The Use Of Language In Shakespheres Orthelo English Literature Essay

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1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

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Othello tells the story of a world lost in lies, revenge and ultimately tragedy. The audience observes Iago, alone, bathed in his own jealousy of Othello’s affection for Cassio, as he slowly and slyly ruins the relationship between Othello his beautiful wife Desdemona. Discussing the theme of jealousy and the beast that is ‘the green eyed monster’, I aim to analyse and explore the major characters within Othello, commenting on the language used to develop and intensify this extraordinary tragedy.

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The significance of Shakespeare’s language is key within Othello, as with any of his plays. Shakespeare uses a wide range of dramatic techniques such as imagery and synaesthesia to create fantastical pictures and sounds in the audiences and the reader’s mind, producing and atmosphere and scene that was otherwise unable to the audience in the Globe; due to lack of props, nor a reader. The strength of imagery of Othello, Iago and Desdemona enables the audience to truly visualise the characters, importantly as Othello was unlikely to have been played by a black man, and Desdemona by a woman. The power of Shakespeare’s language makes reading Othello a truly sensational experience, his presentation of jealousy is so very immense it is made almost equivalent to that emotion, as you as a reader completely empathise and realise every emotion along the long, twisting, rollercoaster that is Othello.

Othello’s language reveals all his emotions; once a man of arrogance and his pride for it, largely evident to the audience in a forty line speech where he shows of his skills, effortlessly interweaving words like “Anthropophagi” into blank verse lines, Othello is simply flicked into a vortex by Iago. Once Iago begins to apply pressure, the wild ‘Moor’ is let loose, as Othello begins to spin in a world of jealousy. The fact he is so easily lost and so unable to escape makes me doubt the strength of his initial character. In Act III Scene iii, we see Othello’s confidence in his marriage drop as his language changes from heavenly descriptions to hawking imagery. Othello compares Desdemona to a ‘haggard’; an untrained hawk, to signify his suspicions of her unfaithfulness. Othello’s jealousy begins to rage as we see his anger and thoughts become impure. Consequently his language begins to choke and deteriorate into disjointed, diffident, and illogical syntax. Throughout Act III, scene iii, Othello speaks in misplaced, jumps of speech; using shortened sentences such as ‘Ha!’ (III.iii.169), and increased repetition of phrases, such as ‘O, monstrous, monstrous!’ (III.iii.431), ‘O, blood, blood, blood!’ (III.iii.455)

The vast usage of punctuation in Othello’s soliloquy illustrates and begins the long journey of Othello’s confusion and doubt of his relationship, introducing more hesitant breaks into his speech. For example in the last two lines of Othello’s soliloquy we encounter five recurrences of punctuation, four of which insert pauses: ‘Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams, / I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!’ a large increase on former speech. Such moments of inarticulateness indicate that the jealousy streaming through Othello’s veins has reached his brain and his passion is overtaking his self control. ‘The green eyed monster’ appears to be eating Othello alive, with a clasp on his tongue and throat.

In act IV Othello seems finally consumed by the monster. The Act begins with Iago contesting Othello “Will you think so?” and Othello’s swarming mind can only echo, “Think so, Iago?” It is when Iago introduces the word ‘lie’ into the field when Othello’s mind is clearly broken. The word ‘lie’ toys with Othello’s thoughts as he is sent into a frenzy attempting to solve whether the word lie is referring to Cassio’s ‘lying on’, or Desdemona’s ‘lying with’, suggesting sex. It is now where Iago’s constant cunning suggestions begin to accumulate, and what just words were in Othello’s mind turn to visual images. Othello’s language begins to sicken, as he practically regurgitates words out of his mouth: ‘Lie with her? ‘Swounds, that’s fulsome! Handkerchief-confessions-handkerchief’. These reflexes of words conclude with “Pish! Noses, ears, and lips!” (IV.i.40). A clear indication that Othello’s mind has been destroyed, he is unable to speak and is out of control, or ‘in trance’ (IV.i.41, stage direction) and so he loses! The unstoppable combination of Iago and Jealousy sent Othello spiralling into a state of madness, both physically and mentally, losing his aptitude to reason and to think rationally and control of his body, in Iago’s explanation as epileptic seizures.

