Othello -William Shakespeare
Considered to be one of the best classic novels of all times, Othello follows the structure of a typical Shakespearean tragedy written in 1603. The protagonist of the novel, Othello, the moor of Venice falls prey to conspiracies of his subordinates and competitors. The ending of this play is heart wrenching and the readers end up sympathizing with Othello’s character. William Shakespeare’s Othello comprises Five acts each playing a pivotal role in the development of the plot.
The story opens up with a conversation between Roderigo, Desdemona’s suitor, and Iago who is an ensign. Both of them have their own reasons of animosity with Othello, they pledge to seek a revenge against him. As the story proceeds, it is revealed that Othello and Desdemona, the Senator’s daughter, are secretly married. Rodergio who had asked Desdemona’s father for her hand in marriage, plans to get her by his evil strategies accompanied by Iago who is displeased with Othello as he has promoted Cassio above him. The seed of doubt is sown in Othello’s mind towards the end of third act where Desdemona’s mistakenly loses her handkerchief (a gift given by Othello) which is later found by Emilia, Iago’s wife. Iago lures Emilia to give him the handkerchief as he wishes to use it for the execution of his evil plans. He plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s possession implying to Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are having an illicit affair. Iago later converses with Othello and asks him to notice Cassio’s reactions when his affair is mentioned. Othello mistakes the conversation to be about Desdemona whereas it actually is about Bianca, Cassio’s beloved. Bianca also accuses Cassio of gifting her a second hand gift. All of this further influences Othello’s already skeptical mind and he grows hostile towards his wife Desdemona.
In his pursuit of Desdemona, Roderigo blindly acts on Iago’s idea of killing Cassio who somehow manages to survive. This fatal fight in the street attracts the attention of Lodovico and Gratiano who rush to help Cassio. Fearing the revelation of his plans, Iago silently stabs Roderigo.
In the last act, Othello comes to confront Desdemona and eventually kills her in the bed where they once made love. Emilia comes into the scene and reveals the truth of events. On learning the truth, Othello instantly regrets his actions but it is already too late to repent his actions. Overpowered by the guilt, he commits suicide.
Themes and Motifs :
This Shakespearean play is interwoven with various themes that make the text more intriguing and spell binding. William Shakespeare has skillfully employed these themes that provide a strong structure and base to the story.
1. Adultery : Adultery is an underlying theme throughout the story. The female protagonist of the play is wrongly accused of committing adultery. She receives venomous treatment from her husband and her character is put under suspicion from the very beginning of the story.
2. Race : Othello is one of the most initial black heroes. He rises to power in a white people dominated society and ultimately gets caught in a web created by their trickeries. Othello is treated in a condescending manner by his wife’s father who believes that such a racially different marriage can only be a result of witchcraft and trickery.
3. Gender : Antagonistic treatment of women highlights the gender biased society of that time. A woman like Desdemona is entirely helpless irrespective of her numerous efforts to prove her innocence. Women are treated with cruelty and hostility throughout the story.
4. Manipulation : This is the most major theme of the story as the play revolves around the manipulation of almost all character of the story. Othello is manipulated to the extent of killing his own wife. Roderigo, too, falls victim to manipulation. Secondary characters like Emilia are also influenced to contribute to the tragic ending of the story.
Othello by William Shakespeare highlights the protagonist’s Hamartia (the tragic flaw) that ultimately becomes the reason of hero’s downfall. Unfaithfulness and jealousy go hand in hand in this story. Infuriated by the mere thought if an illicit affair of his wife with another man, Othello goes to the extent of strangling his own beloved. This Shakespearean tragedy is a must read for every literature lover. The famous play has been enacted and published over and over and is still considered to be one of the best plays ever written in the history of English Literature.