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Othello Commentary

By roosd Mar 03, 2015 906 Words
English A HL – Othello Commentary

Iago’s Soliloquy

At the end of Act 1, Iago has a short soliloquy where he reveals some of the depths of evil that is in his personality. This is effective characterization because the audience is exposed to his inner thoughts and what he wants. Shakespeare uses various techniques including rhythm, rhyme and bestial imagery in his writing to effectively get the message across to the audience. These techniques help emphasize or highlight certain lines that are significant in the play and in understanding the characters.

One example of a technique is the use of caesura to help the audience understand Iago’s character and his inner emotions. In the first line caesura is used to echo the content. “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (I (iii) 368). The caesura emphasizes the word ‘purse’. This shows the audience how Iago values money and how possessive he is; ‘my purse’. Another line that is very much emphasized is; “I hate the Moor” (I (iii) 371). Before this line there is a fast pace, the run on lines give an impression of speed, and the caesura right before this line slows everything down and highlights the four words, showing the sincerity of the sentence and exposing Iago’s true feelings. Also, looking at the rhythm we can see that the two words ‘hate’ and ‘Moor’ are stressed in the sentence accentuating the significance of those specific words.

Shakespeare also subtly uses techniques like bestial imagery in his descriptions to degrade other characters and show how Iago thinks of them. For example, when he talks about Roderigo in the first four lines of the soliloquy he describes him as a snipe. He lowers Roderigo to the level of an animal and refers to him as a fool. Bestial imagery is also used when Iago describes Othello’s character. “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 th’ nose
As asses are.” (I (iii) 384-7)
He talks about Othello as if he is talking about a beast as he uses words like ‘led by the nose’ and ass (which is typically a mixture between a donkey and a horse). It is also important to note that the words ‘as asses are’ is just one line. The line is only three words long and this draws attention to his contempt for Othello.

Throughout the soliloquy the audience gets to know more about Iago as a person because he exposes a lot about himself. “But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do, as if for surety” (I (iii) 374-5)
This tells us that Iago will take revenge on Othello regardless of whether or not Othello is guilty. His suspicion that Othello slept with his wife is merely another excuse for him to hate Othello but it is not the motive for his hatred, his motive lies somewhere deeper in his nature. In the next line, we see that Iago is a cynic who knows the value of nothing. “He holds me well;

The better shall my purpose work on him” (I (iii) 375-6)
This is a cynical exploitation of Othello’s good nature, revealing more about Iago’s personality. Another example revealing the depths of Iago’s evil is in the line “In double knavery” (I (iii) 379). He wants to harm both Cassio and Othello to benefit himself and he is proud that he was able to come up with a way to hurt both as opposed to just Othello. He does not care about or value other people’s feelings. Desdemona has not done anything wrong but her innocence is not something that bothers Iago, it shows us that he is amoral.

Rhythm is crucial when analyzing Shakespeare because he uses it in a way that it supports the underlying message or contributes to the content. For example, in the line; “How? How? Let’s see” (I (iii) 379), the rhythm is interrupted with the lines beforehand, and this is done for a reason. Shakespeare tries to show that Iago was plotting, he was thinking out loud, and due to this spontaneity the rhythm is disturbed. This makes it more realistic because when you think out loud there is not a constant rhythm and it makes it seem more natural the way Iago comes up with his plan.

Finally, Shakespeare uses rhyme in the soliloquy. The last two lines are a rhyming couplet; ‘I have’t! It is engendered! Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light’. (I (iii) 388-9) The two last lines of the soliloquy rhyme, which rounds it off and shows that it is the end of something, like the end of a scene or a conclusion.

Through the use of rhythm, rhyme, and bestial imagery the audience is exposed to the depths of Iago’s personality. The style of the soliloquy emphasizes certain words or phrases showing the audience the hatred Iago has for Othello and what his main motives are. For example, it includes bestial imagery to degrade Othello and the fast rhythm is slowed down to accentuate words like ‘hate’ and ‘Moor’. Throughout the soliloquy Iago shows his creativity and how innovative he is, the audience sees that Iago is more cunning than anything else and the style of the writing echoes the content, making it an effective soliloquy.

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