THEMES IN OTHELLO
THEMES IN OTHELLO
One of Shakespeare's more famous plays, 'Othello' is a classic tragedy featuring love, jealousy, and ultimately, death.
Love, deception, jealousy, murder; while these may sound like storylines from a Hollywood soap opera, they represent some of the big ideas from Shakespeare's classic play, Othello. In this play, Shakespeare tells the story of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army. Othello is married to Desdemona, the daughter of a Senator named Brabantio. We learn that Othello has two major enemies who plot to destroy him: Roderigo, who is also in love with Desdemona, and Iago, Othello's employee, who is upset that another man named Cassio has been promoted over him. Over the course of the play, Iago comes up with a scheme to trick Othello into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him. In the end, Othello falls for Iago's sinister plot and winds up killing Desdemona, then himself.
Prejudice is a major theme in Othello, mainly because Othello is black and Desdemona is white. Many times throughout the play, we see the characters using openly racist language to describe Othello, calling him such names as an 'old black ram,' 'a Barbary horse,' and referencing his 'thick lips'.
Throughout the play, we learn that Iago is a master manipulator. He is able to twist information and create a false sense of reality that convinces Othello to believe that Desdemona is actually cheating on him, though he doesn't have a shred of actual proof. For example, at one point in the play, Iago manipulates a scenario in which Othello watches Desdemona talking to Cassio, the man she is supposedly cheating with. The conversation is totally innocent; however, Iago manipulates Othello into thinking that Cassio is openly flirting with his wife.
Whether it is Othello’s and Desdemona’s, Iago’s and Emilia’s or Cassio’s with Bianca, personal relationships could be badly painful and that’s what Shakespeare seems bent on proving. There are some important components of a strong relationship that make it long-lasting. Love, trust, and respect are an absolute essential for any relationship to last. However, these components are either scarce or missing in Othello. Othello has a strong heart of a lion but in terms of personal relationships, he turns out to be a weakling with very little patience and confidence. Iago can hardly think with integrity, so he does not have much respect for these things. In the case of Cassio and Bianca, their relationship is not strong for a lack of dignity in it. Overall, personal relationships in Othello are a bad mess and there is no clearing or getting out, just more and more mess.
Love and hatred are at the core of Othello. The drama ignites with Othello and Desdemona falling in love and ends when Othello’s hatred for his beautiful lover reaches its peak. On the one side, there is intense love and on the other, equally intense hatred. Othello and Desdemona fall in love and their love remains deep and true until Iago has injected poison into their relationship. The hatred in Iago’s heart is deep and he cannot help it because he has the nature of a venomous snake. The entire drama is filled with episodes of love and hatred. Desdemona keeps loving her husband until he has killed her with his own hands. Othello loves her but his love weakens him for he cannot see once Iago has obstructed his vision, using his deceptive techniques. Iago’s hatred has several reasons. He hated the Moor for being his senior, for being from an inferior race and for having promoted Cassio. Desdemona’s love is true but Othello’s cannot survive deception. He cannot bear being cuckolded and his hatred becomes just as strong as his love was at the beginning.
Another important theme in the drama is that of loyalty. Whether it is Cassio or Desdemona, both are loyal to Othello. However, his own heart and mind become disloyal once Iago has cunningly made him a scapegoat. His mind cannot listen to his heart and he believes what Iago says. Iago cannot be loyal to anyone because of his false ego and for his evil nature. Desdemona’s and Cassio’s betrayal is not truth but Othello’s mind is clouded. It thinks what Iago makes it think. Emilia is Iago’s wife and she is a loyal wife. However, Iago’s suspecting mind thinks she has slept with Othello. This is another reason that he cannot bear Othello. Emilia is loyal to Desdemona and at last, has to sacrifice her life for the sake of her loyalty to her mistress. The whole play is full of characters and events hanging between loyalty and betrayal. Othello keeps believing Desdemona has betrayed his trust and by the time he can realize the truth he has himself destroyed his personal life.