Pride Comes Before the Fall
Shakespeare created a hero, racial outcast, army superior, lover and murderer all wrapped up into one complex character: Othello. As one first begins to read this play, it seems that Othello is a truly noble character. Interestingly enough, with further reading and studying, one begins to doubt this nobility and speculate if his motives are guided by his love for others or his love for himself. Even though it is hard to see at first, the true nature of Othello’s character is actually quite self-centered.
Throughout Othello there are several occurrences where it is shown that the character Othello is very much about himself. In fact, one of the reason’s Iago’s manipulation works so well is because he assaults Othello’s public reputation and identity. Othello finds great pride within himself and his actions of his past and present. Othello is convinced that nobody can touch him. When Iago tries to convince Othello that Brabantio could ruin Othello’s marriage, Othello says, “Let him do his worst. The services I have done for the Venetian government will count for more than his complaints will. No one knows this yet – and I don’t like to brag, but I come from a royal family, and I’m as noble as the woman I’ve married.” (1.2. 17 – 22) Othello sincerely believes that this powerful man cannot touch him because of his pride within himself.
It’s interesting to note that Othello makes sure that it is known he is equal in stature to his new wife. His self-centered nature won’t allow him to be with someone who is above him. Othello’s reputation and social status mean everything to him, and nothing, not even his marriage and so-called love for Desdemona, is an exception to that. Part of Othello’s self-centeredness is only being associated with those who are his social equals.
The first hint at the true nature of his love for Desdemona comes in Act 1, Scene 3. As Othello describes how he and Desdemona came to be married, he says, Her eyes would fill with tears at the bad things I went through in my younger years. When my stories were done, she’d sign and tell me how strangely wonderful and sad my life had been. She said she wished she hadn’t heard it, but she also wished there was a man like me for her. She thanked me and told me that if a friends of mine had a story like mine to tell, she’d fall in love with him. I took the hint and spoke to her. She said she loved me for the dangers I’d survived, and I loved her for feeling such strong emotions about me. (1.3. 155-169) Instead of describing Desdemona’s characteristics, beauty and how she won his heart, it seems Othello is only focused on how deeply she loves him. She feeds his pride and the only reason he loves her is because she loves him as much as he loves himself. “The one Othello loves "too well" isn't Desdemona – it's himself. Jealousy is an intensely self-centered emotion, and Othello spends much of the play obsessed with how Desdemona has hurt him and trying to get back at her for it. He's obsessed with his feelings, the way that her cheating reflects on him.” (Schmoop) He doesn’t mention once hearing stories about her life or her dreams or desires, he only cares that she admires all of his accomplishments and actions.
Othello’s self-centered love comes from his obvious struggle with perfectionism. He views Desdemona as a reflection of his own character, and once her character is questioned, he feels his own will be ruined. He becomes angry at this connection of her character and his own. He laments, “Goodbye to the horses and the trumpets and the drums, the flute and the splendid banners, and all those proud displays and pageantry of war! And you deadly cannons that roar like thunderbolts thrown by the gods, goodbye! Othello’s career is over.” (3.3 356-365) He is not saddened because he adores Desdemona and she broke his heart. No, he is upset because she is threatening everything Othello has built for himself up to this point. Othello...
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