Othello Essay, Research Paper
The tragedy Othello written by William Shakespeare shows several types of
Contrast. In this tragedy, each main character is contrasted with another character
who is the complete opposite of them. Three specific contrasts shown in
Othello are Iago and Cassio, Iago and Desdemona, and Iago?s internal and external
appearances. All three of these contrasts are perfectly derived to be complete
The first contrast is Iago and Cassio. Iago, since the beginning of the play,
was very angry at Othello for appointing ?A great arithmetician, one Michael
Cassio, a Florentine? as his second in command instead of Iago himself (I. I. 20-21).
Iago was obviously a selfish person because he only cared about himself and did
not bother to realize why Cassio had been given a higher rank. Cassio on the other
hand, was always there to help and serve Othello in any way. He was a generous
person. For example, when Desdemona was supposed to sail to Cyprus to meet
Othello, Cassio stayed behind with Desdemona and accompanied her to Cyprus to
make sure she got there safely. Cassio did what any gentleman would have done.
He was a loyal soldier and would have done anything for Othello. But Iago was an
evil person with no remorse whatsoever for all of the conniving, devious acts he
was to commit later on in the play. He was a deceitful person who was going to
betray Othello, a person who relied greatly on him. But not only that, Iago was
also going to destroy the lives of other innocent people. Iago was as cynical as the
devil and should not have been trusted. He used ?Others to further his own
darkness and satisfy his? thirst for evil (Kernan 84).
Iago himself admitted to being a liar. In the beginning of the play, Iago
stated ?I am not what I am? (I. I. 71). By saying this, Iago was confessing that he
was a liar and that he was conscious of everything he was doing and was about to
do. The second contrast is Iago and Desdemona, and obviously, Iago already proved
himself to be a dishonest person. So it is only logical that Iago?s opposite in the
play would be an honest person, which is Desdemona. Desdemona was a person
who was truthful, innocent, pure, and always ?Sought to serve and love others?
(Kernan 84). Throughout the play, Desdemona proclaimed the truth to Othello that
she had not cheated on him. Even though Othello killed Desdemona, she was a
person who always spoke the truth and died saying the truth. Iago however, was
the exact opposite of Desdemona. He was an evil, malicious, unremorseful, lying,
and conniving man. He stood for all of the bad things, while Desdemona stood for
all of the things that were good. While Desdemona always thought of ?The best of
everyone?, Iago thought the worst in everyone and often used ?Imagery of animals
and physical functions to express? his opinion of mankind (Kernan 84). When
Desdemona showed emotions and was idealistic about things, Iago was just plain
cynical (Kernan 84). Desdemona was like a life force that thrived for order, growth,
and light in her community while Iago was the anti-life force that sought death and
destruction for the world (Kernan 84).
Iago, the person who caused all of the chaos and misfortune in the tragedy,
Othello, obviously had two sides to himself. As the next contrast will explain, Iago?s
internal and external appearances were both very deceiving. Iago?s external
appearance seemed to be just as honest as ?The true and loyal soldier Cassio?
(Kernan 82). But Iago managed to really fool everyone. No one suspected that Iago
was going to double-cross any of them, but then again, why should they have
suspected. Iago seemed just as honest and loyal as Cassio, so really, there was no
suspecting. The only person that might have had a hint would have been Othello.
Since Othello had not given Iago the rank that he wanted, Othello should have
suspected a little jealousy or anger. But since Othello was so gullible, he bought
right into Iago?s act. Beneath Iago?s ?Exterior of the plain soldier?, there was a
?world of diabolism so intense? that it defied rational explanation (Kernan 79).
Iago?s internal side was as deceitful as the devil. He managed to fool everyone into
thinking that he was an honest person and did not care if he ruined their lives as
long as he got what he wanted. But his efforts proved to be worthless because in
the end, Iago did not receive what he had sought out for throughout the entire
In conclusion, the tragedy Othello is a play that was well written that shows
how contrast should really be perceived. Each main character was given an exact
opposite in the play and each person was setup so well that that the contrasts work
out to be perfect.
Kernan, Alvin B. ?Othello: An Introduction.? The Tragedy of Othello. Ed. Alvin B.
Kernan. New York: New American Library, 1963.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York: Pocket Books, 1993.