In the 17th century, Shakespeare found the plot for 'Othello' in Giraldi Ginthio's collection of tales 'Hicatomithi' (1565). The play itself is set in the 16th century Venice and Cyprus. At the time of Shakespeare, Turks were considered to be barbarians as opposed to the Christians who represented civilization and morality. In the play there is a reference to a Turkish naval attack on the Venetian controlled land of Cyprus. It's because of this battle that most of the plot takes place in Cyprus.
The third scene of the third act in the play is an intense and important scene, which displays the turning point of events that begun in the previous two acts. Such events as the migration of Othello, the moor, Desdemona, Othello's wife, Iago, Othello's ensign, Cassio, Othello's lieutenant, Roderigo, Iago's friend, and many Venetian men and women, from Venice to Cyprus. This change of location for the characters and the plot led to opportunities for later aspects of the play; in particular the evil plan created by Iago began to take shape as things fell to place in his favour.
In act three, scene three, and the audience can witness Iago's newly found control over the general, Othello. Iago manages to convince Othello that Desdemona is having an affair and is a false woman. This definitely comes as a shock to the audience due to the good, loyal and trusting image of Othello that they saw at the start of the play. There is also a display of Iago's power of manipulation that allows him to use them in any way he wants, so he can achieve his goals.
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Othello is much changed in this scene; he believes that his wife is having an affair and starts to have doubts in the marriage he so strongly believed in. Othello shows signs to his more vulnerable and weaker side that makes the audience question his character. The events in this scene build up to a tragic ending that the audience can predict from the moment they realise Iago's evil plan and role in act three. Tragedy is inevitable and the audience can clearly see it, due to their understanding of Shakespeare's real intensions in the scene.
In conclusion it can be said that in this central scene of the play, Othello begins to lose control of the situation and Iago takes possessions. Scene three is the turning point of events in the play. It's the point where Iago's plan starts to fall in place and the audience notice the power of Iago's words over Othello. But these events begun long time before this scene: At the start of the play we are introduced to Iago, Othello's ensign and advisor, Roderigo, Iago's friend that's in love with Desdemona. The audience learn the fact that Roderigo is paying Iago to get Desdemona away from Othello.
From the first conversation, it becomes clear that Iago is evil, cruel and selfish. He talks of the fact that Othello made Cassio lieutenant instead of him and how much he hates and wants to bring down Othello. Iago's evil plan begun when he told Brabantio that Othello has secretly married and ran away with Desdemona, Brabantio's daughter. This caused for Othello to be taken to court and accused of using witchcraft on Desdemona. During this event Othello stays cool and calm while Iago was hoping for him to get angry and in more trouble.
At the end of the act, Othello is sent to defend Cyprus from the Turkish attack. In act two, Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Roderigo and Cassio arrive in Cyprus. As Iago continues his plan against Othello, it becomes clear that it's not just Othello that will get hurt at the end. Iago decides to use Cassio in his plan by making him vulnerable; so he gets Cassio fired. With the intension of making things worse, Iago advises Cassio to meet with Desdemona and beg her to persuade Othello to consider giving him another chance. Cassio arranges to meet Desdemona in her house.
At the start of act three, Iago plans for Othello to arrive at his house just to witness Cassio leaving and makes sure that Othello does not forget the sight of cassio by sounding suspicious of Cassio's appearance and suggesting that there is something going on between Desdemona and Cassio. Even though Othello doesn't accept any of this, he keeps the thought in his mind. The audience are now aware of Iago's plan and Othello's jealous mind and all they await is to see how far this would drive Othello and how it will affect the outcome of the play.
At the end of the scene Othello loses control when he finds himself having to decide between his love for Desdemona and his trust of Iago's word. This shows Othello's weakness and foolishness to the audience. Shakespeare's intension is to prove that not everyone would fall for Iago's plan and that Othello was made vulnerable through out his life and was open to attack from Iago. Through out the play, the audience witness the rapid change of character in Othello and unlike Othello himself, they realise that Iago is responsible for most of it.
Iago was the person that didn't seem very dangerous at the start of the play but as the events following up to act three, scene three took place, he showed his true colours by initiating his evil plan to destroy Othello, Desdemona and Cassio's life. Iago's hate for Othello started because of his despite for black people, his jealousy of Othello's fame and finally because of the fact that Cassio was made lieutenant instead of him. Iago felt betrayed and destroyed and decided to make life hell for Othello by acting as his friend but working secretly as his enemy.
As time passed, things changed in his favour and all he had to do was to give them a push in the wrong direction and enjoyed the show as Othello's wonderful life went to ruins. It is very important to understand the tricks and skills used by Iago during the time which he brainwashed Othello. At first he tried to throw hints and ideas but Othello ignored them for some time. ' Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it that he would sneak away so guilty like, seeing you coming' 3:3(38-40). He continued his manipulation by telling false facts and proving his points using any possible situation.
