South University Online
October 13, 2011
In order to use psychoanalytical perspective to analyze a play the reader must first understand what it means. “Psychoanalytical interpretations aim to reveal the influence of the subconscious in the text’s plot, setting, conflict, symbols, point of view, language, and character development”(South University Online, 2010, para. 3). Using this style to analyze the play, the reader can focus on certain areas of conflict in the play. One example of this is the belief that Desdemona has been cheating on Othello with Cassio. Although the reader knows this is not the case, Iago wants Othello to believe it to be true. Another thing that can be examined is the significance of Desdemona’s handkerchief. There is a definite meaning for this item, and for that reason it is important to examine its use in the play. Finally the reader is lead to look at the overall attitude of Iago throughout the play. Taking all things into account; the deception on Iago’s part regarding Desdemona’s infidelity, Desdemona’s handkerchief as well as Iago’s attitude throughout the play, it is easy to see how psychoanalytical perspective is an important way for the reader to look at the play.
Deception is a key factor in Iagos’ plan. Iago is able to make Othello believe that Desdemona is cheating on him. He starts a plan in motion that is not only untrue, but also spiteful. Iago takes the trust that Othello has bestowed upon him, and completely twists everything in a way to benefit himself. “Or to be naked with her friend in bed An hour or more, not meaning any harm?” (Shakespeare, 2011, 4.1) Iago tries to make Othello believe that Desdemona is having an inappropriate relationship with Cassio. Iago takes the time to set things up to help strengthen his case in this respect. He has his girlfriend take Desdemona’s handkerchief and make a new one that is exactly the same and has it planted in Cassio’s room for them to find at another time “I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin, And let him find it”(Shakespeare, 2011, 3.2). In the beginning of the play Iago takes great care to make Othello jealous. It appears that Iago has succeeded in this task.
Using psychoanalytical perspective the reader can determine the significance of the handkerchief that Othello has given to Desdemona. This one item was given to her before they married, and she should never be without. Iago arranges for it to be stolen in order for it to be placed in Cassio’s room “What handkerchief? Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona; That which so often you did bid me steal” (Shakespeare,2011,3.3). This is something that is very recognizable to Othello as belonging to his wife. When he discovers it has been found in Cassio’s room, what is he to believe other than that Iago is telling him the truth? This is a one of a kind item that only Desdemona has. Any other handkerchief would not be as recognizable. Once the reader learns the importance of the handkerchief they are able to see how Iagos’ attitude also affects the other characters.
Throughout the entire play Iago has an attitude of revenge. He is upset that Othello did not choose him to be in charge. For this he creates a plan to make Othello miserable, and jealous “I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted; thine hath no less reason” (Shakespeare, 2011, act 1). Iago does everything in his power to make Othello absolutely miserable. He leads Othello to believe his wife is unfaithful to him to the extent that at the end of the play Othello kills his wife. Not only does he kill his wife in a jealous rage, once he learns the truth he kills himself as well. If not for Iagos’ plan Othello would have had no reason to be jealous and kill his wife. Shakespeare leads the reader to view the play in many different ways. The attitude of Iago throughout this particular play leads the reader to view him as the devious, evil character. The use of the handkerchief throughout the play is genius. To take something that would normally have little meaning and make it pivotal is impressive. Psychoanalytical perspective is a definitely a great way to view this particular play.
Shakespeare, W. (2005). Othello [electronic version]. Retrieved from the William Shakespeare SiteMap: http://www.william-shakespeare.info/script-text-othello.htm South University Online. (2010). ENG1002: Composition/literature: Week 3: Psychoanalytic ways of reading The Awakening. Retrieved from myeclassonline.com