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Lecture Othello the Moor of Venice

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  1. Lecture Othello the Moor of Venice Critical focus on Act 3, most particularly the Temptation Scene

  2. Iago at end of Act 2, Scene 3 Iago to Roderigo • How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees? Thou know’st we work by wit, and not by witchcraft; And wit depends on dilatory time. p101

  3. Iago in soliloquy at end of Act 2, Scene 3 • Two things are to be done. My wife must move for Cassio to her mistress: I’ll set her on. Myself the while to draw the Moor apart, And bring him jump when he may Cassio find Soliciting his wife. Ay, that’s the way. Dull not device by coldness and delay. p101

  4. Dramatic purpose of Act 3 Scene 1 • To accomplish some comic relief • To effect the transition between Acts 2 and 3 • To move the action of the play another step forward • To throw further light on the characters of Cassio, Iago, and Othello

  5. Re- Dramatic Irony in the play… • There are numerous instances of dramatic irony • How to recognize it? • In those numerous instances in the play • where the speaker is totally blind to the implications of what s/he is saying… • E.g. Cassio’s greeting Iago: “In happy time, Iago” • “I never knew / A Florentine more kind and honest” • Cassio is thus so impressed that he considers the character and behaviour of Iago, the Venetian, worthy of his own Florentine countrymen

  6. Some comic relief • Act 3 Scene 1: a scene of tension. Audiences tend to take pleasure and delight in the bawdy, the burlesque, and comically clever wit • Through the entry of a Clown, some comic relief is achieved • The Clown’s ribald, witty puns on ‘wind’, ‘tail’ • and ‘tale’, and his allusion to the nasal drawl of Neopolitan speech has the power to amuse

  7. The Clown plays up his amused audience, and adds a little more merriment with his comically witty remark: “and the general so likes your music, that he desires you, for love’s sake, to make no more noise with it.” [3.1.11-12] p109 • We can imagine his wit being appreciated with a highly amused burst of laughter, thus helping to relieve the tension of the previous scene.

  8. Effecting the transition • Cassio has arranged for the musicians to play in the court before Othello’s castle • Having fallen into disfavor with Othello, he hopes through the morning music to soothe the savage beast… • The music itself effects the transition between Act 2 and Act 3, by marking the setting of the time and place of the new action • For a short while the music and the Clown’s puns help put at bay the evil of the previous scene.

  9. Another step forward • In Act 3 Scene 1, we learn from Emilia that Desdemona has been defending the cause of Cassio “The general and his wife are talking of it, And she speaks for you stoutly.” [3.1.44-45] p111 • We learn from Emilia that Othello might be prepared to listen to her and to forgive Cassio (Not that he is) • Emilia: “He might not but refuse you…” 3.1.47 p111

  10. We learn that Emilia is prepared to arrange a private meeting for Cassio with Desdemona where he can speak his heart more freely • We learn that Iago is planning to use this private meeting to further his own scheme: “And I’ll devise a means to draw the Moor Out of the way, that your converse and business // May be more free.” [3.1.37-39] p111 • We can assume what his real purpose will be.

  11. A brief word about Act 3 Scene 2 • A very, very, very short scene, so what? • It is nevertheless very dramatically significant • Why? • The audience will notice that it is Iago who now accompanies Othello, • not Cassio

  12. and Irony re Act 3, Scene 2 • And it contains a very deep irony…? • While Othello is inspecting fortifications…defenses against attack • Othello’s security in his own home is already being undermined and endangered by Iago’s evil, scheming machinations

  13. Scene 3, The Temptation Scene • Theatre audiences tend to be very impressed by this part of the play? • For the awesome power of its drama, and its highly impacting, gripping dramatic effect • Crucial third stage of Iago’s malice / evil