Othello’s character endures many emotions and Shakespeare uses many different literary devices to compliment and illustrate the story. Othello uses hyperbole to portray his anger at the prospect of Iago lying about his wife’s infidelity in Act III, Scene iii:

If thou dost slander her and torture me,

Never pray more; abandon all remorse;

On horror’s head accumulate;

Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed;

For nothing canst thou to damnation add

Greater than that.

Othello describes that if Iago has lied or dared to lie that the Earth will be confounded with horror at Othello’s actions in such a state of fury. Irony is also evident in Othello, as the handkerchief to which Iago hoped would bring Cassio to mercy actually resulted in Iago being brought to ruins and Cassio’s status growing after Iago’s wife confesses to stealing the handkerchief. An unsuspecting twist, after Iago’s clever plan seemed bullet-proof this indent of irony flips the story once more. Many animal metaphors are present in the play. Shakespeare compares Othello and Desdemona having sex to a ‘beast with two backs’ designed to dehumanize and to elicit an emotional response.

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on. (3. 3. 191-193)

In this metaphor, Iago tells Othello that jealousy is monstrous. Iago’s observation is also an example of irony, in that Iago is attempting to inflame Othello with jealousy and in that Iago himself suffers from jealousy aimed at Michael Cassio. Shakespeare believed iambic pentameter was closest to natural speech, unlike many of his plays where they are almost written completely in blank verse, In Othello iambic pentameter is used to highlight and draw attention to certain aspects of the story, promoting authority and power. Othello uses iambic pentameters; ‘For I’ll refer me to all things of sense, / If she in chains of magic were not bound,’, and therefore is clearly an important and commanding character. Shakespeare uses devices such as alliteration to make certain parts of the play memorable and emphasize them, for example before Othello stabs himself explaining his unwise love for Desdemona he ends his speech with ‘Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, / Nor set down aught in malice: then, must you speak / Of one that lov’d not wisely but too well.’ (5. 2. 398-400)

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Iago personifies jealousy. Shakespeare uses his character to exemplify just how horrific and powerful jealousy is. Often depicted as the most scandalous Shakespearian villains, or in the plays own words the “green eyed monster”, Iago is cunning and crafty, fooling Othello, however conspiring with the audience as though winking at them and telling them “And what’s he then that says I play the villain,” and know that it will laugh as though he were a clown (II.iii.310). He is an extremely complex character, playing himself is many different ways to different characters and the audience, and therefore we are never quite sure of his true character. He claims “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at: I am not what I am.” (Act 1, Scene 1), however the emotions to which Iago is ‘wearing’ are false, so dead that crows could eat them as they eat dead flesh. He doesn’t want to show his true self, hiding his true feelings and of course is proud of his manipulations. This proves Iago is unreliable and untrustworthy.

In Othello the antagonist is Iago. Throughout the play, Iago constantly prompts conflict and jealousy in a determined attempt to break up the relationship between Othello and Desdemona, on revenge of Othello’s positioning of Cassio as lieutenant and on suspicions that he has taken certain independence with his wife. Iago and Othello’s relationship is incredibly intricate, as we see the rise and fall of each character respectively, and how jealousy consequently subverts the power relations in the play. At the beginning of the play, Othello has statistical control, with his judgement directing Iago and Cassio; however after choosing Cassio as lieutenant Iago plans his revenge and begin to plant vivid images of Desdemona’s betrayal as he strips down Othello’s power and builds his own upon this. Iago is easily justifiable as the most powerful character in the play. However his jealousy and thirst for power ultimately lead to his failure, and like Othello became another character engulfed by the ‘green eyed monster’. Although this may indicate both character are equally powerful or equally not powerful, I believe Iago’s failure was less destructive and important. Iago fits the definition of jealousy, as he is in a state of revenge prompted by rivalry and competition, compared to Othello who is in a state of suspicion of sexual love. The ‘green eyed monster’ has another victim in the form of Roderigo who is envious that Desdemona loves Othello over him. In agreement with the definition of jealousy, Roderigo desires the possessions of another [1]. Reflecting, I believe the most powerful character is the ‘green eyed monster’. Jealousy has the power to destroy the soul and evident in Othello jealousy triumphs over all.

