Othello – Language and Ideology Essay

Works of literature can be read as presenting challenges or endorsements of particular value systems. Discuss with reference to one or more works you have studied. With reference to Othello Endorses/promotes Challenges/undermines Naturalises/foregrounds/promotes Value systems Gender in society – female value Racism (animalisation) Value on appearance and reputation Emphasis on language Heaven vs hell (religious imagery) Exotic/supernatural imagery Thinking Gender.

Feminine and masculine ideology Femininity weakened by affectations of beauty Contrast between slap from Othello to shock of Lodovico civil society’s opinion is one of shock but normally women are “owned” and have to have “duty” to someone – so is this punishment of “divided duty”? Desdemona must owe her duty somewhere – chooses to have “divided duty” Naturalised that women should be “owned” by someone “That we can call these delicate creatures ours and not their apetites! (III. iii. 266) women can be owned but not controlled Naturalised that women should be inferior to men – so women are weakened and stamped on in their emotions (such as jealousy and intrigue) Bianca’s jealousy in stark contrast to Othello – Cassio downplays and destroys Bianca’s and doesn’t even listen, Othello believes the world is about to end Desdemona’s intrigue in what is happening down below when told to go back to ed Desdemona forced to dismiss Emilia as this is Othello’s will – “I will do your bidding” Emilia told not to meddle with men’s affairs – “You are a fool, go to” Desdemona’s downfall occurs after she meddles with men’s affairs in reinstatement of Cassio – “My lord shall never rest” All females are representative of relationship that is naturalised in the text Men have power over women, explores subjugation of women Idea is challenged ultimately by

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Emilia’s death and tragedy of Emilia’s character as she only gains the power of speech in death and ability to have an opinion when pulling away from and being disloyal to her husband, Iago Desdemona’s death due to her inability to defend herself despite speaking the truth Emilia not believed by Othello – “simple whore”, must be clever lie, not truthful The idea that if women are adulterers they must die is challenged introduced with picture of powerful womanhood: Desdemona betraying her father and creating new allegiance to different male, simultaneously undermined through having to “owe obedience” Power struggles between couples and friends

Misogynistic attitudes (strongly enforced by Iago) – makes relationships difficult Question of love between Iago and Desdemona ? Emilia and Bianca? Iago and Roderigo? Iago and Cassio? Cassio and Othello? Othello and Iago? Iago and Desdemona Initially Desdemona and Othello are isolated because they have an equal relationship – no disillusionment or dissatisfaction – but are then reduced with play’s progression Naturalised that power struggles exist between people

Not endorsed Supported but not affirmed in oppositions creating good couple – feminine gentleness needs his strong masculinity – destroyed by masculine baseness Othello/Iago/Desdemona love triangle “wedding” between Iago and Othello So Women should be owned by someone (language, characterisation) Affectations of beauty weaken women (song – audio, language) Women should not meddle in a man’s affairs (plot, conflict) Subjugation of women, emotions stamped out as nferior, degraded (language) Reactions of civil society not representative or in relation to the ideas supported, but supports the idea that women are being treated unjustly (dramatic elements) Depending on how it is read, a work of literature may have more than one meaning. Discuss with reference to at least one work you have studied. Othello Examples in the plot Othello overhearing conversation between Iago and Cassio – misconstrues everything that is said

Overall examples/evidence/argument This is true because: Othello’s character can be seen as tragic figure, revenge figure, comedic figure or insecure figure – justifying and construing the meanings of his actions in different ways Aristotle’s version of the tragic hero (not completely good or evil but possessing a fatal flaw to incite pity and fear in the audience) What is Othello? Moved too easily to jealousy or flawless?

Stoic hero for suicide – following teachings of Greek philosopher Zeno – supposedly indifferent to pain, bore suffering without complaint (Desdemona too) Of accursed race due to Christian belief in the Renaissance – suggested Africans were descendants of Noah’s son, Ham, cursed by his father Iago’s character never gives sufficient justification to be clearly represented as doing what he does for one reason alone, so audiences make their own reasons could be any number of things, giving different meanings for his actions relation to Iago as Machiavelli hanging societal attitudes to different people at different times questioning whether he is entirely evil Symbolism of Iago’s name, egoism and Santiago (spanish for Saint James) – Saint James was known as St James the Moor-killer because of his campaigns against the Moors Contextual vs modern audiences make meaning in different ways and require different elements for understanding e. g. “moon” references for the Jacobean audiences angled plot and civil society/state affairs for contextual audience motivations and common human emotions relate to modern audiences Contextual setting Venice: cosmopolitan place, admired by travellers for sensual pleasures, reputation for religious zeal Full of double meaning – use of language, symbol of handkerchief, opposites and opposition, surrounding theory of thoughts Different people develop different meanings: e. g. why is the moral of the text not simply for a black/white couple not to be together? How ideas are transmitted Meaning is made!!!!! in accordance with approach, affected by reading strategies Orson Welles: directed and lead i=his own 1952 film version of the play – felt Iago was motivated by impotence Freudian interpretation suggests Iago is subconciously in love with Othello Coleridge suggests Iago was a character of “motiveless malignity” Characters actions and downfall caused by their good features Discuss the importance of language contained in at least one play you have studied. Uses language to establish and build dramatic atmosphere – to define time, place and character Medium by which drama is conveyed

Language is the action Othello falls because he believes a man whose every utterance is deceptive Contrast and effect on relationships – Iago and Emilia, Othello and Desdemona Power of words Characters construct their own and others identities through language specific idioms for each – comparing language of Othello and Iago and theme of opposition Othello: dignified, measured, blank verse, eloquent, exotic, clear and purposeful – helps establish heroism and defines rank, seduces Desdemona through language G.

Wilson-Knight of Othello’s speech: “highly coloured… stately… rich in sound and phrase”, “uniquely soldierly precision”, “peculiar chastity and serenity of thought” “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. ” (I. ii. 59) Break down and fall depicted through language – deterioration to goriness and animalisation that Iago uses and finally resorts to third person – sign of craziness, fractured sense of self, disjointed prose rather than measured verse Irony: “It is not words that makes me thus” (IV. ) breakdown in marital harmony over language – no longer able to communicate, Othello misconstrues everything she says (same with Iago and Emilia) use of soliloquies and asides – audience becomes extension of character’s mind Iago; full of compounds, colloquialism, oaths, slips between verse and prose adapting style to suit purpose blunt persuasive and lucid exchanges with Roderigo loftier style conversing with Othello shows he can manipulate anyone reveals himself, cunning, destructive power, in asides oliloquies reinforce his scheming power – so many by him, feeling shakespeare forces audience to collude with him defiant and deliberate silence the only power he has left feigning reluctance to talk means he gains power to speak at length took Emilia’s silence for granted, unmasked by his wife – dramatic irony eases dramatic tension of the play Exert power by speaking or remaining silent or silencing others Power of language related to reputation and class Blank verse and prose unrhymed iambic pentameter


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