  14. Dramatic purpose of Act 3 Scene 3the central scene; The Temptation Scene… • To begin on a lighter note a horrifying scene • To introduce the importance of a strategic exit • To show Othello & Desdemona as husband and wife • To show how Iago casts his mesmerizing spell over Othello, and to bring his plot to a head • To introduce a strategic entrance • To draw attention to the significance of a seemingly trivial object to a jealous mind • To create suspense in the mind of the audience • To introduce a moment of suspense for Iago

  15. Overview of this pivotal scene • The scene deals with psychological action; rather than physical action • It is a scene of great dramatic interest and gripping psychological intensity [Effects] • We watch Iago fostering suspicion by using veiled, undefined insinuations • and purposefully avoiding explicit accusations against Desdemona • We see the effect of his skilful Machiavellian style of manipulation of words and ideas on Othello

  16. Timing of movement • There is little physical movement except the strategic entrances and exits of characters; • Important to observe the timing of these; • Here we see terrible events occurring; but they all happen in the minds of Othello and Iago • The scene generates and grows in intensity, full of inner action • Portrays fully the psychological changes brought about in the mind of the noble Moor by the devilish Iago

  17. We as audience are made to hear this lengthy Iago-Othello conversation in full • So that we as audience can appreciate the full irony • of the interpretation that Iago will place on it later

  18. Dominant Role in this dialogue? Iago; • His ingenuity, inventiveness, cunning, luck, and hypocrisy are evident throughout • An analysis of the various crucial stages in Iago’s assault on Othello’s peace of mind, and • on the reputations of Desdemona and Cassio • Reveals the depth of Iago’s evil genius

  19. Theme of Transformation / Change / Metamorphosis • At the beginning of this scene, Othello is still a happily married man • By the end? Change? • He has decided to murder his wife, and also Cassio • Iago alone who contrives this extraordinary transformation of Othello’s mind and heart • Remember: Every word, and every pause in this scene is of dramatic significance

  20. Beginning on a lighter note • It is a scene with a horrifying mixture of wit and witchcraft (note these themes!!!) packed tight with the sinister work of the poisoning of Othello’s mind Note the imagery of? • Imagery of disease and corruption • But it begins with deceptive lightness as we hear Desdemona reassuring Cassio: • “I give thee warrant of thy place” 3.3.20

  21. Foreshadowing • Desdemona is in a cheerful mood in contrast with the sad Othello • Her reassurance comes across as sincere: • “Therefore be merry, Cassio, For thy solicitor shall rather die Than give thy cause away” 3.3.26-28 • Unknown to herself, what she says ironically is foreshadowing her own disaster

  22. Note also implications of Desdemona’s assessment of Iago’s character: “O that’s an honest fellow. Do not doubt, Cassio” [3.3.4] p113 [Note the dramatic irony] • Her faith in Iago, and the part she plays in Cassio’s suit lead to the loss of her husband’s love and her own death

  23. The ‘strategic’ exit (of Cassio) • We see Desdemona behaving as Iago predicted. • Her generosity of spirit is evident in her reply to Cassio as he requests for reinstatement • It is the ever alert Iago who notices Cassio’s abrupt exit • And he immediately sees in the hasty departure a golden opportunity to implement his scheme for REVENGE • He shrewdly improvises to have it fit into his evil plot

  24. Tone of voice; How are we meant to hear Iago ‘s words to Othello? • Iago thus mutters “Ha! I like not that” p115 • He assumes reluctance; Why? • To elaborate on what exactly it is he does not like… • He therefore with pretended casualness tries to turn to another conversational topic • Iago affects a show of surprise: “Cassio, my lord?” 3.3.37 p115

  25. *Remember in drama— the importance of also reading and noting…the unspoken text; the unsaid • Iago answers evasively Othello’s question • Pretends to deny that there was anything wrong in Cassio’s sneaking away “so guilty-like” 3.3.36 • *This allows time for suspicion to take root in Othello’s mind • But the upshot is, Iago has made his point • Iago has created in the mind of Othello, if not suspicion, at least an unhealthy curiosity • He has sown the first seeds of disquiet; • It is important to trace and note how this dramatic effect is created through close attention to the Machiavellian nature of the language choices.

