Othello: What You See Is Not What You Get

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Illusion versus reality is an easily recognised theme in the play Othello, written by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare effectively combines illusion with reality in the play, Othello. The illusion easily distorts the reality of the characters and their thoughts and actions. These illusions are evident in the main characters of Iago, Michael Cassio and Othello. This review will discuss the illusion versus reality that is seen in the play. Illusion being judgements of an individual from what is seen from the outside, and reality being the truth and what is on the inside. This review will also discuss the various ways in which the theme of reality versus illusion are evident and how the value of the play Othello, is tied to its concern with the theme culminating in the events of Act 5, Scene 2 (Part 1).

The duplicitous character of Iago proves the theme of illusion versus reality very effectively in many scenes through many evil acts of revenge, deceit and betrayal. In Act 2 Scene 3, Iago’s plan of revenge is revealed to the audience through the use of prose. “My wife must move for Cassio to her mistress/ (I’ll set her on); / Myself the while to draw the Moor apart, / And bring him jump when he may Cassio find / Soliciting his wife. Ay, that’s the way! / Dull not device by coldness and delay.” (2:3,343) Through this quote, the audience is come to be aware of Iago’s duplicitous nature, as he plans to poison Othello’s mind in the hope that he will be convinced that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. This relates to illusion versus reality because the reality is that Desdemona is not having an affair with Cassio, nor with any of the other characters in the play. Iago has created an illusion to cause conflict, and to anger Othello, as an act of revenge to Othello for not giving him the promotion of lieutenant. Iago also mentions to Othello that, “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (3:3,209), referring to Desdemona. Iago mentions this out of spite,...
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