Othello - Theme - Lack of Self-Awareness

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Theme – Lack of Self-Awareness

Definition of the theme and its development through the play:

* In Othello, characters not only deceive others, but deceive themselves. They lack self-awareness in that they fail to see or acknowledge their own flaws and weaknesses, and they never see themselves as completely as others perceive them. The truth is likely to destroy either their contentment or their perceptions of themselves

* This theme is mainly developed through the major characters of the play. They all employ this unconscious, protective self-delusion strategy that makes life possible. Through their susceptibility to Iago’s plotting, and the unfolding of their characters, their lack of self-awareness is demonstrated

Characters involved in highlighting this theme:
OTHELLO:
* He fails to acknowledge his most fatal flaw – jealousy. He cannot believe that he can be capable of such baseness, and makes all kinds of rationalisations and justifications for believing in Desdemona’s apparent infidelity

* His lack of self-awareness is due to his insecurities and lack of confidence in his relationship with Desdemona, which threatens his pride and honour “I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove;

And on the proof, there is no more but this:
Away at once with love or jealousy!”
His vulnerability is shown by his self-reassurance. He easily indulges in self-denial when jealousy is clearly overtaking him. He overestimates his self-control in a bid to satisfy his self-esteem.

* Deludes himself into believing that he act of murder is an act of objective judgement on Desdemona. He is the agent of ‘justice’ and it is an act to protect other men. This makes it possible for him to murder Desdemona “Yet she must die, or else she’ll betray more men”

* “Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loves not wisely, but too well;
Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme;”
He is still attempting to create a less monstrous image of himself. Trying to restore a final shred of dignity, and even at the end of his life, refuses to acknowledge his fatal flaw of jealousy. His pride is still dominant.

* This lack of self-awareness causes Othello to succumb to Iago’s lies and summon the determination to murder Desdemona. Because of his insecurity and the failure to correct himself, he is deluded into believing Iago’s manipulations. This is shown when he blames Iago as the ‘devil’, shifting the blame from himself IAGO:

* His principal fear is that others are worthier than he is, making him look ‘ugly’. He deludes himself into believing that he is clever by asserting power over firstly Roderigo and Cassio, then Othello

* He is unaware of his weakness – that he needs to think of himself as someone who is always in control: both in others and of himself. In fact, this reflects the insecurity of his feelings that he refuses to acknowledge

* His lack of self-awareness is clearly shown through his frequent self-justifications for his evil actions. “And what’s he then that says I play the villain,
When this advice is free I give, and honest,
Probal to thinking, and indeed the course
To win the Moor again?”
He attempts to rationalise his actions by turning them into a friendly favour to Cassio. This shows that he refuses to believe that every evil deed that he does is for a proper reason. He refuses to acknowledge that he is a villain.

* Iago has a viciously egotistical view of the world. His principal in life is self-interest, and to use everybody to his advantage. He pretends that feeling are not important to save himself from being hurt “Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus.

Our bodies are our gardens,
To which our wills are gardeners.”
Live is merely a ‘permission if the will’. The garden imagery shows his delusion about love and hatred,

* This lack of self-awareness, combined with...
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