Power of Love in Othello and Pride and Prejudice

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Compare and contrast how Shakespeare and Austen present the power of love in Othello and Pride and Prejudice.

In order for love to be true it must come from both sides equally. Its power will not be strong enough to overcome all obstacles if its foundation is not pure. In Pride and Prejudice, Austen paints a portrait of the power of love as merely unbreakable whereas Shakespeare arguably portrays it as weak and vulnerable.

Both Shakespeare and Austen use dialogue as a tool for the construction of their characters. Although Austen relies on narration as well as speech, Shakespeare relies completely on speech as Othello is a play. Arguably, before ‘the moor’ arrives in the play, he is described as an ‘old black rum’ by the ‘malicious’ Iago. This phrase is somewhat a racial term, followed by ‘the thick lips.’ Othello was set during the 17th century – the Elizabethan/Jacobean era, where racism was heavily present and therefore referring to a black person in this way was considered socially normal. The imagery Iago uses to describe Othello’s relationship with Desdemona is animalistic: ‘old black ram is tupping your white ewe’. The audience at this stage of the play are unable to shape their own opinion of Othello as they have not met him, so therefore the only image they are provided with, comes from Iago. Additionally, some could argue that a sense of Iago’s hatred for the ‘beast’ echo’s through his dialogues which may force the audience to question the reliability of what they are being told by him as he knows he is ‘not what I am’ (Act 1 scene 1, line 66). Arguably, this phrase provides a sense of deceit from Iago and reflects on the tragedy he creates at the end. Othello is manipulated to believe Desdemona’s betrayal – but of course we know it is not what it appears to be yet Iago to all is a ‘fellow’s of exceeding honesty’ (Act 3 scene 3, line 260)- yet we know this is not the case. The use of the adverbial intensifier ‘exceeding’ is arguably a sign of jumping to conclusions and reveals a lack of restraint of thought by Othello. This therefore puts the audience at an uncomfortable position with the idea of Iago being ‘honest’ planted in his mind which brings fear to the audience that Othello may have doubts of Desdemona’s faithfulness to him. This questions the power of love from Othello’s side. The audience witnesses the drastic change in Othello from the beginning of the play where he delivers an unequivocal testament of his love for the ‘gentle Desdemona’ (Act 1 scene 2, line 25) to his use of dark imagery to refer to her: ‘devils’ (Act 4 scene 4, line 35), ‘whore’ (Act 4 scene 4, line 85) and ‘black vengeance’ (Act 3 scene 3, line 448). This questions the power of Othello’s love for Desdemona, that it takes just a ‘false’ story of ‘pluck’d up kisses’ (Act 3 scene 3, line 424) from Iago to manipulate his thoughts into thinking Desdemona’s ‘not honest.’ Is Shakespeare saying that the power of love is over-rated?...
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