  26. Lecture on • Act 3 Scene 3 • Part 2

  27. *Othello & Desdemona: a dramatic moment in their husband / wife relationship • Just before Iago begins proper to set the full force of his evil plot in motion • We are presented with Desdemona as an ordinary yet loving wife pleading to her husband on behalf of Cassio • She feels she has a right to plead for this reconciliation, as Othello’s equal and partner

  28. To which Othello declares twice: “I will deny thee nothing.” 3.3.76 p119 and again in line 84 • Her serious pursuit reinforces his rising suspicion • Note Othello’s off-hand replies; Suggesting what? • Doubts about her sincerity • Desdemona has won her point but it is won because of the love between them, But — • Into this gentle victory, a note of tragic irony is registered with a dramatic foreshadowing in Othello’s last lines:

  29. Foreshadowing “Chaos” “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul, But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.” [3.3.90-93] p119 • For Desdemona, up to this point the scene is one of unclouded happiness • And notice her language: the short, tripping phrases which gives a quicker, lighter rhythm e.g. lines 19-28 • In contrast to the rhythm of lines spoken by Othello • When later Othello turns against his wife, we will see ‘chaos’ does indeed have a bloody reign.

  30. Iago’s alertness and mesmerizing evil spell We see here Iago’s diabolic cunning as he sets about gaining possession of Othello’s soul Let us look more closely at his evil skillfulness: • Iago has been alert all the time during Othello’s conversation with Desdemona • He affects surprise at learning Cassio knew of Othello’s love when he wooed Desdemona

  31. Importance again of tone of voice p119 • Othello: ‘What dost thou say, Iago?’ • Iago : “Did Michael Cassio, / When you wooed my lady, / Know of your love?” • Othello: “He did, from first to last. Why dost thou ask?” • Iago pretends his question was merely an afterthought with ‘But for a satisfaction of my thought; / No further harm’ p119

  32. Iago’s questioning (tone?) and half-expressed thoughts • Iago’s questioning intoned “Indeed?” L-101 creates the internal dramatic effect of? • Arousing Othello’s curiosity further… • Iago evasively parrots Othello’s words: “Honest, my lord?” “Think, my lord?” Internal dramatic effect? • Iago intensifies doubt in Othello’s mind with his deliberately half-expressed thoughts

  33. Importance of facial gestures • Iago excites Othello’s curiosity by contracting and pursing his brow together • Othello notices Iago’s expression: ‘And didst contract and purse thy brow together’ L-113 • Provokes Othello by refusing to let him know what “horrible conceit” 115 he has concealed • It is evident Iago’s words (his hesitations) have frightened Othello [effect]: • “Therefore these stops of thine affright me more” L-120 p121

  34. Up to this point how might one best in summary characterize Iago’s language? • Iago has been working on the mind of Othello; ‘abuse his ear’ • by veiled suggestions • and stirring up his mind • using vague general insinuations

  35. Iago continues in this vein…but dares to also give more explicit statement of his menace Iago now becomes more specific; • Introduces directly the name of Michael Cassio • Iago slyly suggests there is no basis for belief in Cassio’s honesty • except that “Men should be that they seem” L-126 p123

  36. Planting Suspicion • Plants suspicion in the mind of Othello who then demands that he speak his thoughts no matter how horrible; Othello thus says: • “…and give thy worst of thoughts” L-132 p123 • [Effect] Othello is so eager now to know more • But Iago’s hesitant replies, those “stops” are intended to give what impression? • [Effect] That the truth is more shockingly foul and filthy than would be appropriate to say straight out

  37. And getting more daringly direct;Iago does not forget details… • Iago warns Othello against “the green-eyed monster” • Iago: “…for now I shall have reason / To show the love and duty… / With franker spirit” 192-194 p127 • “Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio” 196 • And note his well timed pointed remarks about the natural tendency of Venetian women to deceive their husbands and commit adultery: ‘In Venice…’ 201-4 • And here too he timely revives Desdemona’s deception of her father: “She did deceive her father”

  38. Iago: ‘Beware the green-eyed monster’ speech p125 • O beware my lord of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss Who certain of his fate loves not his wronger, But O, what damned minutes tells he o’er Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet fondly loves.

