Shakespeare Essay

Othello is a tragedy play written by William Shakespeare in 1603. Shakespeare’s use of language and spoken thought is big role in Othello as it creates the action in the play. Not only does it control the pace and tone of the play, it also creates change and development within characters. Othello has one of the most notable character developments throughout the entirety of the play. His vulnerability makes it easy for him to undergo changes as Iago succeeds in evoking his jealousy and altering his mindset. Othello’s initial noble personality and mentality extremely changes to one that ends up as ruthless, which is particularly seen towards Desdemona. Nonetheless, Iago’s character leads to Othello’s downfall, demise, and change in character - aspects that are most obviously denoted through Othello’s change in language throughout the tragedy.

In the beginning of the play during Act 1, Othello would speak to and speak of others in a polite manner. He would address people in a way that would show his sophistication and goodness. Othello would refer to others as “my very noble and approved good masters” (1, 3), “my lieutenant” (1, 2), and “most potent, grave, and reverend signiors” (1, 3). His choice of words truly depicts his nobility and ability to be poetic. This shows that Othello is aware of how his language should be like when speaking of higher powers or of people who deserve a certain extent of respect. These phrases create a gentle and caring personality; also, these phrases emphasize the virtue of Othello at the beginning of the play. Similar to how Othello feels and talks about people around him, Act 1 reveals Othello’s love and respect for his wife Desdemona. By continuously referring to her as his “love” and saying, “how I did thrive in this fair lady’s love, and she in mine”, Othello’s poetic language is precise and detailed so the audience is well aware of his feelings toward Desdemona. He always makes sure his words flow well when describing Desdemona. His use of diction in terms of the word “love” shows his emotional aspect as he trusts in relationship with Desdemona in the beginning of the play. As a whole, Act 1 establishes Othello's emotions, character, and identity as ones that are peaceful, humble, and moral by polite and poetic language.

Then, in Act 3, most of the character changing and development begins. Othello’s character changes frequently as it starts its deteriorating phase. Othello steers jealousy toward Desdemona and Cassio’s relationship; he has the suspicion of Desdemona and Cassio having an affair after he sees them together. Othello feels anxious. During this scene, the audience gets a glimpse of one of Othello’s weaknesses: he is not able to think for himself and his thoughts start to consume him. Desdemona and Othello get into an argument and Othello begins to believe the “truths” Iago had previously said. After continuously getting angry with Desdemona, Othello has his change in character as he lets his internal conflict get the best of him. In essence, his internal conflict resides around the fact that he is a black man in a majority white society where he does not understand the intentions of women. This weakness and area of vulnerability allows Othello to be manipulated by Iago who says that all women cheat on their husbands. Because Othello does not know any better, he does not have any reason to not believe in what Iago says; thus, jealousy takes over Othello and he begins to turn into the person Iago wants him to become. This specific shift in character behavior also shifts the plot of the story as Othello goes from being a happy, comfortable, and highly respected husband to a man who is filled with jealousy, instability, and second thoughts.

As the play transitions into Act 4, Othello loses complete control of his composure and is an entirely different character than he was at the start of the play. His changed perspectives and new born hatred against his wife and lieutenant is shown as his sentences begin to lack complexity and his phrases become harsher. By saying things such as “blood, blood, blood” and “how shall I murder him, Iago?”, Othello is portraying his behavior change which is now crude and impulsive (4, 1). The word “murder” evidently has bad connotations and it clearly contrasts with the peace he shows in Act 1. His change in language and vocabulary shows how he is changing into a darker person. Othello does not only show this type of behavior to his lieutenant, but he also does so towards his wife, Desdemona. Othello refers to his wife as a “whore” (5, 2) and wants her to “rot and perish and be damned tonight, for she shall not live” (4, 1). These examples make it clear that Othello’s love for his own wife is the opposite of how he felt about her in Act 1. Othello allows his insecurities and jealousy to get in the way of his relationship to the point where he wishes death upon his wife. Calling Desdemona a “whore” and telling her to “rot and perish” illustrates how Othello’s has become a character with an impulsive nature who makes irrational decisions without assessing the situation. Words such as “whore” and “rot” give feelings of aggression and evil. It is obvious that he lost his respect toward a woman who he once was in love with. The ending acts of this tragedy shows the final character Othello turns into. By comparing his mentality and personality from the beginning of the play to the end of it, it is obvious that there is a significant change as he becomes more violent and less calm and noble.

Because of Othello’s vast change in character throughout the entirety of the play, he influences certain aspects of the play along the way too. Two of the main components in Othello that were most impacted by Othello’s change in character are the plot and overall theme. As the play progresses, Othello’s aggression and violence grows. As a result, Othello’s irrationality and roughness leads to the murder of Cassio and Desdemona. If Othello’s character had not changed throughout the play, the problem of him turning into a murderous monster would not have come about because he would still have been the polite and noble man he was first introduced into the play as. Additionally, the theme is also influence by this shift in character as it stresses more on the aspect of jealousy and controlling such a trait. Without Othello’s character change, the universal theme regarding the traumatic consequences of one not being able to control their jealousy would not have been able to be portrayed. By and large, Othello’s character allowed Shakespeare to expand his horizons in this tragedy as the plot and theme were influenced as the play developed.

Ultimately, throughout the Shakespeare tragic play, Othello, Othello encounters great character change. He transforms from a respectful speaking, trusting, man to an abusive and wrong-minded husband; therefore, the key transformations Othello undergoes is mostly interpreted through his shift in language vocabulary and complexity.

How to cite this essay: