Othello - Power Play

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Martin Luther King stated, "I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I'm interested in power that is moral, that is right, that is good". Power can be defined as having the ability, strength and capacity to control or influence people and their actions. Martin Luther King suggests that power is variable that can be used in a positive or negative way. The types of power, power of an individual, power of position and power of the people are evident in both Shakespeare’s Othello as well as Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Through characters such as Iago, Desdemona, Sauron and Eowyn with the use of literary and film techniques, both texts convey the multifaceted notions of power in a both positive and negative ways.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago is a quintessential Machiavellian character who truly demonstrates the power of an individual and in essence, controls every character in the play. “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at, I am not what I am.” (I.i.16) Shakespeare uses this paradox and riddle to make the audience question Iago and his motives. This cryptic and obscure manner of speech hides as much, or if not more than it reveals in which create an emblematic of Iago’s power throughout the play. He preys on the weakness of individuals, their own human flaws to influence even the most powerful of figures. Othello’s trust and sexual desires, Cassio’s intoxication, Emilia’s desperate need of attention, Desdemona’s innocence, Roderigo’s love are all puppets to this deceitful fox. “Think, my Lord?””Honest, my Lord?” (III.iii.103-106). These intentional short sentences which Shakespeare cleverly uses adds to suspense and drama which helps Iago plant the seeds of doubt and jealousy into Othello’s mind, exploiting his weakness, leading him to his hamartia. Shakespeare gives Iago the extraordinary power to make those around him see only what they want to see, and thereby not suspect what is obviously...