Towards the end of the play, Othello’s language indicates that he has fallen under Iago’s spell as the two characters begin to merge; another indication that they have both fallen for ‘the green eyed monster’, Othello has his first soliloquy, a character trait the audience would have grown to associate with Iago, as he has express his feelings this way many times before in the play. Othello also starts using negative animal imagery like Iago, saying things such as “…as if there were some monster in his thought,” “exchange me for a goat,” and “I’d rather be a toad!”; a sign that Iago is stealing more and more power and logic from Othello. Iago’s common usage of the motif of animals often referred to Othello, commenting on his diversity and race; calling Othello a “Barbary horse,” an “old black ram,” and also tells Brabanzio that his daughter and Othello are “making the beast with two backs” (I.i.117-118).

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock

The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:

But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er

Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

The ‘green eyed monster’ creates a vivid picture in the audience’s mind, an idea that most likely existed long before Othello. Both green and yellow are symbolic of jealousy and envy, producing synaesthesia in spectators mind. Similarly, Emilia depicts jealousy as severely self-generating, a “monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” (III.iv.156-157).

In conclusion, Othello truly shows off the power and skill of Shakespeare’s work. The ability to produce such intricate imagery and characters is immense and just by using a wide range of literary devices; such as alliteration, synaesthesia and metaphors Shakespeare produces a magical world to the audience. His representation of jealousy is extraordinary, and comparable to the emotion itself. By using Iago, Shakespeare has shown just how powerful jealousy really is. Proof that jealousy is one of the most dangerous and strongest emotions, and like anger can consume you. Othello illustrates the progression of jealousy, and how it grows to become increasingly vicious. Jealousy has the power to destroy the soul and evident in Othello ‘the green eyed monster’ triumphs over all.

Othello tells the story of a world lost in lies, revenge and ultimately tragedy. The audience observes Iago, alone, bathed in his own jealousy of Othello’s affection for Cassio, as he slowly and slyly ruins the relationship between Othello his beautiful wife Desdemona. Discussing the theme of jealousy and the beast that is ‘the green eyed monster’, I aim to analyse and explore the major characters within Othello, commenting on the language used to develop and intensify this extraordinary tragedy.

The significance of Shakespeare’s language is key within Othello, as with any of his plays. Shakespeare uses a wide range of dramatic techniques such as imagery and synaesthesia to create fantastical pictures and sounds in the audiences and the reader’s mind, producing and atmosphere and scene that was otherwise unable to the audience in the Globe; due to lack of props, nor a reader. The strength of imagery of Othello, Iago and Desdemona enables the audience to truly visualise the characters, importantly as Othello was unlikely to have been played by a black man, and Desdemona by a woman. The power of Shakespeare’s language makes reading Othello a truly sensational experience, his presentation of jealousy is so very immense it is made almost equivalent to that emotion, as you as a reader completely empathise and realise every emotion along the long, twisting, rollercoaster that is Othello.

Othello’s language reveals all his emotions; once a man of arrogance and his pride for it, largely evident to the audience in a forty line speech where he shows of his skills, effortlessly interweaving words like “Anthropophagi” into blank verse lines, Othello is simply flicked into a vortex by Iago. Once Iago begins to apply pressure, the wild ‘Moor’ is let loose, as Othello begins to spin in a world of jealousy. The fact he is so easily lost and so unable to escape makes me doubt the strength of his initial character. In Act III Scene iii, we see Othello’s confidence in his marriage drop as his language changes from heavenly descriptions to hawking imagery. Othello compares Desdemona to a ‘haggard’; an untrained hawk, to signify his suspicions of her unfaithfulness. Othello’s jealousy begins to rage as we see his anger and thoughts become impure. Consequently his language begins to choke and deteriorate into disjointed, diffident, and illogical syntax. Throughout Act III, scene iii, Othello speaks in misplaced, jumps of speech; using shortened sentences such as ‘Ha!’ (III.iii.169), and increased repetition of phrases, such as ‘O, monstrous, monstrous!’ (III.iii.431), ‘O, blood, blood, blood!’ (III.iii.455)

