The Role of Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello
In Othello, Shakespeare aims to bring out the complexity of human relationships through the interactions of the main characters in the play. The experiences and action of the characters resemble human behaviors in social interactions. For instance, Othello evokes different feelings in various characters; some of those feelings positive, while others are negative.
Human beings, just like Othello, find it hard to please all the people they encounter in their daily endeavors. This paper will examine and study the roles of the main characters in Othello, and how these characters inform the audience about human interactions.
In Othello, Shakespeare portrays the main hero as a protagonist and an antagonist to bring out the complexity of interactions between human beings in order to help the readers understand how people evoke different feelings towards each other.
In the play, Shakespeare presents Othello as a protagonist through racial construct; Othello, a dark-skinned army captain, must overcome racial stereotypes and discrimination in order to gain social and professional success. The characters in the play, especially Iago and Roderigo, call Othello the Moor; a term used to refer to a dark-skinned person.
Othello must, thus, work hard to earn recognition and success in a society that views his skin color as a mark of inferiority. For instance, Othello seduces Desdemona, a fair lady, and manages to marry her by telling her about his vast successful experiences in war fields. As a result, Desdemona defends Othello against the racial incriminations put up against him by Iago and Roderigo telling, “I did love the Moor to live with him…” (Shakespeare 600).
Desdemona confesses her love for Othello to her father and the Duke of Venice. In this part of the play, the audience learns that people must earn and protect their self-respect and dignity; Othello’s challenges to success have not stopped when he won the heart of Desdemona because he has to defend his honor and love from malicious people including Roderigo and Iago.
In the professional field, Othello fights hard to retain his societal position by staying on top of his game as a captain of the Venetian military. His prowess in matters of security enables him to steer away from the malicious intentions of Iago forcing the latter to plot other means of making Othello miserable.
In this case, Othello comes out as the protagonist because he overcomes the challenge of competition to retain a power position in a racially discriminative society. Shakespeare communicates this fact by making it impossible for Iago to attain Othello’s professional position. As such, Iago tries to harm Othello’s personal life by attacking his marriage from a racial perspective.
In a conversation with Othello, Iago convinces the Moor that Desdemona’s agreement to marry him had been hypocritical and that that moment she had an affair with a white man; Cassio. “She did deceive her father, marrying you,” says Iago to turn Othello against Desdemona (Shakespeare 1858).
Although Othello begins a respectable fight, he eventually loses when he kills his wife and commits suicide at the end of the play. In essence, Shakespeare uses the main character to communicate to the audience the importance of discerning friends; Othello’s trusting personality leads him to a drastic end, while discerning and thoughtful Iago survives the Moor.
In Othello, the Moor also comes out as the antagonist of the play especially because of his position in Venice and his flaws as an individual. Othello acts as a hindrance to Iago’s satisfaction because he occupies the position of Iago’s fancy. In addition, Othello dies at the end of the play and leaves Iago at the mercies of his white counterparts (Shakespeare 3729).
Othello starts out as a compelling character but later transforms into a devilish creature capable of killing the people he loves. As such, Othello does not meet the requirements of a hero because a hero should start small and gain prominence in the course of work.
Shakespeare uses the experiences of Othello to teach the readers that human beings invest much to earn public respect and fame but can lose everything in a split second, especially if they sink in their reputations and empty praises. Fundamentally, Shakespeare uses Othello to point out to the reader the importance of being discerning in their human interactions.
Shakespeare created Othello as a flawed character to teach his audiences how uncontrolled flaws could ruin a person’s life and the lives of the people living around such a person. Through Othello, Shakespeare cultivates acceptable values and condemns evil human behaviors.
At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare portrays Othello as a likable character worthy of praise and capable of success, but as the story advances, he slowly loses his charisma and in the end, falls from glory. Othello’s likeability, at the beginning of the play, sprouts from his courage in battle fields, his ability to keep Venice safe from its enemies (Shakespeare 450-600).
Arguably, Othello befits Aristotle’s ideas and description of a tragic hero because he falls from nobleness to tragedy. Shakespeare uses Othello to persuade his audience to do noble things in their societies; Othello gets rewards for his admirable traits in the form of prominence and respect in the whole of Venice.
Shakespeare also uses Othello to warn the readers against vengeance by presenting revenge as a bad idea in the text. Avenge causes Othello to lose his life, his wife, and his military and social position. Shakespeare uses symbolism to emphasize this point by making Othello call upon his own dark ending. In a conversation with Iago, Othello says, “Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!” (Shakespeare 2132).
This utterance summons lousy luck into play and his own life The utterance above marks the onset of Othello’s downfall in the play. From another perspective, Shakespeare uses Othello’s outburst for black vengeance and its effect thereafter to educate his audience on the power of the tongue.
Some few minutes before Othello cries out for vengeance, he talks about blood so passionately, and both come to pass in the end. This tragic occurrence of happenings summoned through the tongue serves Shakespeare’s audience against using their tongues to wish for terrible things.
In Shakespeare’s Othello, the character’s actions, especially the downfall, promote critical thinking among the play’s readers. Lack of insight, as well as discerning power, causes Othello’s failure in the play. Othello simply takes the word of Iago and his faked kind gestures too hard but fails to trust the woman who disappointed her father and acted against the racial expectations of her people to marry him.
If Desdemona had married Cassio, she would have saved Brabantio, her father, from a great deal of racial mockery and might have prolonged his life. As a result, her decision to marry Othello may be viewed as a sign of true love and not calculations as Iago makes Othello believe (Shakespeare 1858-1860).
Following the story of Othello, Shakespeare’s audience learns about the importance of being critical when dealing with friends; as people say, one should keep his or her friends close but his or her enemies closer.
Through the character of Othello, Shakespeare teaches the readers the importance of following the due process of law. Othello could have survived the tragedy if he had let Desdemona prove her innocence, but he acted like the arresting officer, prosecutor, judge, and executioner in dealing with Desdemona.
At the end of the play, Iago and Othello get fair chances to present their defense. The above-mentioned incidences emphasize on the need to listen to the two sides of a story before making judgments and administering punishments.
In conclusion, Shakespeare successfully utilizes characterization to communicate his point to the audience. In the play, Othello is described as both the protagonist and the antagonist because he brings out strong and unpleasant aspects of human life and interactions between human beings. Othello, as a central and a lead character, presents a lot of lessons for the readers.
First, Othello serves as an example of how people can lose fame and prominence despite having built it in with their hard work for many years. Shakespeare also uses Othello to warn humans against the power of the wicked tongue and educate them on the importance of critical thinking, especially when dealing with deceitful individuals. To wrap up, Shakespeare portrays his mastery of literary aspects and their application in the characters of Othello.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice. 2006. Web. 21st May 2013 <http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=othello&Scope=entire&pleasewait=1&msg=pl#a3,s3>.