But he still held back made his words sound like suggestions while Othello is taking in every word without being aware. 'I speak not yet of proof, Look to your wife; observe her well with cassio' 3:3(194-195) Finally, he took his case to the extreme when he realised that Othello would not give in without proof. Iago told Othello about a made up event in which he witnessed Cassio having an erotic dream about Desdemona. Othello immediately believed this, which proved just how little he trusted his wife and how much he trusted Iago. ''In sleep I heard him say: ' sweet Desdemona, let us be wary, let us hide our love'' 3:3(416-417)
Iago talked to Othello about false acts done by cassio and other wrong men but most of the time the actions he spoke of are the same things he did and continued to do; while Iago and the audience were completely aware of that, Othello had no clue, making this an example of dramatic irony. ' O beware, my lord, of jealousy! The green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on' 3:3(164-165). Othello was introduced as a brave, understanding man, famous in the army, loved by his wife and respected by the court. After all the work done by Iago, Othello completely changed and did things he could not imagine before.
By the end of act three, scene three Othello had gone past denial and just needed enough time and proof to be completely convinced and to make a tragic decision. In act one, Iago and Roderigo's description of Othello made him look like an evil man who kidnapped a girl and betrayed a friend; when Othello first made an appearance, everything changed due to the contrast between his good personality and the fake description. The audience thought of Othello as the good characters that wont change under any condition; it is clear that when Othello resorted so low to think false of his wife, he would be a disappointment to the audience.
Iago's words and speeches had the worst effect on Othello and Shakespeare shows this through the weird and wild actions from Othello towards Desdemona and cassio, which eventually led to murder. Shakespeare demonstrated Othello's confusion and disturbed mind as he fought a battle in his head between suspicion and reality. Then there was the loss of control, which managed to bring down Othello and let him be consumed by jealousy created by no other than another man. At this point Othello acts and talks just like Iago with a mind of blood, hatred and vengeance; he starts to use animal imagery to describe woman and specially Desdemona.
Was this fair paper, this most goodly book, made to write 'whore' upon? What committed! ' 4:2(70-71) The audience didn't feel sorry for Othello anymore. He fell into a deep hole and cannot be rescued. They knew that there would be tragedy at the end of all this and they could guess it will be mostly Othello's doing, because Iago did his part already; Othello would roll down the hill by himself and hitting rock bottom is inevitable. A lot of tragic events take place in 'Othello' that cannot be blamed completely on one person.
On one side of the argument, there is Iago a racist, sexist and cruel man who is driven to the very edge by hate for others and selfishness. He manages to use everyone in order to complete his plan of ruining the lives of others. On the other side there is Othello the tough, likable and kind man who proved weak when put in the situation of choosing between false suspicion and his love and trust for his wife. He tried to fight the control of jealousy over him but due to the doubts he kept in his heart, it was no use; so he lost control of his mind, which drove him to his death.
It is real hard to figure out whom Shakespeare wanted to blame for the tragedy as both characters played a big part in it. It's true that Iago started the whole issue and made it known by any means necessary but it was the Othello, the man meant to be better, that gave in to some words. Shakespeare wanted to make it clear that even though Othello made all the bad decisions but he didn't always have complete control over his conscience because of his past. It was made clear that at the time black people were not treated right by all.
He lived most of his life as a slave and he was mocked and beat down by all kinds of people and it is obvious he lost self-confidence and trust but the fact that he made it from nothing to a famous and respected general is incredible. In some way it can be said that they were both to blame for the bad events. But then again Othello is the main character and the audience believed in him from the very start and he managed to ruin things for the one he most cared for. It is very important to keep in mind the effect that the racist society of the time had on him.
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. ' 3:3(260-264). In a deeper look at the scene there are many small details that helps a lot more into the understanding of the decisions made by the characters. In contrast to the previous two scenes, this scene is lengthy. Here we watch as Othello's mind is poisoned. Desdemona and Emilia offer cassio their assurance that Othello will soon restore him to favour. Desdemona insists that she will talk her husband 'out of patience' (line 23) until he agrees to reassign cassio.
As they talk, Othello enters with Iago. Uneasy and ashamed, cassio leaves when Desdemona offers to plead for him until she is heard. Iago immediately sets to work, observing briefly that he does not like the manner of Cassio's leave-taking. Iago continues to suggest that he suspects him of false behaviour with Desdemona. He urges his master not to be jealous without telling him directly why he should be jealous. Othello insists that he is not given to jealousy, but his mind has clearly been moving in the very direction Iago intended because he then speaks of his wife's attributes and talents.
