Othello extract, Act 4 Scene 1 essay

An essay from the chosen extract, analysis and the context of tragedy

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Explore the significance of the aspects of dramatic tragedy in the following passage in
relation to the play as a whole. Extract: ACT 4 SCENE 1 LINES 1110.
The extract is taken from Act 4 Scene 1, following from Act 3, an Act charged with emotion and
dripping in dramatic irony of the `honest' Iago. Othello has just become emotionally unsettled and
is vulnerable at the manipulative and devious hands of Iago, our tragic villain. The extract is very
significant in terms of our presentation of Iago and Othello and the tragedy as a whole.
The scene begins halfway through a conversation between Iago and Othello who are talking
hypotheticals; they are discussing what constitutes betrayal. Iago questions `to kiss?' before
leaping to the drastic situation of being `naked in bed,' apparently meaning `no harm'. The
hypothetical nature of the conversation allows Iago to further plant the seed of Desdemona's
infidelity by fabricating images of her and Cassio together, whilst surfacing as casual and
measured. The power of suggestion proves a successful technique for our antagonist throughout
the play, it is how he is constituted as a master manipulator. Iago's blunt and inflammatory speech
of Desdemona's apparent sexual acts renders Othello deranged. This master manipulation is vital
to the tragedy as a whole as it is ultimately these images that cause Othello's tragic conclusion.
Othello's complete bewilderment leads him to talking little sense;
`Handkerchiefconfessionshandkerchief!' The constant reference to it implies Othello is fixated on
the Handkerchief that Desdemona has been `misplaced' at the hands of Iago to provide more
concreate evidence for his testimony. The objects acts as a motif, as it hones in Othello's tragic
flaw throughout the play (jealousy). Although this object holds sentimental value it can be perhaps
debated that it embodies the complete diminishment of Othello's previous high status. It
symbolises the repeated torment Othello must endure as he convinces himself of his wife's
dishonestly. In this act Othello is selffulfilling his own prophecy; `when I do not love thee, chaos's
come again'. His incoherent speech demonstrates his clear anxiety as he begins his tragic
This extract is a pivotal point in Othello's mental stability, and thus extremely significant in terms
of his presentation. Othello's mental turmoil is concreate when he `falls into a trace'. The visual
significance of this onstage is charged with meaning as we watch Othello literally `fall', being stood
over by his kryptonite: Iago. It exhibits the power shift that has occurred between the two
soldiers. Iago has caused a complete loss of identity in Othello, as seen when Desdemona
describes his as `not my lord'. It is from this point on that all of Othello's positive attributes that
together embody his former high status, being to dissolve and disappear. The evaporation of
Othello's bravery, nobility and confidence (`my title and my perfect soul') leave behind a pathetic,
tragic character whom we can barely recognise.
This presentation is extremely significant in terms of the tragedy as a whole; perhaps `fall' into a
trace represents Othello's actual tragic fall. It is important to remember that traditional
conventions of a tragedy require a high or noble born to fall at the hands of their own hamartia,
and subsequently losing everything that previously had or stood for. After all, it is this great loss
that stimulates a strong sense of Catharsis and allows the tragic protagonist to embody the
dangers of the flaw that caused their tragic conclusion. This in turn allows the audience to learn
from the error of the tragic hero and is how a play is used to spread strong and coherent massages
that leave the audience very emotionally charged.
Othello's complete mental turmoil that is evident in this extract is significant because it has caused
some modern critics to argue that Othello deserves no sympathy from the audience what so ever,
and therefore we learn from the error of his ways differently, experiencing the play in a varying

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Iago simply put Othello's nobility to the test and with a little implication, Iago has Othello
hooked, causing the stark contrast for Othello expressing his `love' for Cassio in Act 2 to planning
his murder in Act 4, simply at the hands of Iago's `poison'. It is the opinion of some that these
hints from Iago should not be enough to trigger such an indefinite and extreme change in
character. Perhaps Othello was never as noble and selfassured as he first surfaced to be.…read more


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