Throughout Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’ we observe Othello’s identity and reputation fall to pieces, the way Othello sees himself and the way others perceive him is transformed completely. His qualities of a decisive, dignified and proud man at the beginning of the play are later overtaken by jealousy, rage and irrational thinking. His life and himself as he knows it is destroyed by love and jealousy, the most dangerous weapons known to mankind.
Before we even meet Othello we know of him because of the opening conversation between Iago and Roderigo. They speak of their hate for Othello and portray him as a dishonest and lower class man. They often refer to him being Black with quotes such as “Old black ram” (1, 1, 90). They make it clear in these first few pages that they look down on Othello because of his skin colour.
When we are first introduced to the character of Othello we are confronted with a proud, dignified and some would say egotistic man, a complete contradiction to the image of Othello that was conveyed to us by Iago. It is obvious that Othello is a man of high stature. The audience is immediately drawn to his confidence and natural authority. He is proud of his military success and admires his own frankness which is made apparent when he begins his speech with the line “rude am I in my speech…” (1, 3, 81) This comment is a contradiction of himself as he actually presents himself very well and can give a very convincing speech.
Shakespeare portrays these qualities of Othello with his use of language and rhythm. The way Shakespeare has presented Othello in his speeches is very clever. The rhythm of the text when Othello speaks is very slow and calm showing that Othello is a very confident and in control man. The beautiful language used such as “’let, by your gracious patience, I will a round unvarnished tale deliver, of my whole course of love” (1, 3, 91-93) exhibits how well Othello holds himself and that he must be an educated man of high stature.
The way others respond to Othello enforces these images of Othello. They treat him with respect, especially the duke. Initially when the duke hears of Brabantio’s dilemma he is outraged saying “Who’er he be that in this foul proceeding hath thus beguiled your daughter of herself, and you of her, the bloody book of the law” (1, 3, 67-69), but once he finds out that Brabantio is speaking of Othello his tone changes, he demands evidence and doesn’t want to believe that what Brabantio accuses Othello of is true. This reaction shows what a respected man Othello is.
His feelings for Desdemona at this stage are complete infatuation; he is head over heels in love. He has never had someone to love and care for him because he has led the lonely life of a soldier. It is new and exciting for him. He shows this passion for Desdemona with quotes such as “If it were now to die, ‘twere now to be most happy, for I fear, my soul hath her content so absolute, that not another comfort like to this, succeeds in unknown fate.” (2, 1, 192-196)
Othello is not an observant man, he doesn’t notice or suspect things in others and Iago cleverly uses this naivety against him to break Othello down “I follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly followed” (1, 1, 44-46). Iago manipulates Othello because he knows Othello believes what he sees, he is a straightforward man and he sees life the same. He even says “certain, men should be what they seem” (3, 3, 133), indicating that he thinks the way people acts is the way they are. Iago takes advantage of this weakness and puts doubts and suspicion into Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s loyalty to him. Straight away this starts eating away at the normally calm and rational Othello.
Othello begins to lose his confidence and sense of security in his relationship with Desdemona. He doesn’t...