Nature Imagery in Shakespeare's Othello

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Natural Powers
Nature is often overlooked as a concept without significance or value in our lives. However in the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “Nature would be scarcely worth a puff of the empty wind if it were not that all Nature is but a temple”. Beecher explains with the proverb how this temple of nature serves as a haven which can parallel our lives. This fascinating idea is heavily explored in William Shakespeare’s Othello, where the once joyous Othello is manipulated by his “friend” Iago to the point where he murders his beloved wife Desdemona, and demotes his loyal lieutenant Cassio. Throughout the play, important references to nature help underscore Othello as a story of pleasure transformed into hardship. Shakespeare’s usage of nature imagery is most operational in setting up this initial pleasure, and then destroying it to hardship. Before Shakespeare is able to devastate these main characters, he first places them in high spirits with strong usage of nature imagery. When Desdemona and Othello are at sea, Cassio tells Montano, the governor of Cyprus, about how blessed Othello is. He uses some strong nature imagery to explain how, “He’s had most favorable and happy speed. /Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds, /The guttered rocks and congregated sands, /Traitors ensteeped to enclog the guiltless keel, /As having sense of beauty, do omit Their mortal natures, letting go safely by/The divine Desdemona” (2.1.74-80). Evidently, the nature imagery is able to effectively highlight the “divine Desdemona”. Shakespeare explains how “tempests…high seas, and howling winds” are subject to Desdemona to the point where they appreciate her presence. This puts Desdemona in a place of pleasure and admiration. The many obstacles that would affect the normal man are devoid to Desdemona. Shakespeare adds this nature imagery to establish the audience’s affection towards her. He is able to extend this adulation to Desdemona and Othello’s relationship when they...
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