The first decade of the 17th century saw the greatest outpouring of Shakespeare’s tragedies on the English stage. Hamlet came in 1601 and was followed within a span of five years by Othello, then King Lear and Macbeth. The darker side of human nature surely occupied the playwright’s mind at this time. As his own country underwent a sweeping social, political and religious change, Shakespeare reflected in his dramas the tension between the order of the old medieval world and the relativism of the new modern perspective. Each of these tragedies examines an aspect of this tension, including Othello.

If Hamlet is a tragedy of the mind, Othello is a tragedy of the heart. Order and relativity contend in the mind of Hamlet. In Othello, order and relativity contend in the heart.

Considered one of Shakespeare’s most perfectly constructed plays, Othello overwhelms with its illustration of what happens when the heart is negated. Iago, whom critics have called one of the greatest villains ever created, views mankind as made of will and passion, pure reason and lust. He omits the heart. At every turn of the play, when things go from bad to worse, it is this same heart that is butchered without one blink of an eye. Whether in the Duke’s pat dismissal of Brabantio’s grief, or in Othello’s jealous mistrust of his wife’s intentions, or in Emilia’s frank suggestion on how to control one’s husband, Shakespeare shows the crucial and pivotal part that consideration of another takes in every social, fraternal, familial, or patriarchal relationship. Othello himself begins the play already with one foot on the way to inconsideration: He weds Desdemona without consulting or seeking the permission of her father. Brabantio’s warning to his unwelcome son-in-law lays the seeds that Iago will go on to grow—but the fall is not Iago’s fault: He merely acts the part of Satan, tempting his general to wickeder schemes than his general had ever heretofore...

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Essays About Othello