Othello is a play about the desperate need for certainty The theme of certainty pervades the play from the opening scence, and as it progresses, the quest for certainty becomes more desperate and frantic; not only within the minds and actions of the characters, but also within the audience as we become desperate to know and understand the outcome of Iago’s malicous plan. Shakespeare introduces the protaginist, Othello, to the audience through the malicious and predujiced tongues of Iago, Roderigo and Brabantio.
Iago condemns Othello for favouritism and shows obscenley to Brabantio that Othello is an ‘old black ram’, the ‘devil’, a ‘barbary horse’ copulating with his daughter. Rodergio too describes him as a ‘lascivious moor’ and ‘an extravagent and wheeling stranger. ’ This causes Brabantio to feel certian that Othello, repulsive in his blackness, must have seduced Desdemona by withcraft, magic spells or drugs.
The picture echoes aspects of medevil and Elizabethan traditions about the devilish, cruel and lustful nature of moors, and Brabantio would most certainly rather believe these acceptable truths as opposed to reality- his ‘pure’ and virginal daughter is partaking in a sordid affair. Othello’s own desperate plea for certainty is also evident from the offset. Although he refuses to hide from Branbantio and denounce his frabrications, he suggests that Desdemona should testify freely how their love came about.
Some may argue that Othello holds a number of insecurities about himself and this is a prime example of him desperatly needing Desdemona to justify her reasoning for marrying him. After all, he displays an incredible vulnaribilty, ‘a free and open nature, that thinks men honest that but seem to be so. ’ Iago works on these traits and his pretended disapproval of the relations between Cassio and Desdemona rouses Othello’s curiosity, thence his insistance that he be told, and finally his fear that Iago’s information, got in his duty as an honest man, will harm him.
At first, Othello appears to be confident of Desdemona’s love for him as he declares she ‘had eyes and chose me’. Iago however finds weakness in Othello’s certainty and seizing his oppurtunity, advises Othello to watch Cassio and Desdemona discreetly. He adds that, of his own well-founded knowledge, Venetian wives decieve their husbands; that Desdemona pretended to fear Othello, when in fact she loved him, and that she decieved her father so completley that he believed she was bewitched. Unable to deny these, Othello draws the disturbing inference.
Suspicion takes root, and is revealed by his hesitant ‘I do not think Desdemona’s honest’, and his command that Emilia be set to watch Desdemona. He is desperate to find truth, and underlying doubts about his marriage may have escelated by Iago’s revelation and Othello is eventually driven to find this certianty in his own shortcomings- his blackness, age and unpolished manners. Iago’s evil has infiltrated Othello’s soul and has induced him, as Iago had hoped, ‘to renounce his baptism, all seals and symbols of redemmed sin. The noble image that Desdemona saw in Othello’s mind has become corrupted, and and not before long is he humiliating her through false prophecy, and he fails to see the unreason of punishing Desdemona for a crime she has not commited. In the end, Othello is desperate to relieve himself of all guilt and is certain the the demi-devil has ‘ensnared’ his soul and body.
Desdemona is another charcter who clings desperatly on to her certainty that Othello is a kind and loving husband. Out of her generosity and loving-kindness, she continually makes excuses for Othello’s harshness: ‘some unhatched practice… ath puddles his clear spirit’- an ironic perception. Othello’s vision of her is utterly distorted; and she in her faith and certianty to him is unable to percieve his spiritual overthrough. His fierce accusations that she is unchaste and a whore she meets by affirming that she is a ‘true and loyal wife’, and desperatly wants Othello to believe in this certainty. In her innocece, she finds it impossible to believe that there are women who are unfaithful to their husbands in spite of Emilia’s down to earth admission.
In the last dreadful scence she maintains her innocence and pleads for mercy. Her chastity, loyalty, her whole- hearted commital to her husband’s welfare and to any good deed is the only pure certianty throughout the play, and Desdemona unfortunatly cannot make Othello see this. Emilia fiercy defends Desdemona throughout the play and is certain she would never disobey her husband. Ironically, she admits that she would ‘make her husband a cuckhold’ in order to ‘make him a monarch’, however clings to her husband’s integrity as she testifies to his vileness and Desdemona’s virtue.
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