Lecture 5 Othello the Moor of Venice Critical focus on Act 2 Scene 3 (the Brawl Scene) Thought for the day!!! One theatrical critic saw the play OTHELLO as — a dramatized bullfight in which the hero is a noble bull, repeatedly charging the handkerchief in the wristy grip of Iago, the dominant matador. En passant Critical Significance of Scene 2 of Act 2 We hear the proclamation of the festivities of Othello’s nuptials; But we are not allowed to forget the domestic drama While the public will have every cause to celebrate Othello will soon have no cause for revelry The public revelry stands as a contrast (in antithesis) to the dark tragedy that is about to follow Dramatic purpose of Act 2 Scene 3 To present a portrait of Othello as commander of the army To advance Iago’s plot; and show the first victory of evil over good To present a picture of Iago the villain To give another look at Desdemona To present closer looks at Cassio Montano Roderigo To link the brawl and the revenge plot To provide a comic interlude for comic relief Critically significant Concerns; Individual and Society Good versus Evil; Revenge Reputation; and Responsibility Duty and Desire Love and Hate; Love and Lust Conflict between Appearance and Reality Virtue and Vice; Strength and Weakness; Wisdom and Folly; Patience, Power, and Discipline Wit and Witchcraft Order and Chaos; Civilization and Barbarianism Methods / Devices / Techniques and the Interplay of these methods Diction: the energy & weight of words to meaning Antithesis: Contrast of two ideas / opposite words Imagery, and Poetic Language – Sound and Meaning; Stress and Rhythm – lines are moving with varying emphases Dramatic Irony (Othello: ‘Iago is most honest.) Soliloquy: Iago - p81, p99 and end of Scene Structures - Thought Structure and Rhetoric how thoughts are structured within a speech through different blocks of thought; Characters are the way they speak Distinctive Language Patterns The language and imagery of characters of the main characters Iago adjusts his language to suit what he thinks are the tastes and sensibilities of those he wants to impress, cheat, or deceive; When he speaks to Montano he uses verse, and high sounding metaphors ’Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep’ Normally marked by brevity, underlining his rational, businesslike, pragmatic view of life Othello’s language Critic, Wilson Knight, comments Othello’s highly coloured and poetic Stately; rich in sound and phrase; Majestic and Dignified statement The power of his heightened, poetically musical language defines Othello as a soldier and lover Othello and Iago Iago speaks of the trade of war Othello ‘the pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war; Iago looks at the sea as an arena for professional activity For Othello, the sea is a mysterious, poetic element- ‘Like to the Pontic sea, / Whose icy current and compulsive course / Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on’ [3.3. 451-53] Critically significant themes? Like Machiavelli, Iago is an able practitioner of the power of words The power of language as a weapon A most powerful weapon in the struggle for primacy — i.e. Power and Glory over others Human affairs are about winning and losing Language is a fundamental weapon in human struggles All speech is a form of rhetoric (as it is for Iago) The best language is the most operative The difference between a better and worse way of speaking is the degree of success each achieves Moving men is the prime objective of speech!!! The things that words express are of little importance What’s important is the success words have in moving one’s audience in the desired direction The strong and wily inevitably dominate the weak and unwary Men are moved not by abstract argument but by “lively reasons” of their appetites and fears Passions are what is truest about men Human life essentially takes place on this level The main fact of life — STRUGGLE Othello the Commander General Cyprus: ‘this warlike Isle’ We can understand and appreciate why Venetians appointed him to this position Shows moderation, discretion, responsibility, and caution Note his advice to Cassio: “Let’s teach ourselves the honourable stop, Not to outsport discretion” We have seen Othello at his height as the lover of Desdemona (in Act 2 Scene 1); Here in this Scene we see Othello at his height as a military commander; Order and Chaos Othello as commander of the army, and in charge of security, is concerned about restoring and maintaining order in a war zone ‘Are we turned to Turks… For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl.’ Thus sees the brawl as a serious crime of disturbing the peace. His anger is apparent: “My blood begins my safer guides to rule” Irony Ironically, turns out to be, Cassio, But like a good commander, Othello must not make an exception of him Cassio is dismissed with decisive immediacy: “Cassio, I love thee But never more be officer of mine” Some reflective questions re Othello: Does Othello’s instructions to Cassio to stand guard on a night of celebration suggest overcaution or the mark of a prudent soldier? Does Othello show special friendship for Cassio here? Does this make Cassio’s fall even greater? The Brawl Episode, and Iago Brawl scene functions as a miniature play within the main play Contrived and managed by Iago with skill and cunning Iago - many ‘acting’ roles or parts to play, and plays each one of them with lively personal enjoyment arising from his awareness of his own unique powers. Critic Granville-Barker on Iago the chameleon-like ability of Iago— his remarkable adaptation to each change of circumstances To illustrate Iago’s chameleon-like ability: Boon companion to Cassio, acting the good fellow His more sinister role as he effectively tells lies to the Cyprian Governor, Montano, about Cassio’s “infirmity” Then changes from hypocrite to outright villain as he puts Roderigo on the trail to further mischief— ‘go out and cry a mutiny!’ Next becomes a conscientious upholder of law and order, asking all present to show due respect for Othello Iago then plays the part that best suits his talents, that of the artful deceiver: He becomes honest Iago Puts on a posture of being strained while giving a seeming impartial account of what has happened And impressing Othello with his ‘pained’ reaction to Cassio’s lapse— ‘Honest Iago that looks dead with grieving” Note implicit stage directions re gesture Critical significance of Brawl Scene The Brawl Scene provides impressive evidence of Iago’s successful manipulation of all those around him Roderigo, Montano, Cassio, Othello Leaves nothing to chance here for even before the brawl, he convinced Montano that Cassio’s infirmity is a danger to Venetian interests As a result, Montano feels compelled to urge Iago to be a good soldier and tell the truth about Cassio Iago; also his famous Soliloquy in Scene 3 His talent for hypocrisy is again to the fore He tells the story against Cassio with a fine show of reluctance and misgiving (all show) Takes on another role: one of faithful counselor and consoler of Cassio The real Iago only re- emerges in his great soliloquy, “And what’s he then, that says I play the villain / When the advice is free I give and honest” IAGO’S PLOT ADVANCES (Keeping in mind Iago’s manipulative use of words) Interesting to watch Iago’s mind at work as he plots and plans to bring about the disgrace of Cassio First he must work on Cassio himself; knows his weakness—alcohol; give him plenty and then “he’ll be as full of quarrel and offence” Secondly - to arrange for Roderigo and three “noble swelling” Cypriots to be on guard duty but they must all be “flustered with flowing cups”. A fight is bound to follow, and from it, Cassio’s disgrace. Advance of Iago’s plot (cont) To ensure it works, other agents must be used Montano must be convinced of Cassio’s “vice”, his “infirmity”, his weakness for alcohol that will one day “shake this island” Roderigo must be ordered to “go out and cry mutiny” and bells must be rung so that all the Cypriots are involved Iago to Montano re Cassio’s “infirmity” (Where Iago cleverly & convincingly slanders Cassio) You see this fellow that is gone before; He is a soldier, fit to stand by Caesar And give direction; and but see his vice: ’Tis to his virtue a just equinox, The one as long as th’other. ’Tis pity of him. I fear the trust Othello puts in him, On some odd time of his infirmity, Will shake this island. Advance of Iago’s plot (cont) Cassio must then be advised to win Desdemona’s support: “I’ll tell you what you shall do…Our General’s wife is now the general…Confess yourself freely to her; importune her, she’ll help put you in your place again” Recall Iago’s remark in his soliloquy: “His soul is so enfettered to her love, / That she may make, unmake, do what she list,” Iago’s plan is developing— marking the first stage of Iago’s malice NB He has succeeded in destroying the reputation of Cassio; Cassio’s good name; Now he wishes to destroy Othello and Desdemona Out of Desdemona’s virtue and goodness he wishes to make the “net / That shall enmesh them all” But just in case there is any weakness in the plan, Iago has two other things to do: He must also involve his wife, Emilia: “My wife must move for Cassio to her mistress, I’ll set her on” He must also let Othello see some evidence: “Myself awhile to draw the Moor apart, / And bring him jump, when he may Cassio find, / Soliciting his wife.” Monstrous Plan in the Making Iago is now full of delight about his evil creation. To put the Moor into a jealousy that judgment cannot cure, and thus destroy his peace of mind All these practical moves will transform his evil design into a working reality The method may be slow (Iago is patient); but it always appear legitimate; never extravagant when circumstance is added to circumstance until the net, the web of intrigue, is woven to take Othello into its coils. The comic interlude The interlude is full of comedy as well as having a direct bearing on main events. Iago is the life of the party Swings into action; and skillfully turns this social occasion of the festivities into a heavy drinking party His ditties and jokes about English drinking habits and about “your Dane, your German, and your swagger-bellied Hollander” provides great comic entertainment for a viewing audience But aside from the comic relief it provides, it has a direct bearing on the main events of the plot It neatly ties in with one significant part of Iago’s plot to engineer the getting drunk of Cassio, and eventually his dismissal, his dishonorable discharge. To appreciate Iago’s soliloquy near the end of this scene, you need to keep in mind— Iago (to Cassio): Come, you are too severe a moraller. As the time, the place, and the condition of this country stands, I could heartily wish this had not so befallen: but since it is as it is, mend it for your own good. (“And what’s he then that says I play the villain”) Commentary on Iago’s soliloquy Alone Iago asks how anyone could see him as a villain with ironical words Note its frankly evil self-revelation Shows more plainly the peculiar quality of Iago’s wickedness This is his power to use sanity, common sense, goodness, as weapons against themselves And his clear, pitiless realization that he is doing so His way as he explains is to employ sound advice skillfully perverted, to foresee how the honesty, the kindness of Desdemona, and the trust and simplicity of Othello, can be made to destroy them. Thus Iago’s part in the play is full of perfectly correct and even admirable sentiments but all used for evil purposes… For example, at the end of this scene when he speaks to Roderigo about “patience” his words have the false ring of good advice deliberately twisted towards evil ends: “How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” Most of all, we note Iago’s Machiavellian use of language Language was Machiavelli’s weapon Similarly, Iago’s power – masterful manipulation of words; a warrior of words; Words carefully chosen, combined, and strategically structured (Thought Structure) to achieve their maximum effect namely to dominate, manipulate, and control through speech that creates disorder.