Lighting is important as it extends Shakespeare’s thematic concerns with the lightness and darkness of character and skin.
Play begins in darkness. Entirety of Act one is in darkness. Critic: Norman Sanders: “The darkness helps to reveal Iago’s character because it is set in the night and it highlights the dark and devilish nature of his character.” The darkness feeds Iago’s malicious nature.
Textual evidence: Iago: “Hell and night/ Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.” We see Iago’s obsession with evil. The darkness that Act one is enshrined in gives Iago the power he needs to plot against and deceive each character he communicates with. For instance he appears to be loyal to Othello whilst simultaneously uttering, “I hate the Moor.” Iago is Caucasian and is therefore referred to as having “white” skin. This purity and light that the colour white is associated with however, does not extend to his character as Iago is too consumed by dark thoughts. Contrastingly, Othello who is an African Moor and therefore dark in complexion does not let his outward appearance interfere with his inner greatness. This is evident when the Duke says to Brabianto in Scene 3: “Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.” Shakespeare is extending the idea that man should not be judged by his race or outward appearance but rather by his merit. Language:
Imagery used to unveil Iago’s mysterious character. (The image of Janus, Roman God with two faces.) Iago swears by this God which is appropriate as Janus two faced-nesses or doubled personality facilitates Iago’s duplicative nature. Iago’s words turn into action. He acts one way with Othello and another way behind Othello’s back. This is why even though he is deceitful and malicious the characters on stage refer to him as “honest Iago.” His two faced-nesses therefore give him the power he needs to plot and manipulate. Textual reference: Othello says, “Honest Iago, / My Desdemona must I leave to thee: / I prithee, let thy wife attend on her: / And bring them after in the best advantage.” At the end of the scene, when Iago is hatching his plan against Othello, he comments that “The Moor is of a free and open nature, / That thinks men honest that but seem to be so, / And will as tenderly be led by the nose / As asses are” Iago knows that Othello considers him honest, and he is planning on using that in his dishonest plans. Iago’s ability to wheel power spirals a series of events which is detrimental to most Characters. Shakespeare is letting the audience know to be careful of who they trust. Shakespeare challenges the racial stereotype and the norms of the Elizabethan era when he makes Othello the governor of Cyprus. Significant as it show the audience that despite societies norms people can still excel. Reinforces the idea of judging a man based on merit rather than race. War as a symbol of Othello’s struggle to find a balance between his Muslim/African background and his new status in Venice: The tension between Venice and Turkish fleet is a representation of Othello’s internal conflict. Turks are Muslim and so is Othello. He is therefore fighting a war against himself. It represents the conflict between “valiant”, “fair” Othello and the barbarity which takes place within him.