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Lecture 10 OTHELLO THE MOOR OF VENICE. Critical Focus on Act 5, Scene 1. Entry point through the form and choice of speech of characters. All human speech reveals states of mind; focus on diction, and imagery;]]]

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Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice


Critical Focus on

Act 5, Scene 1

Entry point through the form and choice of speech of characters
Entry point through the form and choice of speech of characters

  • All human speech reveals states of mind; focus on diction, and imagery;]]]

  • And a character is just as capable of seducing and misleading an audience as s/he is of seducing and misleading another character;

  • Asides and Soliloquies involve a character talking to the audience; some sort of relationship is thus established between audience and charac

Essay characters

‘Othello is powerless, and Iago the real enemy.’

  • Discuss the presentation of the character of Othello in the light of this statement,

    and relate your discussion to the theme of

    the individual and society more generally.

Prefacing remarks regarding recent reading literature exam paper
Prefacing remarks regarding recent ‘Reading Literature’ exam paper

  • Recall Section B, 2 (a) essay question

  • Re- Shakespeare delights in human inconsistencies…

  • Careful reading of question?

  • What sense can be attached to the playwright “delights”…?

  • Context? Plot Structure? Dramatically?

Othello examination essay question
Othello examination essay question exam paper

Show how the playwright delights

in human inconsistencies

which contribute to

the major themes of the play.

Inconsistency? exam paper

  • Changeable; contrary;

  • fluctuating; shifting

  • incompatible;

  • inconsonant; inconstant;

  • unstable; unsteady; unsuitable

  • Vacillating; variable; varying;

Playwright shakespeare delights
Playwright (Shakespeare) delights exam paper

  • How can I, or anyone tell?

  • Good test of De Bono style lateral thinking

  • Who gets the best lines? The best speeches?

  • The most memorable and impacting role?

  • All of which must be considered in context

  • E.g. The socio-cultural context of the world of the play

Interesting ironic ironising reversals
Interesting ironic & ironising reversals exam paper

  • Who does not like to reverse, turn round or undermine our anticipations / expectations?

  • It can be very pleasure giving; evident in this play?

  • Popular and common cultural stereotypes of Africans (Venetian expectations of Othello?)

  • Promiscuous; Polygamous; uncouth; no concept of love and fidelity; of romantic feelings?

  • Deficient in standards of cultivated expression

  • Incapable of self-discipline; easy-going; too relaxed

Re iago
Re- Iago exam paper

  • No sense of honesty; trustworthiness; loyalty, fairness; justice?

  • Barbaric? Iago, the real barbarian of the play

    Ironic contrasts in Iago’s character

  • Iago as rough in his speech; acts uncultured;

  • Iago as the one who obviously thinks and speaks a great deal about lust; about women

Iago in contrast with othello
Iago (in contrast with Othello) exam paper

  • Iago as the one who has no real religious (Christian), or moral values; who only really cares about himself; worships himself alone

  • Iago as the one who cannot be trusted; as the dark, diabolical prince of darkness; of dishonesty; of deception; of discrimination, of destruction

  • Iago as the real black devil; dark savage

  • The barbarian; one ready to expunge even the good; the innocent; the well-meaning; the virtuous ;

  • Roderigo: O damned Iago! O inhuman dog! p223

Noteworthy words of iago
Noteworthy words of IAGO exam paper

  • ‘To gross the clasps of a lascivious Moor’

  • ‘Though I do hate him as I hate hell pains’

  • ‘It is merely a lust of the blood’

  • ‘The Moor is of a free and open nature, // That thinks men honest

Iago from act 2 scene 1
Iago: [from Act 2 Scene 1] exam paper

‘Her eye must be fed. And what delight shall

she have to look at the devil? When the blood

is made dull with the act of sport, there should

be, again to inflame it and give satiety a fresh

appetite, loveliness in favour, sympathy in

years, manners and beauties; all of which the

Moor is defective in.’

And yet iago the intellectual the philosopher
And yet? exam paper Iago, the intellectual, the philosopher?

  • Iago, just another ordinary soldier?

  • Rank?

