The Use of Animal Imagery in Othello

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In William Shakespeare's play "Othello" the use of
animal imagery was evident throughout the telling of
the story. Shakespeare explained several characters
actions by comparing them to similarities in animals.
The characters in "Othello" were often depicted as
having animal-like characteristics. Some characters
were even compared to animals by other characters in
the play. By defining characters in terms of these
characteristics one can get a clear description of what
the character is doing or saying as compared to certain
In this paper I hope to give examples of animal
imagery used in "Othello" that assist in explaining the
play. The specific examples I present will describe a
character either as seen by himself or by a fellow
The first use of animal imagery I noted occurred
came in Act One when Iago, Othello's standard bearer,
has awaken Brabantio, who was a Venetian senator and
the father of Desdemona, to tell him that Othello has
taken his daughter Desdemona, and as they speak is
making love to her. Iago was attempting to instigate a
fight between Othello and Brabantio, using Desdemona as
the bait. Iago stated, "Your heart is burst. You have
lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, and old
black ram is tupping your white ewe" (p. 13). In that
statement Iago was comparing Othello to an old black
ram by comparing Othello's skin color to that of the
black ram's, and the white ewe, a young female sheep,
to Desdemona. Shakespeare was trying to illustrate in
his writing the act of and old black man making love to
a young white woman. The use of a black ram and a
white ewe to compare Othello and Desdemona helped in
the visualization of their affair.
Shakespeare displayed animal imagery again in Act
Two when Cassio was explaining to Iago that if he had
as many mouths as Hydra, a many headed monster slain by
Hercules, he could silence the many questions asked of
him. In this...
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