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Othello’s language vs iago’s


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Othello’s language vs iago’s

  1. 1. th 18 Monday November Othello’s language vs Iago’s • STARTER QUESTION: Who is the main character of the play: Othello or Iago? Give as detailed an explanation as possible
  2. 2. Othello’s language vs Iago’s • Othello is noted for the beauty of his speaking, about which he makes claims to be a modest speaker - “rude” in his speech. • The characters know his skilled speechcraft – The Duke suggests that Othello’s “tale would win” his daughter too!
  3. 3. Othello’s heroic language • Facing Brabantio and his men, Othello says “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them” (1.2.59) – With a few well-chosen words, the hero calms an angry crowd! • This means “put your swords back in their sheaths, and saying that the “dew will rust them” is a bit of gentle sarcasm to defuse the situation! • Othello is reminding the men he’s facing that their swords will be quite useless – him and his men are trained soldiers so it would be a bit of a mismatch!
  4. 4. Othello’s heroic language • Othello admits his ‘crimes’ saying he has indeed married Desdemona, when addressing the Senate in 1.3, but denies the charges of witchcraft – “The very head and front of my offending Hath this extent, no more” (1.3.81) • Ironic as Brabantio has made all kinds of accusations, but the only thing that Othello has really done is marry Desdemona! • He says he will “a round unvarnish’d tale deliver” (1.3.90) of his love. Unvarnished: Plain, straightforward, to the point. • More irony as he says he will give an account of “what drugs, what charms, what conjuration and what mighty magic” he used to win Desdemona’s heart – this irony conveys the idea that his love is greater than any drug, charm, conjuration or magic.
  5. 5. Othello’s heroic language • As a way of making Othello jealous, Iago warns him against jealousy. Othello says he’s not the jealous type and declares “No Iago; I’ll see before I doubt” “Away at once with love or jealousy!” (3.3.192) • For Othello, there are no grey areas, but despite what he says, Othello already has strong suspicions, not from seeing anything, but just from listening to Iago.
  6. 6. Othello’s heroic language • A little later in the scene Othello says that before this he was happy – he didn’t suspect anything, he couldn’t taste Cassio’s kisses on Desdemona’s lips and everything was right in his world. In his desperation to turn back the clock, he would rather Desdemona had slept with the dirtiest, sweatiest soldiers in camp (the “pioners”), if only he didn’t know about it! • “I had been happy, if the general camp, pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body, so I had nothing known!” (3.3.345) • This is the moment when he is realising his cool and calm nature has been destroyed: “Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!” (3.3.348)
  7. 7. Othello’s heroic language • When Othello demands some proof of Desdemona’s adultery, Iago tells him he will never be able to catch Des and Cassio in bed together, while at the same time describing their coupling in a most lurid and bestial way: “It is impossible you should see this were, were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride (heat)” (3.3.402) • He is wanting to get this primal, animal-like explicit image implanted firmly into Othello’s head. • This comes back in Act 4 when Desdemona thinks he has overheard Desdemona confess her love for Cassio, Othello exits with the exclamation “Goats and monkeys!” (4.1.263) – We see how Iago’s beastly imagery has taken root in Othello’s mind.
  8. 8. Othello’s heroic language • Othello then gives up his love for Desdemona and compares the force of his hatred to the force of a huge body of water as it descends through a constantly narrowing passage • “Never Iago: Like to the Pontic sea…” • “Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace, shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love” (Speech starts 3.3.453)
  9. 9. Othello’s heroic language • After seeing the handkerchief in Cassio’s hand, Othello says to Iago, “I would have him nine years a-killing. A fine woman! A fair woman! A sweet woman!” (4.1.178) • Othello believes that no punishment would be too cruel for Cassio, but struggles when he thinks of killing his wife – he thinks of how beautiful she is. • Trying to convince himself that his extreme hatred will overcome his extreme love, Othello says “My heart is turned to stone, I strike it and it hurts my hand” (4.1.182) • But then he backtracks, adding “O, the world hath not a sweeter creature!”
  10. 10. Othello’s heroic language • In the scene in which Othello calls Desdemona a whore, he says that he could bear the pain of being scorned as a cuckold. • “The fountain from which my currents runs / or else dries up; to be discarded thence!” (4.2.58) • Desdemona is that life-giving fountain; feeling that he has been discarded from her love makes Othello feel dead, but he can’t keep her with him. If he keeps her, she would no longer be a fountain, but a tank where ugly toads have sex: “a cistern for foul toads / To knot and gender in!” (4.2.61) • “Patience, thou young and rose-lipp’d cherubin, ay there, look grim as hell!” – Even the angel of patience would get angry at what he has seen. Animal imagery and hell imagery – Who is he sounding like??
  11. 11. Othello’s heroic language • After discovering the truth about Iago’s treachery, Othello feels that he has done a thing for which there can be no forgiveness. Looking at the body of Desdemona, Othello is so possessed by the image of his dead love he feels it would be better to be in hell: • “Whip me, ye devils, from the possession of this heavenly sight” • “O Desdemon! Desdemon! Dead!” • (5.2.277)