The vast usage of punctuation in Othello’s soliloquy illustrates and begins the long journey of Othello’s confusion and doubt of his relationship, introducing more hesitant breaks into his speech. For example in the last two lines of Othello’s soliloquy we encounter five recurrences of punctuation, four of which insert pauses: ‘Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams, / I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!’ a large increase on former speech. Such moments of inarticulateness indicate that the jealousy streaming through Othello’s veins has reached his brain and his passion is overtaking his self control. ‘The green eyed monster’ appears to be eating Othello alive, with a clasp on his tongue and throat.

In act IV Othello seems finally consumed by the monster. The Act begins with Iago contesting Othello “Will you think so?” and Othello’s swarming mind can only echo, “Think so, Iago?” It is when Iago introduces the word ‘lie’ into the field when Othello’s mind is clearly broken. The word ‘lie’ toys with Othello’s thoughts as he is sent into a frenzy attempting to solve whether the word lie is referring to Cassio’s ‘lying on’, or Desdemona’s ‘lying with’, suggesting sex. It is now where Iago’s constant cunning suggestions begin to accumulate, and what just words were in Othello’s mind turn to visual images. Othello’s language begins to sicken, as he practically regurgitates words out of his mouth: ‘Lie with her? ‘Swounds, that’s fulsome! Handkerchief-confessions-handkerchief’. These reflexes of words conclude with “Pish! Noses, ears, and lips!” (IV.i.40). A clear indication that Othello’s mind has been destroyed, he is unable to speak and is out of control, or ‘in trance’ (IV.i.41, stage direction) and so he loses! The unstoppable combination of Iago and Jealousy sent Othello spiralling into a state of madness, both physically and mentally, losing his aptitude to reason and to think rationally and control of his body, in Iago’s explanation as epileptic seizures.

Othello’s character endures many emotions and Shakespeare uses many different literary devices to compliment and illustrate the story. Othello uses hyperbole to portray his anger at the prospect of Iago lying about his wife’s infidelity in Act III, Scene iii:

If thou dost slander her and torture me,

Never pray more; abandon all remorse;

On horror’s head accumulate;

Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed;

For nothing canst thou to damnation add

Greater than that.

Othello describes that if Iago has lied or dared to lie that the Earth will be confounded with horror at Othello’s actions in such a state of fury. Irony is also evident in Othello, as the handkerchief to which Iago hoped would bring Cassio to mercy actually resulted in Iago being brought to ruins and Cassio’s status growing after Iago’s wife confesses to stealing the handkerchief. An unsuspecting twist, after Iago’s clever plan seemed bullet-proof this indent of irony flips the story once more. Many animal metaphors are present in the play. Shakespeare compares Othello and Desdemona having sex to a ‘beast with two backs’ designed to dehumanize and to elicit an emotional response.

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on. (3. 3. 191-193)

In this metaphor, Iago tells Othello that jealousy is monstrous. Iago’s observation is also an example of irony, in that Iago is attempting to inflame Othello with jealousy and in that Iago himself suffers from jealousy aimed at Michael Cassio. Shakespeare believed iambic pentameter was closest to natural speech, unlike many of his plays where they are almost written completely in blank verse, In Othello iambic pentameter is used to highlight and draw attention to certain aspects of the story, promoting authority and power. Othello uses iambic pentameters; ‘For I’ll refer me to all things of sense, / If she in chains of magic were not bound,’, and therefore is clearly an important and commanding character. Shakespeare uses devices such as alliteration to make certain parts of the play memorable and emphasize them, for example before Othello stabs himself explaining his unwise love for Desdemona he ends his speech with ‘Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, / Nor set down aught in malice: then, must you speak / Of one that lov’d not wisely but too well.’ (5. 2. 398-400)

