How Does Shakespeare Incorporate Tragic Elements Into the Opening Act of Othello? What Impact Would This Opening Act Have on Shakespeare’s Audience?

Topics: Othello, Iago, Michael Cassio Pages: 5 (1574 words) Published: February 25, 2013
Othello’s opening scene has an overall negative impact on the audience in the form of shock as some rather crude language; such as ”zounds”, “tush”, “’Sblood”; opens the play. This scene sets the premise for the play and tells us of Othello and Desdemona’s elopement, and the betrayal of Brabantio. The opening scene occurs at nightfall to a conversation between two men; Roderigo and Iago on a street outside the house of Brabantio, a man who, unbeknownst to his, has just lost his daughter to a man, a general, he does not approve of.

The nightfall of the opening scene created the air of mystery and darkness and is quite expository in regards to the character, Iago. The night is a time where most tragedy occurs and Iago distorts the truth and begins his crusade against Othello by revealing his plan to Roderigo, a man who is infatuated with Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona. The night also exposes Desdemona’s wrong doing in the betrayal of her father by marrying someone who has not asked her father, and therefore has not been given permission, to marry her.

When Iago and Roderigo tell Brabantio of Desdemona’s betrayal it is done so in a rather cruel and dramatic manner and shocks the audience. This creates a sense of pity in regards to Brabantio who, not only learns of this betrayal, but also suffers because of the way in which he was told. Iago ‘orders’ Roderigo to summon Brabantio to “poison his delight,” and he is summoned to the street in a form of disruption coming from Iago and Roderigo shouting that he has been robbed. “Awake! What, ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves! // Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags!” The reveal is conducted in a crude manner especially within the language used by Iago: “Zounds, sir, y’are robbed! … an old black ram // Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!” these lines can be seen as the most striking of many animalistic images into which Iago’s speech habitually lies. It can also demonstrate Iago’s views on atypical human desires as well as relationships. Although Iago appears to despise the Moor and any thought regarding a union between he and Brabantio’s daughter, there is also an impression that Iago is relishing in the betrayal as well as despising the action. And this open’s the audience to this despising regarding the Moor.

Roderigo refuses to believe Iago once told of Desdemona’s, the woman he is infatuated with and even asked her father for her hand in marriage, elopement with the Moor and reveals that he is quite naïve. He doesn’t believe any body else is fit to marry her and therefore does not believe that Othello is good enough. Brabantio is angry in a different way as he feels betrayed and ‘robbed’. In Elizabethan times, marrying a man’s daughter without seeking his permission was seen as a crime as equally wronged as rape as that was essentially what it was. If the father had not given permission then she was not eligible for anything past marriage. However, Brabantio should be happy for Desdemona as she has, independently, found a man she loves who happens to be that of great power and honour rather than being racially biased against the Moor. However his anguish is understandable considering the severity of the act and no matter how much of a charismatic man Othello is, he says “words are words. I never did hear // That the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.” This translates to mean that she has betrayed him and she will most definitely betray Othello. Iago uses this to his advantage with regards to his diabolical plan. Words cannot bring consolidation to a man who has been betrayed so defiantly.

Othello’s marriage is a result of his pride and arrogance, his tragic flaw or ‘hubris’, something that causes him to escalate to violate an important moral law, later on in the play. Also, his confidence is part of his hubris as it is an escalation of his pride and arrogance and this can be demonstrated in his speech defending his marriage to Desdemona...
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