Summary of main ideas for Othello

Summary of main ideas for Othello
Deceitful appearance: Iago, Desdemona (did deceive her father)
Alienation from society, destroys (Iago, Othello)
Insular distrust of the alien
Barbarism is a heartbeat away
Black/White opposition……physically, visually, symbolically, psychologically, morally,
religiously…good vs evil, deceit vs truth, illusion vs reality, ignorance vs knowledge,
dishonesty vs honesty, hate vs love, death vs life, being vs seeming…..many dichotomies
Jealousy…marital, professional, obsessive
Human frailty/ fickleness
Reputation…the reflection of yourself in others’ eyes
Duality: the soul as it should be and what corrodes it
Destructive forces of the human condition
Dynamics of relationships
Othello needs to be played by someone who can combine his 2 sides of his character into a
credible whole. Character full of mighty oppositions
Othello- narcissistic, self-dramatising, alienated? His fatal flaw?
Psychological accuracy/ credibility of characters
Emotional grip on audience
Ends up showing the characters purely personal world
Othello goes from outward looking general to a man controlled by a single
obsession….sense of contraction….and this is not voluntary, but controlled by Iago….how
weak human nature is
Othello is a patient rather than an agent, worked on by forces outside of himself….a victim of
Othello is a contradiction…noble soldier-lover ( calls for sympathy) OR egocentric and
Othello’s military strengths become personal weaknesses eg immediate decision, clarity of
Othello’s otherness (Moor, not Christian)
Othello (emotional range, under greater pressure, ) vs Iago….which is the greater character?
Both controlled by jealousy, so the same?
Iago’s power over Othello is the crux of the play….representatives of conflicting forces on a
single psyche
Desdemona and Iago are parasitic on Othello
Desdemona, a symbol of absolutely positive moral standing?
Iago’s rationalism is a perversion
Personal strengths become weaknesses in different situations
We have ideals, but circumstances force compromise, Othello is tragic because he does not
do this
Desdemona becomes burdened by Othello’s idealisation of her
Iago: inner villainy and outer honesty
Iago uses more prose than Othello
Iago’s language is of static images while Othello’s is more dynamic and lofty
Iago’s language degrades human activity to that of lowly animals
Iago’s language often centers around darkness
Othello’s speech becomes more infected by Iago’s vocabulary (goats, toads, flies etc)
Othello’s speech is often (and earlier) romantic, heroic, elevated, adventurous
A thread of magic throughout the play
Monster/beast….monstrosity of behaviour
Imagery: Garden, appetite, poison, time, religion, cosmic, celestial, bestial, nature
Tension Act 4 after Othello confronts Desdemona
Suspense Act 5 Sc 2
Pace of dialogue….short sentences intensifies scene/ exclamations anger, distress as well
as surprise/ caesura/ use of questions (interrogative)
More and more action, creates intensity Act 5, Scene 1
Audience’s “need to know” survives til the end eg (why cannot Othello see Desdemona is
Some scenes start in mid-action (all Act 1)
James 1(1603 ascends throne) fascinated by Turkish history) Othello is 1604
On Cyprus, principals are isolated
Miscegenation highlights racist ideas for Venetian and Elizabethan society
Italy: pleasure and refinement, sophisticated vice
Hinges on the handkerchief as evidence
The play’s movement of action is a narrowing gyre from Venice to the bedroom/ tomb
No re-establishment of public order, as in other tragedies
No attempt to offer a panegyric for Othello, emphasis instead on the punishment of the villain
Last speech…. Is Othello cheering himself up or elevated to his former grandeur