Love And Pain
The one thing many people spend countless hours of their lives looking for is love. They search for it in every person they know, even if only for friendship. However, sadly, many people learn that finding love is one of the greatest heartaches. For with love may come the demons of jealousy, possessiveness, and anger, and not just your own. Few writers throughout the years have dared delve into what happens when these demons take control of people, and none have done so well as William Shakespeare in his drama Othello. In Othello the psychological aspect of two of the key characters, Othello the Moore and Iago, the characters themselves, and the plot all meld beautifully to create a truly stunning and timeless drama.
Why do people do what they do? What drives people to commit to actions that they might not normally do? Questions such as these, when answered, can give great insight into a person or character in a well-written work of literature. In Shakespeare’s Othello the reason for many of the character’s actions is severe emotions such as love, envy, revenge, and anger. The two prime examples of characters who exhibit this range of emotions is Iago and Othello. Iago is the prime example for what strong negative emotions will make someone do. Iago finds himself passed over for promotion by Othello, who instead promotes Cassio, and so Iago develops a deep hatred for Othello. Throughout the play, Iago proves how ruthless he can be by using other characters, specifically Roderigo and Cassio. Iago uses Roderigo for his money, as well as an unknowing accomplice to bring down Othello. He goes as far as to have Roderigo fight Cassio, then kills Roderigo himself to ensure Roderigo’s silence. However, Iago uses Cassio far more subtly by dropping quiet rumors into Othello’s ear. “If I had said I had seen him[Cassio] do you wrong?” (1164), hinting Cassio is bedding Desdemona. Iago is the perfect example of someone who is willing to do anything to get what he or she wants. He cares little, it at all, for anyone else and will use anyone as long as it furthers his own purpose.
Othello is another good example to show what can happen when strong emotions are influenced by an outside force. Othello deeply loves Desdemona, but his love for her becomes tainted when he falsely trusts in Iago after Iago plants seeds of deceit in Othello’s heart by telling Othello that Desdemona has been sleeping with Cassio. As a result Othello allows himself to be overcome with jealousy and anger, and in the end smothers Desdemona who to the very end declares her love for him and innocence of any unfaithfulness. Othello’s quote defining himself as “one that loved not wisely but too well… ” (1191) is confusing in that if he truly loved Desdemona too well, why would he take someone else’s word above hers? His jealousy is a slow-burning thing that develops into the all-consuming, blinding force that causes him to take the life of his wife.
The complexity of the characters is also a remarkable point. The main characters Othello and Iago are very interesting and mirror each other as protagonist and antagonist. Othello is the classic good guy. He’s trusting, loving, and loyal, while Iago is perfect material for a bad guy. Iago is a greedy liar who does not care about others and is willing to manipulate anyone and do anything to get what he wants. Othello, the main character of the drama, is a well-rounded character with a mix of his goodness and his weakness. He’s very believable as a person. He is the one character who has a well-laid-out background. He is a very loyal person, and when he feels emotion, he feels it with striking intensity. Othello is also slow to see the bad in other people, and is somewhat gullible because of his love for Desdemona. He loves Desdemona with all of his heart and marries her against her father’s wishes. But when he unwisely trusts Iago, his trust allows Iago to taint Othello’s love for Desdemona. This misguided trust leads Othello through all of the gradients of emotions from trust in his wife, to his jealousy taking over so that he no longer believes in her loyalty to him, to ultimately killing her in his anger.
Iago is also a very believable character as far as antagonists go, and the ultimate tragedy of this drama would never come into being without his hate for Othello for passing him up for promotion in favor of Cassio. Iago’s character is the main push behind the plot. Through his planning, plotting and scheming, the plot progresses through each step of his revenge on those around him whom he hates. Iago is the character who people love to hate. He speaks of always being honest and a plain speaker, but yet throughout the entire drama, Iago spins very elaborate lies and twists circumstances to fit his wants and needs. However, his reputation for being an honest man is probably the reason behind Othello’s trust in him.
Other characters such as Desdemona, Roderigo, and Cassio do not have the same feel of realness to them as do Othello and Iago, even though they are key characters to the story. If it were not for Desdemona, Roderigo would have no reason to give Iago money or attempt to court Desdemona at Iago’s request. In the same manner, if it were not for Cassio, then Iago would not have been passed up for promotion and would not have had the deep-seated hatred for Cassio and Othello that he does. Yet while they are key characters, they’re relatively flat characters only there to serve their purpose to move the plot along by being acted upon by Iago and Othello.
This drama is a type of romantic tragedy rarely seen, because even in Romeo and Juliet where the lovers both die in the end, their death is seen as greatly romantic. In Othello, however, the ending can only be seen as tragic. The acts leading up to this tragedy are very well-plotted, because of Iago’s plotting. Iago is the driving force for the plot of this drama. If it weren’t for Iago and his enmity for those around him fueling his lust for revenge, the plot would bea simple love story between Othello and Desdemona. Yet, that is not to be. Iago is in the center of it all, wanting revenge against Othello for passing him up for promotion, as well as against Cassio for receiving the promotion. He also wishes to tear down everyone around Othello to make his revenge complete. Because of Iago’s hate, the plot is driven by Iago from the point where he is not promoted forward. Iago uses Roderigo and Cassio against Othello, while pretending to be a good and loyal friend to Othello. Iago’s tangle of lies keeps readers in their seats wanting to know how the play ends.
Just one of Shakespeare’s great plays, Othello delves into areas few would dare go. Shakespeare exposes the best and the worst of people when factors like love and greed come into play. To make such an astounding play come alive, whether one is reading or watching it, dramatic conventions such as well made fully round characters, a deep enthralling plot, and the reader’s or viewer’s knowledge of human psychology are all assets.
Shakespear, William. “Othello.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Seventh Edition. Ed. Micheal Meyer. Boston, New York. Bedford/St. Martins, 2006. 1111 – 1192
About the Play: A Brief Synopsis. CliffsNotes.com. Retrieved 14 Nov 2007. http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/Othello.id-138,pageNum-7.html