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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 —

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Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

Lecture 5 Othello the Moor of Venice

Critical focus on

Act 2 Scene 3

(the brawl scene)

Thought for the day

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.

Dramatic purpose of act 2 scene 3

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 themes

Critically significant themes?

  • Good versus evil

  • Revenge

  • Reputation

  • Love and Hate; Love and Lust

  • The war between Appearance and Reality

  • Virtue and Vice; Strength and Weakness;

  • Wisdom and Folly

  • Wit and Witchcraft

Critically significant themes like machiavelli iago is an able practitioner of the power of words

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. glory and power 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

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

Othello the Commander General

  • 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”

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • We have seen Othello at his height as the lover of Desdemona (in Act 2 Scene 1);

  • Here in this scene we see him at his height as a military commander;

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • Othello as commander of the army, and in charge of security, is concerned about restoring and maintaining order in a war zone

  • Thus sees the brawl as a serious crime of disturbing the peace. His anger is apparent:

    “My blood begins my safer guides to rule”

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • The culprit ironically turns out to be one of his best friends, 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

Some reflective questions re Othello:

  • Does Othello’s instructions to Cassio to stand guard on a night of celebration suggest over-caution 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

The Brawl Episode, and Iago

  • The brawl scene functions as a miniature play within the main play

  • The brawl is contrived and managed by Iago with skill and cunning

  • Iago has 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

Critic Granville-Barker on Iago

  • Granville Barker, drew attention to

  • the chameleon-like ability of Iago—

  • his remarkable adaptation to each change of circumstances

To illustrate iago s chameleon like ability

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 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 & 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

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”

Critical significance of brawl scene

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

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • 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”

Iago s plot advances keeping in mind iago s manipulative use of words

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’llbe 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

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

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 cont1

Advance of Iago’s plot (cont)

  • Cassio must 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

Iago’s plan is developing— marking the first stage of Iago’s malice

  • NB He has succeeded in destroying Cassio;

  • 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:

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • He must 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.”

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • 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 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

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • 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

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

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 realisation that he is doing so

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

His way as he explains is

  • to employ sound advice skillfully perverted,

  • to foresee how the honesty, the kindness of Desdemona, the trust and simplicity of Othello,

  • can be made to destroy them.

Lecture 5 othello the moor of venice

  • 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

Most of all, we note Iago’s Machiavellian use of language

  • Language was Machiavelli’s weapon

  • Iago’s power and mastery of words;

  • Words carefully chosen, combined, and placed in a strategic position (word order)

  • to achieve their maximum effect namely to dominate, manipulate, and control through speech that creates disorder, (not disordered speech, mind you!!!).

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