He also brings up the subject of rivalry when he says ' she had eyes and chose me' (line 192). Iago knows he has ensnared his victim. He then offers Othello specific advice; watch Desdemona with cassio, remember that Venetian women are deceitful. Iago continues to twist the knife by pointing out things that he knows Othello would think about. Finally it becomes clear that the doubt is created in Othello's mind and heart when he says ' why did I marry? ' (Line 245). Iago is merciless so he returns to offer more wicked advise until Othello is completely under his control.
After this long and important conversation, Othello and Desdemona go to dinner. Emilia comes back to find Desdemona's handkerchief that she dropped earlier; unaware of the importance of the handkerchief to both Othello and Iago, Emilia steals the handkerchief and hands it to Iago. Here we discovers that the handkerchief is a big part of Iago's plan; the handkerchief will be left at Cassio's lodgings to serve as proof of his secret affair with Desdemona. When Othello returns, he is absorbed with thoughts of his wife's treachery.
He now seems absolutely convinced that desdemona is guilty of deceiving him and is tormented by the lack of evidence. He also regrets finding out about any of this; he says he was happier when he was ignorant of 'her stolen hours of lust'. Iago feeds othello's jealousy by telling him that it will be hard to get evidence and then he continues to give a description of an event in which he shared a bed with cassio and witnessed him having an erotic dream about desdemona in which he tells her to kiss and such.
This drives Othello angry and he turns to violence and revenge but not as much Iago would've wanted. Iago then moves to his serious back up plan; he tells the general about the handkerchief that's been seen with cassio rubbing his beard with it. Othello is now utterly consumed by 'bloody thoughts' (line 460). They both kneel and vow to help each other and correct what's wronged. Othello asks Iago to kill cassio. Iago then receives the promotion he has been looking for; he is made lieutenant when he agrees to murder his 'friend' (line 476).
Othello always needs someone to completely trust and believe, so it can be said that Iago's devotion has replaced the harmony Othello received from marriage with Desdemona. This scene ends, as a new phase filled with hate, blood and vengeance, is about to start. In terms of characters, Iago is most to blame for the events in this scene that build up the road to tragedy for Othello. Following scene three, a short but funny moment takes place in which desdemona and a clown have a conversation. This to stop the tension built up in the previous conversation between Othello and Iago.
This lighter start makes the audience forget about the tense events of the last scene and to get them to look forward to the outcome of the play. We see Othello very confused and angry with Desdemona regarding the missing handkerchief. Desdemona realises that her husband is acting like a different man as he shouts and accuses her of false actions. The audience can identify that the tense events of the last scene have definitely changed Othello for the worse. It is understandable that some people would feel sympathy for Othello even though he is being weak and stupid in believing Iago and loosing faith in his wife.
But the sympathy can be described in different ways, some might feel sorry for him because they believe him to be a victim of racism and an evil, psychopath like Iago while others believe that Othello is partly to blame for the events of the play but still a victim. But no matter what kind of sympathy they have for him, they all know he was a victim to some extent because even though he denies it, he misunderstands women and doesn't give Desdemona a chance to explain herself. He believes that he is allowed to judge people and decide their fate.
Through out his problems, he loses his pride and resorts to hiding and eavesdropping which results in even more jealousy that eventually leaves him shattered and vulnerable, in other words, a victim. Shakespeare's intensions are to put the audience in a situation where they can choose what they want to think of Othello. But he still wants them to feel the same thing about the plot when the play is over; Othello is responsible for a monstrous murder and then destroys himself in an act of self-slaughter.
However the final response from the audience will be great sadness because of the moor's death and relieved and glad that his tormentor will be definitely tortured. Othello was a noble, compassionate and courageous black man that against all odds, served in a white man's society. He tried to be more than a soldier by loving his wife more than anything else in his life. Throught out his youth, he was tortured and broken down and just when he thought that he had found everything he's ever wanted, Iago turned up in his life. Iago tortured him, just by using the precise words at the right place and at the right time.
The audience were constantly aware that he was directly under his ensigns' poisonous influence and was being pulled in many directions. The audience felt that his desire to revenge himself on cassio and Desdemona was the terrible result of Othello's attempt to combine his roles as soldier and lover. When he feared that his wife had betrayed him, he said woefully, ' Othello's occupation's gone! ' (3:3. 360); it is almost as if Desdemona was the prize he earned for his military victories; she had perhaps replaced his career as the source of his pride and honour; no wonder he felt her loss so keenly.
In the final scene, before he killed himself, Othello reminded us of his previous services to the society and the man he was. Shakespeare wishes for us to know that Othello was a worthy man before he was ensnared by Iago. Othello heroically takes his own life as his punishment for killing his honest and loyal wife. In his final act and speech, he realised who he was and allowed the soldier inside him to kill the lover. But some might say that it was all too late for him, for Desdemona and for their beautiful life and marriage.
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