Thursday, January 27, 2011

Devil in Disguise

The further along I get into Othello, the more enthralled I become with the character of Iago. It amazes me how he seems to have the adaptability of a chameleon and can somehow manage to fool everyone at once. While he is an absolutely terrible and amoral person, I cannot dispute that I find myself waiting to see what elaborate plans he'll think up next. I'm curious to see who will discover that Iago is evil in the long run and help lead to his destruction. Goodness knows he deserves it! It is my premonition that Emilia will be the one to figure out that he is lying since she assumed that whoever was framing Desdemona was looking out for their own position and had their best interests at heart. I'm just scared that her discovery of such things will lead to her own death. I wouldn't put it past Iago to threaten and kill his own wife. After all, he had nothing good to say about her while she was alive either.

Fast Forward

What amount of time is covered in the action? How much of the action is presented as a report rather than dramatized on stage? Is there a meaning behind the selection of events to be dramatized and those to be reported?

For being such a lengthy play, it actually doesn't cover nearly as much time as the reader may otherwise presume. After Othello's departure for Cyprus, only a few days pass by before the tragic ending takes place. Nearly everything in the play is dramatized rather than reported, with the exception of the tempest at sea and the failed invasion of the Turks along with the bedroom scenes between Othello and Desdemona. These were all reported instead for obvious reasons. During the Shakespearean time period, it would have been difficult to simulate a storm or battle at sea with such limited props and resources. As for the bedroom scenes, it was probably considered inappropriate to elaborate on these events at the time. Unlike today, Shakespeare didn't feel the need to give his audience every single detail in a story. It was left up to the audience to use their imagination and simultaneously follow along with what else was being revealed in the plot. Therefore, I don't think that there was so much of a meaning behind the selection of the events that were dramatized and reported as there was a convenience to make them that way. Shakespeare did was most logical at the time.

Themey - Themes

What themes does the play present? To what extent do the thematic materials of the play have an effect on the dramatic experience?

While I'm sure there are several themes in this play, as there often are, the one that is most prominent in Othello is the self-destruction of jealousy. Iago feeds on this weakness, creating a web of lies that will ultimately lead to Othello's, Roderigo's, and even his own downfall. Iago encourages Roderigo's jealousy of Othello's marriage in order to get him to assist eliminating Cassio from the picture. Because he is blinded by his infatuation with Desdemona, he is willing to do anything Iago asks even if it doesn't necessarily make sense. By the end of Act IV, Iago had easily convinced Roderigo to kill Cassio so that Desdemona would remain in Cyprus and therefore would be more accessible to his affections. In terms of Othello, Iago carefully nurtured the prospect that Desdemona was cheating on him and then encouraged his jealous rage to take over his life. Othello, who had never been unreasonable, completely transformed throughout the play and gradually became a man of bitter resentment. He began to mistreat Desdemona, even going as far as to hit her while she remained completely in the dark and confused as to where he had come across these allegations. Jealousy is the root of all evil in this play. Iago, the most despicable character by far, is motivated by his own jealousy which drives him to ruin others' lives. Originally, he was jealous of Cassio for being named Othello's Lieutenant, and then later verbalized that he had heard a rumor that Cassio and Othello had slept with his wife. Determined to seek revenge, Iago's jealous nature is what causes the plot to advance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

C'mon rude boy boy boy....

During Act II, one of the parts that I thought was most revealing about Iago's character was his discussion with Desdemona about different types of women. Not only were his opinions degrading, but they also showed how he chose to view the worst in all types of people. When he sarcastically described the perfect woman in lines 147-157, it becomes apparent that he doesn't believe a woman like this to actually exist in real life. Unsurprisingly, he has a jaded few of those around him and is borderline cruel to his wife Emilia. When she says "You shall not write my praise", meaning "You don't have anything good to say about me", he answers "No, let me not" (II.i.115-116). By bluntly refusing to compliment his wife, Iago reveals that he does not think highly of his her in any aspect.
Then Desdemona presents him with four scenarios involving women. She inquires him on how he would compliment a smart and beautiful woman, and he answers that if a woman is pretty and smart she uses her looks to get what she wants. Next, she asks him about a smart and unattractive woman. Othello asserts that even if a woman is ugly she will be smart enough to find a guy who will sleep with her. Gee, negative much?
When she asks him about dumb and beautiful women, he compliments these most kindly saying that no pretty woman is stupid because her stupidity generally makes her more attractive to men. He seems pretty biased if you ask me. In terms of dumb and ugly women, Iago says that no matter how ugly or stupid the woman is she plays the same "dirty tricks" that smart and pretty women do. Desdemona didn't seem to appreciate this argument of his very much.
3. Identify the protagonist and the antagonist. Are there any foil characters?

As the title hints, the protagonist of this literary work is Othello. He is the character who possesses a hubris which will undoubtedly cause his downfall in the end. Consequently, the antagonist of this story is Iago. Nefarious in nature, Iago brings a new meaning to the character of evil. It appears that it is his ultimate goal to ruin everyone's life around him, leaving only himself happier and better off than before. He despises Othello because he appointed him as his Ancient rather than his Lieutenant. Additionally, he suspects that Othello has slept with his wife Emilia which only deepens his hatred for him. He dislikes Cassio because he is the soldier who was placed in second-in-command above him. He even reveals at the end of act two that he thinks Cassio has probably come on to his wife as well. This can't exactly be argued as strongly since Cassio greeted Emilia with a kiss upon his arrival at a seaport in Cyprus, but it still seems unlikely (II.i.96-99). And finally, Iago's cold-hearted nature is only reinforced by the way he treats Roderigo. Using him for his money and taking advantage of his naivete, he makes promises to Roderigo that he knows he has no capability of ensuring. All in all, Iago is a rather despicable character.


2. Is the play a tragedy or comedy, a melodrama or a farce? If a comedy, is it primarily romantic or satiric? Does it mingle aspects of these types of drama? How important to experiencing the drama is the audience's awareness of the classification of the play?

Shakespeare seems to be most well-known for his tragedies, and Othello would certainly fall in that category. Because I began reading this play with that concept in mind, I immediately had an idea of how it would end. While Shakespeare's works are universally considered classics, I also see them as fairly predictable. My prediction of the ending is this: that Othello and Desdemona will somehow die as a result of Othello's hubris, or fatal flaw. He will become so consumed with rage or jealousy, fueled by Iago's villainous actions, that he will in turn be the reason for his and Desdemona's unfortunate ends. Besides the predictability of the main characters, I have found the character of Iago to be contrastingly complex and erratic. His scheming nature and selfishness have been two of the most pivotal factors in advancing the plot. I am interested to see how his character will fare throughout the storyline.