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Othello: the Validity of Humanities Purely Circumstantial and Determin

Oct 08, 1999 1143 Words
<center><b>An analysis of Shakespeare's unrecognized dogma through the play Othello</b></center> <br>
<br>People are merely products of their circumstances. Hopelessly bound to the conditions surrounding their existence, their only true personal characteristic is in their ability to resist influence. William Shakespeare's Othello demonstrates that even this ability can give way and the noblest characters can end up falling into a downward spiral of deceit and suspicion. Iago, and his unwitting observation of other's situations and perspectives, is Shakespeare's instrument to implement this process effectively. Iago exposed Cassio's self discipline and honour when he got him drunk; he knew he would readily accept his dismissal from Othello's chain of command after such an incident. He used Roderigo's greed and naivety to get him to kill Cassio, even though he didn't want to. Finally, he whittled away at Othello's trusting exterior until all that remain was a person incapable of accepting the testimonies of anyone but himself. The actions of characters in this play calls into question how much of our actions are really our own, and how much simply reflect the manifest destinies of influential people around us. <br>

<br>Cassio was a man concerned very much so with other's perceptions of him. His fear of losing honour, and of doing the honourable thing made him particularly defenseless to Iago's scheming. After Iago got him thoroughly drunk and he beat a man, his internal conflict took it's toll: "I have lost the immortal / part of myself, and what remains is bestial. / My reputation, Iago, my reputation." (II,iii,l262) , "One unperfectness shows / me another, to make me frankly despise myself" (II,iii,l296) Cassio's shame led him to be unduly swayed by Iago's subtle comments. In one such instance, Iago gave Cassio an ultimatum of sorts: "As I am an honest man, I had thought you had / received some bodily wound. There is more sense / in that than in reputation" (II,iii,l265) Here Iago took advantage of Cassio's self doubt. Cassio's view was that reputation was the life blood of ones being, yet he also agreed that Iago was an honest man. Since his self image was so depleted he had little choice but to accept Iago's view on reputation, and imminently, everything else he said. Shakespeare maintained the idea that Cassio was thoroughly unaware of his external manipulation from Iago through these hilariously ironic parting words Cassio spoke: "I think freely; and betimes in the morning I / Will beseech the virtuous Desdemona to undertake / for me" (II,iii,l329) The irony of this statement is that even though Cassio said he thought freely, throughout the previous several pages we saw Iago counseling him to make this exact statement! In light of Cassio's original spoken beliefs before he talked to Iago, and the beliefs and actions he was willing to undertake afterwards, it is apparent that his soul and mind were not at all the determining factors in his behavior. <br>

<br>Roderigo's obsession with Desdemona and his feelings of self destruction made him putty in Iago's hands. When Iago started talking to him, Roderigo was literally about to kill himself. He was completely at a loss of what to do, and openly ready for instruction: "What should I do? I confess it is my shame / to be so fond, but it is not in my virtue to amend / it" (I,iii,312) Iago's interception of Roderigo at the point where he was about to kill himself was crucial to his plans. This allowed him to compare the benefits of selling all his worldly possessions to a dishonorable self-inflicted death. In this light Roderigo could hardly refuse his advice and became entrenched in his plans. These included killing Cassio, to which notion Roderigo had no objections when ‘shown' what he would gain from it: "I have no great devotion to the deed / And yet he hath given me satisfying reasons / ‘Tis but a man gone. Forth my sword! He Dies!" (V,I,l8) These intentionally extraordinary circumstances were necessary to show the extent to which Roderigo's sudden suicidal values could be cemented forever into his brain as a result of Iago's clever observation of the his perspective. <br>

<br>Othello, the most valiant of all the characters, fell the furthest. His patience was sidestepped when Iago redirected his intense feelings of love for Desdemona to feelings of suspicion. He did this by questioning Other's benefit-of-the-doubt perceptions and suggesting other motives for peoples actions that fit with his imaginary scenarios: "That he would steal away so guilty-like / seeing your coming" (III,iii,l39) Iago consistently delved into the power of suggestion. By simply repeating Othello's words, he forced Othello to question the validity of his simple answers and think that perhaps there is another, suspicious, underlying truth to the inconclusive facts presented to him. For instance, when Othello said: "Is he not honest?" (III,iii,l104) Iago said: "Honest, my lord?" (III,iii,l105) This parroting effect (which goes on for several lines) left Othello begging to know about Iago's hesitation, and as would seem fit, curiosity killed the cat. Shakespeare was also sure to show us that Othello was not in control when he had Iago say: "The Moor already changes with my poison" (III,iii,l322) regarding their conversation's resolutions. Othello's drastic change from essentially good to evil, and Iago's proud admissions of being responsible for it all are very non-subtle statements about peoples actual control over themselves in the play and real life. <br>

<br>Shakespeare wanted us believe that our free will is only an illusion. Cassio was forced by himself to come to terms with his drunkenness and beg Desdemona to speak on his behalf. He didn't come to this conclusion on his own. Roderigo sold all his earthly possessions and tried to kill Cassio, but he too was given no choice. Othello became suspicious of the self-declared love of his life after being brainwashed by Iago. The common link between all these characters was Iago's influence, but it needn't be! If one assumes Iago is a symbol of circumstances, and that his behavior is somewhat what people think of circumstances affects(things always seem to line up against us) it becomes clear that he wasn't really necessary to show the effects of circumstance. In other words, his character, it seems, was simply an extended personification of circumstances. <br>

<br>In this play, people's only true characteristic, the power to resist influence, was eroded to show how fast we all become puppets to those around us who want to pull the strings.

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