Iago personifies jealousy. Shakespeare uses his character to exemplify just how horrific and powerful jealousy is. Often depicted as the most scandalous Shakespearian villains, or in the plays own words the “green eyed monster”, Iago is cunning and crafty, fooling Othello, however conspiring with the audience as though winking at them and telling them “And what’s he then that says I play the villain,” and know that it will laugh as though he were a clown (II.iii.310). He is an extremely complex character, playing himself is many different ways to different characters and the audience, and therefore we are never quite sure of his true character. He claims “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at: I am not what I am.” (Act 1, Scene 1), however the emotions to which Iago is ‘wearing’ are false, so dead that crows could eat them as they eat dead flesh. He doesn’t want to show his true self, hiding his true feelings and of course is proud of his manipulations. This proves Iago is unreliable and untrustworthy.

In Othello the antagonist is Iago. Throughout the play, Iago constantly prompts conflict and jealousy in a determined attempt to break up the relationship between Othello and Desdemona, on revenge of Othello’s positioning of Cassio as lieutenant and on suspicions that he has taken certain independence with his wife. Iago and Othello’s relationship is incredibly intricate, as we see the rise and fall of each character respectively, and how jealousy consequently subverts the power relations in the play. At the beginning of the play, Othello has statistical control, with his judgement directing Iago and Cassio; however after choosing Cassio as lieutenant Iago plans his revenge and begin to plant vivid images of Desdemona’s betrayal as he strips down Othello’s power and builds his own upon this. Iago is easily justifiable as the most powerful character in the play. However his jealousy and thirst for power ultimately lead to his failure, and like Othello became another character engulfed by the ‘green eyed monster’. Although this may indicate both character are equally powerful or equally not powerful, I believe Iago’s failure was less destructive and important. Iago fits the definition of jealousy, as he is in a state of revenge prompted by rivalry and competition, compared to Othello who is in a state of suspicion of sexual love. The ‘green eyed monster’ has another victim in the form of Roderigo who is envious that Desdemona loves Othello over him. In agreement with the definition of jealousy, Roderigo desires the possessions of another [1]. Reflecting, I believe the most powerful character is the ‘green eyed monster’. Jealousy has the power to destroy the soul and evident in Othello jealousy triumphs over all.

Towards the end of the play, Othello’s language indicates that he has fallen under Iago’s spell as the two characters begin to merge; another indication that they have both fallen for ‘the green eyed monster’, Othello has his first soliloquy, a character trait the audience would have grown to associate with Iago, as he has express his feelings this way many times before in the play. Othello also starts using negative animal imagery like Iago, saying things such as “…as if there were some monster in his thought,” “exchange me for a goat,” and “I’d rather be a toad!”; a sign that Iago is stealing more and more power and logic from Othello. Iago’s common usage of the motif of animals often referred to Othello, commenting on his diversity and race; calling Othello a “Barbary horse,” an “old black ram,” and also tells Brabanzio that his daughter and Othello are “making the beast with two backs” (I.i.117-118).

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock

The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:

But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er

Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

The ‘green eyed monster’ creates a vivid picture in the audience’s mind, an idea that most likely existed long before Othello. Both green and yellow are symbolic of jealousy and envy, producing synaesthesia in spectators mind. Similarly, Emilia depicts jealousy as severely self-generating, a “monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” (III.iv.156-157).

In conclusion, Othello truly shows off the power and skill of Shakespeare’s work. The ability to produce such intricate imagery and characters is immense and just by using a wide range of literary devices; such as alliteration, synaesthesia and metaphors Shakespeare produces a magical world to the audience. His representation of jealousy is extraordinary, and comparable to the emotion itself. By using Iago, Shakespeare has shown just how powerful jealousy really is. Proof that jealousy is one of the most dangerous and strongest emotions, and like anger can consume you. Othello illustrates the progression of jealousy, and how it grows to become increasingly vicious. Jealousy has the power to destroy the soul and evident in Othello ‘the green eyed monster’ triumphs over all.

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