatDesdemona couldn’t be faithful to a man so foreign–such a match is “unnatural,” he says. Othello’sself-confidence, once so strong, is easily eroded by Iago’s ability to convince him that he’s inferior to the menof Venice. Shakespeare dramatizes through Othello the tragedy of a man whose insecurities about hisbackground, fed by public opinion, weaken his defenses and allow his worst instincts to take over.^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: JEALOUSY Othello represents how jealousy, particularly sexual jealousy, is one of themost corrupting and destructive of emotions. It is jealousy (fed by his innate sense of evil) that prompts Iago toplot Othello’s downfall; jealousy, too, is the tool that Iago uses to arouse Othello’s passions. Roderigo andBianca demonstrate jealousy at various times in the play, and Emilia demonstrates that she too knows theemotion well. Only Desdemona and Cassio, the true innocents of the story, seem beyond its clutches.Shakespeare used the theme in other plays, but nowhere else is it portrayed as quite the “green-eyed”monster it is in this play. Since it is an emotion that everyone shares, we watch its destructive influence on thecharacters with sympathy and horror. ^^^^^^^^^^OTHELLO: THE SOURCE OF OTHELLO Shakespearedelighted in taking old stories, adding his own particular brand of genius, and creating something new–andbetter. He based Othello on a story in a collection of tales, called Hecatommithi, written in 1565 by GiraldiCinthio, an Italian. A short synopsis of the original story gives some indication of how Shakespeare merelyborrowed stories and made them his own. The heroine, called Disdemona, falls in love with a Moor. Her familyagrees reluctantly to her marriage with him, and the couple lives together in Venice for awhile. The Moor (givenno name) is sent to command the troops in Cyprus. The Moor and Disdemona travel there

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