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Iago Rewrites Othello: “a Play That Begins as a Romantic Comedy, but Which Ends as a Tragedy” Evaluate the Relationship Between Tragedy and Comedy in Light of This Comment”

By candy46 May 25, 2010 796 Words
Iago rewrites Othello: “A play that begins as a romantic comedy, but which ends as a tragedy” Evaluate the relationship between tragedy and comedy in light of this comment”

Written in 1604, Othello is one of Shakespeare's most highly concentrated, tightly constructed tragedies, with no subplots and little humor to relieve the tension. Although he adapted the plot of his play from the sixteenth-century, Italian dramatist and novelist Giraldi Cinthio's Gli Hecatommithi, Shakespeare related almost every incident directly to the development of Iago's schemes and Othello's escalating fears. This structure heightens the tragedy's ominous mood and makes the threat to both Desdemona's innocence and the love she and Othello share more terrifying. Othello is set in a private world and focuses on the passions and personal lives of its major figures. Indeed, it has often been described as a "tragedy of character"; Othello's swift descent into jealousy and rage, and Iago's dazzling display of villainy have long fascinated students and critics of the play. The relationship between these characters is another unusual feature of Othello. With two such prominent characters so closely associated, determining which is the central figure in the play and which bears the greater responsibility for the tragedy is difficult. Iago is a character who essentially writes the play's main plot, takes a key part in it, and gives first-hand direction to the others, most notably to the noble Moor, Othello. Iago is undoubtedly the catalyst to all the action in the play. Hazlitt’s view of the villain has been extended so that Iago is now considered an example of the typical stage Machiavel who “personifies rationality, self-interest, hypocrisy, cunning, expediency and efficient “policie”, he is an “amoral artist” who seeks to fashion a world in his own image. The play presents us with two remarkable characters, Iago and his victim, with Iago as the dominant force that causes Othello to see the infidelity of his young and beautiful wife, Desdemona, with his favorite lieutenant, Michael Cassio. Indeed, not only is "seeing" and the gap between appearance and reality a central theme of the play, it overlaps with other major thematic strands (trust, honor, and reputation) and sheds light on still others, including the theme of patriarchy and the political state. The terms comedy and tragedy commonly refer to the ways in which dramatic conflicts are resolved. In comedy, the confusion ends when everyone recognizes what has been going on, learns from it, forgives, forgets, and re-establishes his or her identity in the smoothly functioning social group Comedies typically end with a group celebration, especially one associated with a betrothal or wedding, often accompanied by music and dancing. The emphasis is on the reintegration of everyone into the group, a recommitment to their shared life together. If there has been a clearly disruptive presence in the action, a source of anti-social discord, then that person typically has reformed his ways, has been punished, or is banished from the celebration. Thus, the comic celebration is looking forward to a more meaningful communal life (hence the common ending for comedies: "And they lived happily ever after"). The ending of a tragedy is quite different. Here the conflict is resolved only with the death of the main character, who usually discovers just before his death that his attempts to control the conflict and make his way through it have simply compounded his difficulties and that, therefore, to a large extent the dire situation he is in is largely of his own making. The death of the hero, in this case Othello, is not normally the very last thing in a tragedy, however, for there is commonly some group lament over the body of the fallen hero, a reflection upon the significance of the life which has now ended. Some of Shakespeare's best known speeches are these laments. The final action of a tragedy is then the carrying out of the corpse. The social group has formed again, but only as a result of the sacrifice of the main character(s), and the emphasis in the group is in a much lower key, as they ponder the significance of the life of the dead hero (in that sense, the ending of a tragedy is looking back over what has happened; the ending of comedy is looking forward to a joyful future). Although narrow in scope, Othello, with its intimate domestic setting, is widely regarded as the most moving and the most painful of Shakespeare's great tragedies. The fall of a proud, dignified man, the murder of a graceful, loving woman, and the unreasoning hatred of a "motiveless" villain—all have evoked fear and pity in audiences throughout the centuries.


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