  39. Dramatic effect? The poison is working • From a rapturous declaration of faith in Desdemona, we now see Othello suspecting and • Interpreting his wife’s behaviour in unfaithful terms • Iago puts on a mask of loyal concern and apologizes for imparting these suspicions • Deceit • He is watching the effect of his words on Othello • And is confident the desired effect will show itself • “I see this hath a little dashed your spirits.” L-214

  40. Othello now entirely in Iago’s power • Othello, a noble character, now almost literally possessed by a demonic agent of Evil; • Iago elaborates on Desdemona’s refusing many proposed matches, and in time • bound to regret her choice of husband when she regains her own true nature • Iago is now in full control of Othello, and we see the depths into which he has sunk • Othello wants to know more and is now even prepared to spy on his wife

  41. “If more thou dost perceive, let me know more. / Set on thy wife to observe.” • Othello then asks Iago to be left alone • At which point he gives free rein to the feelings of grief that have been building up inside him • Othello asks “Why did I marry?” L-241 p129 • Tone of voice? • It is a cry of painful awareness

  42. Othello has fallen for and into Iago’s trap • In this groan we have reached the climax of the scene • The highest point in the tension / conflict • And the decisive turning point in the play • The monstrous image of Desdemona’s infidelity and adultery is conjured up in Othello’s mind • By the power of language, by innuendo, Iago has sired the “green eyed monster” and the stirring of Othello’s imagination will nurture it.

  43. Othello p131 Critical Significance? • Haply, for I am black And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberers have; or, for I am declined Into the vale of years – yet that’s not much – She’s gone. I am abused, and my relief Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage! That we call these delicate creatures ours, And not their appetites. I had rather be a toad, / And live upon the vapour of a dungeon, …

  44. Proof: Auricular p141 • Iago: I lay with Cassio lately… In sleep I heard him say, ‘Sweet Desdemona, Let us be wary, let us hide our loves’; And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand, Cry ‘O, sweet creature,’ then kiss me hard, As if he plucked up kisses by the roots, That grew upon my lips; then laid his leg Over my thigh, and sighed and kissed, and then Cried, ‘Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor! • Othello: I’ll tear her all to pieces.

  45. Ocular proof: Iago to Othello p143 • Nay, but be wise; yet we see nothing, done. She may be honest yet. Tell me but this, Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief, Spotted with strawberries, in your wife’s hand? • I know that: but such a handkerchief – I am sure it was your wife’s – did I today See Cassio wipe his beard with.

  46. Dramatic Effects?So what picture of Othello does the audience now see on stage??? • We see a picture that contrasts with that of the great military leader of men, and the saviour of Cyprus • It is a pathetic picture of a man who now sees himself as what? • As being different (an outsider), black, older • Without the gift of making love, or love-talk • Stands before us as a partly broken man, at least mentally; broken spirited • Greatly perturbed at the horrible thought of life with an unfaithful wife

  47. Imagery, and the debasement of Othello • Imagery of Appearance and Reality • Imagery of Disease and Corruption • Imagery of Nature; Imagery of Clothing • Supernatural Imagery; Animal or Bestial Imagery Noteworthy: Othello uses animal imagery for the first time when the notion that he is jealous is suggested by Iago: “Exchange me for a goat / When I shall turn the business of my soul…” L-179-180 p125 • As his jealousy increases, he uses animal imagery to correspond to his descent from the human to the less than human state.

  48. Othello & Iago at close of Scene 3What a change! What a transformation! Othello: “Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her, damn her! Come go with me apart. I will withdraw To furnish me with some swift means of death For the fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant.” Iago: “I am your own for ever”