Othello - Reputation

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(Written in the style of a speech)

William Shakespeare’s Othello is a play about reputation. The role of reputation is a major one as throughout the play we see the importance of how one is perceived. For some, to act in a certain way with self control ultimately leads them to strengthen their character and image. But for others it can be lost in a single action. The characters within the play struggle to keep their reputation for various reasons such as retribution or to keep a good name for themselves. Reputation can impair judgement in both ways on the decisions the character makes and the thoughts made about them.

To the Elizabethans, reputation was everything to them; so much so that their credit was worth more than their life. To be remembered and honoured after their death was of top priority. So in saying that, if you were to be publically disgraced it was better to die than live in shame. In today’s modern context, a bad reputation can be hard to rebuild because of the judgements everyone has of the individual or group before they’ve acted wrongly. An example of this could be a big business who has already established a name for themselves; if a major flaw was to arise it could be financially disastrous for them.

The scene which I believe to underpin my interpretation of the play would be Act 4 Scene 1 where Othello strikes Desdemona in public. This scene would be the turning point in Othello’s character as we can see a once noble and respected man change into a vengeful savage.

The importance of honour is mentioned right at the beginning of the scene when Iago compares that to Desdemona’s handkerchief. He states that honour is an “essence that’s not seen, but for the handkerchief…” He wants Othello to think that we can’t see the essence of Desdemona’s honour but the handkerchief is something we can see. Essentially he wants Othello to associate the handkerchief with Desdemona’s honour.

Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to build up the...
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