Quijano 1 Charity Quijano Knapp AP English Literature 15 September 2008 Iago and Roderigo tell Brabantio the truth
about his daughter, that she has married the Moor Othello. Brabantio refuses to allow their relationship to persist so Iago warns Othello that there will be an effort to legally end their marriage, but Othello is indifferent, believing that “my [Othello’s] services which I have done the signiory shall out-tongue his [Brabantio’s] complaints.” This personification in which Othello’s military duties are given the human ability to speak out and suppress an argument develops his confident character and contributes to the theme of reputation. At this point, Othello has control of his life and is completely rational, but this is eventually overturned when Iago plants the idea that Desdemona is unfaithful in Othello’s mind. Reputation is an important aspect of the tragic hero Othello’s life. Othello is certain that his noble reputation will win him the respect and blessings of Brabantio. In their society, reputation is measured in terms of bravery, honor, and loyalty, all of which are exemplified by Othello due to his military experiences. Reputation in Iago’s case allows him to manipulate others to fulfill his desires, as he is reputed to be a man of honesty. Othello’s even more respected reputation allows him to stay with Desdemona despite protest by Brabantio, emphasizing the theme that an honorable reputation is an essential key to success. Iago warns Othello that there may be a legal attempt by the Duke to end his marriage to Desdemona upon the request of her father Brabantio. Othello believes his noble status will prevent this, but Iago “by Janus” thinks his reputation will not get him out of this predicament. This mythological allusion to Janus contributes to dramatic irony, which further develops Iago’s deceitful character and the theme concerning appearance versus reality. Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings, and is represented by a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. Like Iago, he has two faces—one phony, the other real. To Othello he is considered honest, but to the audience he is considered cunning and evil. Othello ironically only recognizes his positive qualities. The audience also knows that Iago is responsible for initiating the attempted legal break up after Roderigo and he tell Brabantio that his daughter Desdemona is with Othello, but Othello is not aware of this. This emphasizes that Iago truly is manipulative, fooling even a man of high regard. This in turn reinforces that everything is not what it seems because externally, everyone sees what Othello sees, a trustworthy man of good standing in society. On the inside, however, he is a man of jealousy and malice and has conspired to ruin Othello’s life with Desdemona. Brabantio recently discovers that his daughter, Desdemona, is married to Othello, and he does not approve of her love with this Moor. Othello reminds Brabantio that he has gone through many trials and tribulations as a result of his life in the military. He tells an anecdote of his military life in order to win respect from Brabantio so he can freely be
Quijano 2 with Desdemona, who would “devour up my [Othello’s] discourse” about his life odyssey “with a greedy ear.” This personification embedded in an anecdote in which Desdemona’s ear is given the human ability to eat greedily develops her character as well as Othello’s. Despite being a female raised in a society clouded by racism, she has fallen in love with the Moor Othello because of her sympathetic attitude toward his experiences. Othello, on the other hand, is confident and in control in this scene, speaking eloquently and defending his personal life with his military attributes in an effort to please Brabantio. Later, however, Othello proves to be especially vulnerable and confused psychologically, becoming irrational and losing control of himself. Othello is summoned by the Duke to go to war with the Turks in Cyprus. Desdemona, his lover, wishes to join him so Othello leaves her in the car of Iago, “a man of honesty and trust,” to help her reach the island safely. This dramatic irony concerning Iago’s integrity develops his character and contributes to the theme regarding appearance versus reality. The audience knows Iago is in fact a cunning, manipulative character whereas Othello, the Duke, and Dedesmona believe he is a man of honor. Iago appears to be trustworthy and loyal, but in reality he is deceitful and plans to ruin the relationship between Othello and Desdemona in order to get vengeance on Othello for not naming him lieutenant as well as to supposedly match Roderigo with Desdemona, which emphasizes that everything is not what it seems. Roderigo hires Iago to be the matchmaker between Desdemona and him, ruining her relationship with Othello in the process. Iago agrees to do it in exchange for money and jewels, which also gives him the opportunity to get revenge on Othello for not proclaiming him his lieutenant as rumored. With a degrading tone, Iago says the task will be easy because “these Moors are changeable in their wills…the food that to him now is as luscious as locusts shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida,” reassuring Roderigo that he will get the job done. This simile embedded in a metaphor compares Desdemona to food and the food to locusts and coloquintida, the pulp of the bitter cucumber. The metaphor develops the character Iago as a man with a cynical view of women, believing they are only temporarily beneficial. This attitude is supported by his wife, Bianca, at the end of the play when she reveals that she has been manipulated then neglected by him. The similes contribute to the theme that racism is an apparent evil in society. Both Iago and Roderigo do not think Othello is worthy of his military standing or of being with Desdemona because he is a Moor, a black man. Racism, in part, fuels the hatred Iago has toward Othello. Racism further rears its ugly head as Othello begins to feel insecure about it, making him more susceptible to the later lies of Iago.