  • Recall and Note: an ancient / an ensign

  • Thus, he is an officer of the lowest commissioned rank in the military chain of command

  • But—

  • No typical soldier is IAGO

Recall iago expounding on free will in act 1 scene 3
Recall Iago expounding on Free Will exam paper in Act 1, Scene 3:

’Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our

are our gardens, to the which our wills are

gardeners….either to have it sterile with

idleness or manured with industry, why the

power and corrigible authority of this lies in our

wills…We have reason to cool our raging

motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts…

Delight proportionate to the degree and quantity of human inconsistencies
‘Delight’ proportionate to the degree and quantity of human inconsistencies

  • Shakespeare very greatly, and very frequently takes immense pleasure in not only reminding, but in showing his audience they cannot rely on cultural or sexual stereotypes

  • Indeed, the WHITE IAGOs of this world not only may well be, but more often than not really are the darkest, most diabolical villains of all

We can sense shakespeare s delight
We can sense Shakespeare’s delight human inconsistencies

  • For IAGO in the play Othello (and his fellow IAGOs in the real everyday world)

  • They have turned the act of evil into fine art

  • They are able to practice being evil with others thinking and believing they are good

  • ‘Good Iago’; Honest Iago; Brave Iago

  • ‘That one may smile, and smile, and be villain’ [Echoing famous words in ‘Hamlet’]

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

Act 5, human inconsistencies

Scene 1

Iago’s Malice—The Final Stage

The tragic downfall of othello tragedy tragic drama
The Tragic Downfall of Othello human inconsistenciesTragedy / Tragic Drama

  • For the Tragic Hero, there is always a fall arising from flaw in his character;

  • Situation changes from well-being to misfortune

  • Tragic hero need not be unusually virtuous or just; yet potentially, a noble person;

  • but he should be someone whose misfortunes are brought about by some error of judgment on his part

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

  • This error of judgment arises from some flaw in his character; some human weakness;

  • It is essential that to some extent he contributes to his own downfall

  • And then by suffering as a result, he acquires self-knowledge, and so purges his faults / wrongdoings

How does othello fulfill the role of tragic hero think critically
How does Othello fulfill the role of Tragic Hero? Think critically!

Where does the problem lie in Othello? Flaw?

  • Does the high regard with which he is held in Venice cause him to believe in his own power and become convinced of his own merit?

  • Is he too proud? Too unrealistic?

  • Does his preoccupation with military duty and war render him unfit to conceive of any other way of life besides militaristic affairs?

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

Note the atmosphere on stage
Note the Atmosphere on stage critically!

  • The scene is set in darkness

    Lodovico: ’Tis heavy night. p221

  • The action and busy movement of this scene contrasts with the quiet passivity of previous ‘Willow’ scene i.e. Scene 3, of Act 4

  • Noise, confusion, rapid movement,

  • And murder

  • Begins with conspiratorial whispering; and ends with a brutal murder

Dramatic purpose of act 5 scene 1
Dramatic purpose of Act 5 Scene 1 critically!

  • To present a scene full of action

  • To give the audience a last look at Roderigo

  • To put into action Iago’s plot to have both Roderigo, and Cassio killed

  • To keep Othello before the mind of the audience (appears only briefly in this scene)

  • To prepare the audience for the downfall of Iago; indeed, to show his first ever set-back

Dramatic techniques
Dramatic Techniques critically!

  • Copia Verborum / Copia; also Enumeration

  • Antithesis; Parallelism

  • Foreshadowing

  • Imagery; Symbolism

  • Irony: dramatic irony, when the audience knows something that one or more than one of the characters do not;

  • verbal irony, when someone says something and means another;

Poetic language poetic drama
Poetic Language / Poetic Drama critically!

  • Heightened poetic language


  • Patterned sounds to highlight and reinforce meaning and message;

  • Compulsive Rhythms

Copia verborum copia warriors in wars of words
Copia Verborum / Copia critically!Warriors in Wars of Words

  • Abundance of words, for verbal fencing;

  • Use of lengthy speeches, Othello and Iago

  • Used as a rhetorical device / technique;

  • Employing a large army of skillfully chosen and well arranged words to pack a powerful series of effectively delivered punches or hammer strikes to drive your point home; to sink your point into those with seemingly thick, impenetrable skulls, so that they get and accept your message, your point of view

Characters diction speech style
Characters’ Diction / Speech Style critically!

Characters’ choice and use of

  • Saxon words: Plain, simple, short, monosyllabic words;

    Characters’ choice and use of

  • Latinated words: Formal, complex, long, polysyllabic words

Noticing words that are frequently repeated word patterns
Noticing words that are frequently repeated; word patterns critically!

Note characters’ choice and use of simple, short words used quite frequently, and with increasing dramatic significance?

