My Perception of William Shakespeare's Othello

Topics: Othello, Iago, William Shakespeare Pages: 7 (2627 words) Published: October 8, 1999
My Perception of William Shakespeare's Othello

Othello, by William Shakespeare, is perhaps not as exciting as a ravishingly sexy poster of Laurence Fishburne and Irene Jacob. Yet, with its intoxicating mix of love, sexual passion and the deadly power of jealousy, Shakespeare has created an erotic thriller based on a human emotion that people are all familiar with. It all depends on how those people receive it. There is an extraordinary fusion of characters' with different passions in this tragedy. Every character is motivated by a different desire. Shakespeare mesmerizes the reader by manipulating his characters abilities to perceive and discern what is happening in reality. It is this misinterpretation of reality that leads to the erroneous perceptions that each character holds.

After reading this tragedy, the depth of Shakespeare's characters continue to raise many questions in the minds of the reader. The way I percieve the character of Othello and what concerns me, is that Othello is able to make such a quick transition from love to hate of Desdemona. In Act 3, Scene 3, Othello states, "If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! I'll not believe 't." (lines 294-295) Yet only a couple hundred lines later he says, "I'll tear her to pieces" (line 447) and says that his mind will never change from the "tyrannous hate" (line 464) he now harbors. Does Othello make the transition just because he is so successfully manipulated by Iago? Or is there something particular about his character which makes him make this quick change? I believe that "jealousy" is too simple of a term to describe Othello. I think that Othello's rapid change from love to hate for Desdemona is fostered partly by an inferiority complex. He appears to be insecure in his love for Desdemona (as well as in his position in Venetian society). Othello's race and age ("Haply, for I am black . . . for I am declined into the vale of years," 3.3. 279-282) and his position as a soldier contribute to his feelings of inadequacy.

Othello admits to Desdemona that he doesn't have "those soft parts of conversation" possessed by well-bred Venetian noblemen, those to which (as a senator's daughter) she has become acclimated (3.3.280-281). Othello's speech (1.3.130-172) also conveys his feeling that Desdemona loves him for his exploits and achievements rather than for his mind. Othello apparently feels a constant responsibility to prove to Desdemona (through his heroic deeds) that he is worthy of her love.It is my opinion that Othello is a man governed by a subconscious need or impulse to believe ideas rather than reason. In believing Iago's lie, Othello apparently is controlled by his aforementioned inferiority complex -- his feeling that he just doesn't measure up to (young, suave, and of course, white) nobleman Michael Cassio in Desdemona's mind. Othello is more naturally predisposed to believe this "idea" rather than to engage in rational discourse in an attempt to find the real logic of the situation.

It is also unclear weather or not the position of soldier and that of husband can be perceived
as two separate
role's. Yet the two seem inextricably
intertwined. Military operations are Othello's primary priority. Othello had been a soldier since he was seven years old (" ...since these arms of mine had seven years' pith.....they have us'd/ Their dearest action in the tented field" 1.3.83-85). So Othello was not a newcomer to the battlefield. Yet, Othello encounters a battlefield the likes of which he has never seen when he marries Desdemona and enters Venetian society -- the rules are different, the enemy has more cunning, and words are used for weapons. Military service and marriage are not incompatible -- Othello has the potential to make a perfectly suitable husband (as well as lover) to Desdemona. Othello only self-destructs because he and his inferiority complex fall victim to the duplicitous and vengeful Iago on society's...

Cited: Alexander, Peter. Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964.
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