In the play The Tragedy of Othello, Othello is the main character alongside his wife, Desdemona, his ensign, Iago and his lieutenant, Cassio. The dominant themes portrayed in the play include love, jealousy and betrayal. The play attains its climax when Othello commits suicide after he learns that the events that unfolded before he killed his wife were because of Iago behavior. The question is therefore raised whether Othello is a man of honor, or a violent man under the circumstances that happen, and this forms the main part of this essay. Othello displays violent tendencies although naturally he is not inclined to using violence as an answer to his problems. This essay attempts to explore the traits of Othello and identify his personality according to violence in the play. Othello is a man of honor as he usually acts in a rational manner even when faced with unpleasant situations, but due to Iago’s manipulation, he is driven to the brink of sanity and he therefore reacts violently.
When the malicious plan by Iago reaches its peak, it makes Othello overact in a violent way, contrary to his normal behavior. The job description of a military man demands trust in one’s colleagues, and this is the exact trust that Othello has in Iago. When Othello is presented with the story of his wife having an affair, he quickly turns to Iago for advice. In that confused state, Iago manipulates Othello into believing that the story is true. The confirmation of the story from his trusted ensign cultivates the idea of using violence to avenge his betrayal. This is seen when he curses his wife “damn her, lewd minx, damn her, damn her! “. He then instructs Iago to accompany him in the scene where he says “…Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw to furnish me with some swift means of death far that fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant…” In this case, Othello appears as a naturally violent man as he acts on the rumors given by a close confidant.
Othello can also be said to be an honorable man who falls prey to the manipulative ways of Iago in the way he handles the claims from Desdemona’s father, Brabantio. Brabantio is deceived into confronting Othello with malicious claims that he has bewitched Desdemona into falling in love with him (Othello). By saying that Othello is naturally violent, it means that he would have reacted violently to the accusations. Instead, he allows the court system at Venice to solve the conflict after which he leaves for the battle accompanied by his wife who also believes him. Othello handles the situation in a diplomatic manner by saying, “What if I do obey?How may the duke be therewith satisfied?” This instance also displays the docile nature of Othello that would negate any claims of him being naturally violent.
Othello has qualities that set him aside from most of the other men in the play. He possesses nobility that gives him a high level of respect, drawing many people towards his side including Desdemona. During the trials, the senators pay considerable attention to his testimony as they refer to him as the “…valiant Moor”. These and other similar comments show Othello’s character as a leader, a disciplined man as well as a respectable figure in the society. Othello not only possesses formidable character but also dignity. When in the presence of the Dukes of Venice, Othello says “…that 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 the extent, no more. Rude I am in my speech, and little blessed with the soft phrase of peace…..” In this speech, Othello comes out as a man who is only manipulated by Iago to become violent (Shakespeare 14).
Othello possesses a calm, respectful and polite nature amid all the conflicts, betrayals and deceit that happens in his surroundings. Most of the accusations are made in his home, yet he does not attack anyone. When Desdemona’s father approaches Othello, he is accompanied by his officers who are armed. This signifies their attention to employ violence. Iago dutifully warns Othello “…it is Brabantio. General, be careful. He comes with bad intentions.” Othello answers him by requesting Brabantio and his men to keep their weapons away and proposes that they would agree faster if they hold dialogue. In this situation, Othello shows utmost respect to the man who comes to harm him by mentioning the age differences and the dignity it held. Even after Brabantio insults Othello by calling him a thief and a heinous black man, Othello maintains a level head and contains his anger.
While the argument supporting the calm and graceful nature of Othello is somewhat convincing; nevertheless Othello also has instances in which he exhibits violent behavior. In Act III, scene III, Othello exhibits rage when Iago informs him of the purported affair between Cassio and his wife. The immediate reaction by Othello is to pounce on Iago while he barrages the ensign with angry questions on the promiscuity of his wife. In the struggle, Othello shouts “Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore, be sure if it. Give me the ocular proof. Or by the worth of mine eternal soul, thou hadst been better have been born a dog. Than answer my waked wrath…” Othello exhibits violent tendencies that could validate largely that he was naturally a violent man (Appignanesi et al 245).
The analysis of the play commences with a brief synopsis of the major events and the storyline. The core of the essay features the justified investigation of Othello’s behavior based on two parameters: whether he was a victim of manipulation or he was naturally predisposed to being violent. The analysis of Othello as was written by Shakespeare presents various dominant themes that are of value to the reader. The betrayal, deceit and romance that is depicted in the play that surrounds Othello, Iago and other characters provides a good platform upon which other writers can emulate in writing exemplary works.Work cited
Appignanesi, Richard, Ryuta Osada, and William Shakespeare. Othello. New York: Amulet Books, 2009. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and M. R. Ridley. Othello. London: Methuen, 1958. Print.