  • ‘honest’; ‘honesty’; ‘honour’; ‘honourable’; ‘good’; ‘true’; ‘truly’;

  • ‘dishonest’; ‘villain’; ‘villainy’; ‘knave’; ‘slave’; ‘dog’; ‘devil’; ‘gross’

Diction word choice and literary critical significance
Diction / word choice, and literary-critical significance

Entry point through word choice / language;

  • Consider how the choice of these words reflects on the character using them;

  • And what they reveal about his or her attitude to the character spoken about;

  • Notice there is also an element of irony in the use of these words;

Characters diction
Characters’ Diction significance

You should also notice how often characters refer or appeal to such words as

  • ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’; and are concerned about the ‘soul’;

    The frequency of this simple vocabulary makes it clear how much the play is concerned with…?

  • With human values, and divine values

  • Dramatic effects;

Scene takes place in darkness made apparent to audience through hints
Scene takes place in darkness made apparent to audience through hints—

  • Cassio: O help, ho! Light! A surgeon!

  • Lodovico: Two or three groan. It is a heavy night.

  • Gratiano: Here’s one comes in his shirt, with light and weapons.

  • Iago: Kill men i’th’dark? Where be these bloody thieves?

Enter iago roderigo
Enter Iago & Roderigo through hints—

Iago to Roderigo:

Here, stand behind this bulk: straight will

he come. // Wear thy good rapier bare, and put

it home, // Quick, quick; fear nothing: I’ll be at

thy elbow. // It makes us or mars us; think on

that, // And fix most firm thy resolution.

  • Here we see a firm and determined IAGO

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

  • Then enters Cassio followed by a flurry of violent action through hints—

  • After the wounding of Roderigo and Cassio when all is increasing confusion in darkness

  • Othello makes a brief appearance

  • Comes on stage at a point whereby he becomes indirectly a party to a treacherous and cowardly attack on Cassio

Diction what words critically stand out in othello s praise of iago
Diction? What words critically stand out in Othello’s praise of Iago?

  • And Othello on hearing the victim, Cassio, cry in pain

  • Othello remarks:

    ’Tis he! O brave Iago, honest and just,

    That hast such noble sense of thy friend’s

    wrong, // Thou TEACHEST me.

  • Note significance of Othello’s diction

Re othello and dramatic effects
Re Othello, and dramatic effects praise of Iago?

  • Change? (Tragic downfall of Othello) From noble Moor to base Moor;

  • Surely nothing shows more clearly the present debasement of his once honourable and noble character

  • Than at this point [in 5.1] when Othello does become a party to this treacherous and cowardly attack on Cassio

Note othello s diction and dramatic effects
Note Othello’s diction, praise of Iago? and dramatic effects

  • And note the critically significant words here:

  • “brave”, “honest”, “just”, “noble”

  • Indicating symptoms of a now perverted and debased mind

  • Where good values have been transformed into bad;

  • Where evil now seems right

Dramatic effect
DRAMATIC EFFECT? praise of Iago?

  • And what the audience comes to painfully realize on hearing Othello say:

    Thou teachest me

  • The shocking, evil, tragic truth

And irony ironic effects
And IRONY? Ironic effects praise of Iago?

  • Othello’s interpretation of character and event is the source of much irony

  • His reference to Iago’s honesty and justice is exploited many times in the play

  • In the light of what we know of Iago’s part in this particular enterprise

  • ‘O brave Iago’ is another instance of deception

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

After which we next hear othello say
After which we next hear Othello say— praise of Iago?

‘Strumpet, I come!

Forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are


Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be


[Exit Othello]

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

  • Othello regrets what he has set out to do; praise of Iago?

  • He conjures up an image of killing Desdemona in her bed, but this mental image of the outspread blood blotted bedsheets begins to call to his mind the handkerchief;

  • The bed in his mind is stained with lust, echoing Desdemona’s infidelities with Cassio

  • And will be spotted with the blood of lust

Exit othello
Exit Othello praise of Iago?

  • So the Moor leaves the stage with an indication that Desdemona will be the next to suffer

  • It is also ironic he should take Iago’s ‘brave’ activity as an incitement to act against Desdemona

  • However the impending tragedy is delayed for a short period of time; (Dramatic Effect?)

  • Creating further suspense;

  • As the uproar spreads with the comments made by Lodovico, and also Gratiano

  • Iago’s stabbing of Roderigo, and entry of Bianca

Iago the ever ready master of improvisation
Iago the ever ready master of improvisation praise of Iago?

  • Iago ever ready to seize every opportunity

  • Fastens upon Bianca as a possible scapegoat for what has happened

  • Thereby reaching a further height of hypocrisy when as Iago says:

    Look you, pale mistress?

    Do you perceive the gastness of her eye?

And iago continues
And Iago continues… praise of Iago?

Nay, if you stare, we shall hear more anon.

Behold her well; I pray you look upon her.

Do you see, gentlemen? Nay, guiltiness will


Though tongues were out of use.

