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How does Shakespeare present love as a destructive force in
The tragedy of Othello, though different in its exploration of race, bears similarities to some
of Shakespeare's other tragedies with regards to the presentation of love as being a
The destructive nature of love can be arguably be observed in Shakepeare's use of name. The
names of the protagonist and his wife, the two main characters could be said to foreshadow
the grave events that occur at the end of the play, whereby highlighting a possible existence
of some evil force. Within the name `Othello', the word `hell' is apparent and `Desdemona'
can be seen to contain the word `demon', suggesting that there is something malicious or
hellish about either character. This is paradoxical to their actions at the beginning of the play
however as they are seen to be quite in love and far from demonic as their names suggest.
As the play, and therefore time, progresses their relationship turns bitter and wicked despite
the love that they had claimed to have had. Shakespeare is perhaps proposing that malice is
prevalent in everyone and that it is love, and its destructive nature, that is the cause of
driving it out of people. Furthermore, a controversial and widely rejected criticism of the play
is that Iago's hatred is fuelled by his homosexual feelings for Othello. Though not necessarily
intentionally, Shakespeare's use of names perhaps supports these claims that have been
made by critics such as Kenneth Brannagh who played Othello in 1995. Desdemona is a name
know to have a Greek root meaning `misery' or `unlucky', an accurate foreshadowing of her
fortunes in the text, where Iago is a variant of the Hebrew, James, meaning `he who
supplants'. It is here that we can see within the definition of supplants, meaning to replace,
that Iago is destined to take someone's place, and although he does not, perhaps he had
intended to take Desdemona's after having lead Othello to killing her.
Shakespeare also highlights love as being a destructive force using the character of
Roderigo. In a conversation with Iago, Roderigo's absolute and unrequited love for
Desdemona becomes absolutely clear where he states, after realising that Desdemona
married Othello of her own will, that "I will incontinently drown myself". The use of the word
`incontinent' could be said to suggest a sexual incontinence in the sense that he cannot
control his love for Desdemona, so much so that he is considering suicide. It is here that
Shakespeare presents love as festering within an individual and causing them live in
"torment", eventually leading to `death' which is the `physician'. Roderigo's love is so
intense and so excruciating because it is not reciprocated by Desdemona that the only cure
is death, the ultimate destruction. Moreover, Shakespeare uses binary opposites to push
love to the forefront as well as to emphasise its destructive nature. Roderigo informs
Brabantio that Desdemona has deceived him by "Tying her duty, beauty, wits and fortune"
with the "lascivious Moor". To contrast the two, proffers the idea that Othello's "lust-filled"
nature could potentially taint the seemingly flawless Desdemona which, of course,
foreshadows future events with regards to Desdemona's death at the hands of Othello.
Further to this, the use of assonance where Roderigo states "duty, beauty" gives this
particular mention of Desdemona a poetic quality, making her `destruction' all the more
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It then becomes clear that Roderigo is experiencing the pains of unrequited love and
is expressing this through obvious desperation.
The language used throughout the play is instrumental in portraying love as being a
destructive force. There is extensive animalistic imagery which could be said to emphasise
destruction. Iago underlines the raw, primal behaviour that seems to overbear Othello in the
final scenes where he states that Othello "breaks out to savage madness".…read more