Shakespeare’s “Othello” Play Interpretation
The play’s primary setting is in the street of Venice, a city famous for its trade, banking, and military strength. At the beginning of the play, there is an unfolding argument about romance and relationship that triggers a conflict between different people in the play. The main character in the play is Othello, a Moorish general working for the Venetian Army. The protagonist is married to Desdemona, a daughter of a senior politician in Venice.
Othello’s two main enemies are Iago, a disgruntled officer, and Roderigo, a rich man in love with Desdemona. Thus, the play is about a powerful and noble military general who suffered a tragic end because he misjudged his outsider status and societal influence. Othello is a classic Shakespearean play about resentment, vengeance, deception among people with different intentions and plans. Different characters, events, feelings, reactions, and beliefs contribute to Othello’s tragic end.
Shakespeare illustrates the role of different characters in Othello’s downfall and Desdemona’s death. Unlike most Shakespearean tragedies, the protagonist in Othello expresses his unconditional faith in the antagonist. The misplaced trust and blind love motivate Iago to plan Othello’s eventual destruction. Notably, the novel depicts the character, Iago, as a dangerous person with devilish human attributes and intelligence.
He is the stage-manager, director, and dramatist responsible for ruining Othello’s marriage for his pleasure and amusement. Iago influenced the protagonist’s negative experiences of psychological torture and emotional drain after falsely accusing Desdemona and Cassio of having an affair. He caused Othello to develop hatred and distrust towards Desdemona, further fueling disagreements and malevolence. The interaction between the characters is loaded with deceit, controversy, and manipulation, contributing to the eventual destruction of the protagonist.
Similarly, jealousy shapes the central conflict in Shakespeare’s play, overshadowing the protagonist’s heroism as a military general and contributing to his tragic flaws and eventual downfall. For instance, Iago is envious of Othello’s military success in the service of Venice, especially after appointing Cassio as his chief lieutenant. Iago plots Othello’s tragic end through the false implication of Desdemona and Cassio in an illicit relationship. He executes his evil plans with the help of Roderigo and his wife, Emilia, because of envy. Therefore, Othello focuses on examining the dominant impact of illicit desire and evil human ambitions.
Moreover, Othello has strong conservative ideals of honor and honesty, which he gained while serving in the armed forces. However, he misjudged the influence of his personal values and attributes outside his professional environment. He had hoped that time in the military would provide him with the means to gain acceptance and respect in the community. However, some characters, such as Roderigo, are fearful of the prospect of a heroic service general seeking social integration through marriage to an ordinary woman. Othello did not understand the complexity of social integration in the real world after spending most of his time in the military.
He believed that his senior military position and heroic deeds translated to respect and repute. Besides, Othello underestimated his personal and professional relationship with junior officers and civilians in his society. For instance, Othello did not envision Iago, a junior officer, and Roderigo, a civilian, betraying his trust and values. The antagonist’s actions towards Othello show the visible impact of lost honor and integrity on human morality and beliefs.
Furthermore, Othello thought that he could use military heroism to succeed in love and romance with Desdemona. Unaware of Iago’s disastrous plans to ruin his social relationship and societal reputation, he embarked on a path of self-destruction. Specifically, Othello underrated Iago’s resentment and wicked plans towards his relationship with Desdemona and other accomplishments. For instance, he was open to Iago’s suggestion to strangle his wife in bed for allegedly having been unfaithful.
He rejoined, “Good, good, the justice of it pleases!” (Shakespeare 132-140). The reply exposes Othello as a credulous person because he believed in the lies and innuendos propagated against his wife. Besides, he is also incapable of controlling his emotions and psychological distress outside the confines of the military environment. Othello’s reactions and actions confirm the realistic view of the psychological, social, and divine human plans and personalities.
Fundamentally, Shakespeare’s play Othello illustrates the incompatibility of military heroism and love in a civilian world. The main character, Othello, holds different values and virtues that are nonexistent. For example, as a military man, Othello believed in loyalty or true faith and allegiance to a cause, treating people with dignity, honor, and integrity. However, he was not prepared to overcome the blind emotions of love and Iago’s immoral tactics. His soldierly narrow-minded attitude and perception of love and relationships emanate from his inadequate exposure to the outside universe. The statement, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men,” affirm Othello’s intolerance (Shakespeare 5.2 1-2).
Othello justifies killing Desdemona because of the thought and belief that she was part of the immoral world. Finally, Othello’s ultimate downfall occurred when he decided to kill the wife using a sword. Pride and hate consumed and blinded his ability to discern and seek the absolute truth from Desdemona. Othello committed suicide when he realized that he had believed the wrong person, Iago, who misled him into committing a capital offense. The protagonist’s tragic end confirms the incongruity of military valor, honor, integrity, and love in civilian society.
In conclusion, characters such as Iago and Roderigo, jealousy, and uncontrolled emotional reactions contributed to Othello’s destruction. Specifically, Othello is a play about the tragic end of a powerful and noble military general because of deceit and manipulation. For instance, treachery and envy from other characters such as Iago, ignorance, and irrational actions, add to Othello’s tragic end. Finally, violent reactions to emotional situations and lack of self-control also promoted his eventual downfall.
Shakespeare, William. The Oxford Shakespeare: Othello: The Moor of Venice. Vol. 21, Oxford UP, 2006.