Rhetorical effectiveness? Convincingness?

  • This is villainy supreme…

And re iago
And re Iago praise of Iago?

  • After Iago cunningly concealed himself while Roderigo on orders did the dirty work

    (Looks and sounds familiar to the audience?)

  • Iago then emerges to play up the role of brave and helpful citizen

  • And pretending to be shocked beyond measure by the villainies of others

  • And even winning the admiration of Lodovico who finds Iago a very valiant fellow

Lodovico on iago
Lodovico on Iago praise of Iago?

Gratiano: This is Othello’s ancient, as I take it.

Lodovico: The same indeed,

a very valiant fellow.

To be noted iago and ironic humour
To be noted: Iago and ironic humour ** praise of Iago?

In Iago’s question to Cassio:

  • O my lieutenant, what villains have done this?

    Dramatic Effects?

  • There is surely a touch of ironic humour here

  • Audience members can imagine the satisfaction the use of the word ‘lieutenant’ must give Iago in this context.

Re motivation of iago s evil towards cassio
Re- Motivation of Iago’s evil towards Cassio? praise of Iago?

  • One of the most suggestive (sub-textual) clues to Iago’s motivation to do evil?

  • is perhaps to be found in Iago’s characterization of Cassio at the beginning of this scene [p219]

  • Iago cannot tolerate Cassio’s continued existence because as we note him say:

  • ‘He hath a daily beauty in his life // That makes me ugly’

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice
Iago praise of Iago?

  • The contemplation of beauty, grace, happiness or nobility,

  • In Othello, or Cassio or Desdemona

  • destroys Iago’s peace of mind

  • He therefore feels compelled to undermine or eradicate or destroy such virtues

  • Whenever, wherever in whomever he finds them

Significant echoes of crucial events in earlier scenes in act 5 scene 1
Significant echoes of crucial events in earlier scenes in Act 5, Scene 1?

  • Othello’s few moments at the scene of Cassio’s injury take the mind of the audience back to Othello’s intervention—

  • To what earlier scene in the play?

  • The Brawl Scene;

  • Act 2, Scene 2

  • The brawl that led to Cassio’s dismissal;

Cont antithesis of earlier later scenes
(Cont) Act 5, Scene 1?Antithesis of earlier later scenes

In that earlier scene Othello was

  • A majestic, authoritative figure

  • Lording it over everybody and everything around him by virtue of his mere presence

  • ‘Hold, for you lives!’

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice
Cont. Act 5, Scene 1?

  • But now Othello pauses like a thief in the night, degraded to that of a mere conspirator

  • We observe Othello’s onstage actions; (sub-textual implications?)

  • Othello remains concealed from view while he relishes Iago’s treacherous attempt on Cassio’s life

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice
Cont. Act 5, Scene 1?

  • Even the noble, sonorous music of his early grand speeches is no longer in evidence

  • His few lines addressed to Cassio referring to and foretelling Desdemona’s fate:

  • ‘Minion, your dear lies dead’

  • Are strident and melodramatic

To conclude this segment re echoing of earlier scenes
To conclude this segment re- Act 5, Scene 1?echoing of earlier scenes

  • We observe Emilia declare her outrage upon hearing Bianca’s claim to be as ‘honest’ as herself. ‘O fie upon thee, strumpet!’

  • But audience will recall an earlier scene when Desdemona made a similar claim but was also not believed. What scene?

  • The Brothel Scene

  • Act 4, Scene 2

  • Othello: ‘Are you not a strumpet?’ p191

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

  • Up to this Act, fortune Act 5, Scene 1?favouredIago

  • Accidents and coincidences had always worked in his favour; However—

  • Had not anticipated Cassio would be wearing a coat of mail armour;

    Recall Cassio’s words:

  • ‘That thrust had been mine enemy indeed, // But that my coat is better than thou think’st // I will make proof of thine.’

Lecture 10 othello the moor of venice

Note iago s concluding aside
Note Iago’s concluding [ASIDE] and Gratiano

This is the night

That either makes me, or fordoes me quite

  • Prompting the audience to think back to Iago’s initial words to Roderigo (now dead) at the beginning of this scene:

    It makes us, or it mars us; think on that,

Antithesis word against word scene against scene and characters
Antithesis: word against word; and Gratianoscene against scene; and characters

  • One word or phrase set against another

  • Note: Shakespeare thinks antithetically;

  • It’s the way his sentences over and over find their shape

  • Antithetical words and phrases;

  • Note what words are set against each other;

  • Earlier scenes and later scenes; earlier words and later words

  • And point up their critical significance