Othello Revision


Othello: Act 5 Scene 2 Quote

'malignant and a turban'd Turk.. took by the throat a circumsised dog/ And smote him thus.'

When Othello says 'thus' he stabs himself, so it is like him demonstrating how he is killed in battle. Othello's suicide becomes a gesture linked to battle rather than to guilt and love for his wife.

Othello seems to have internalized the racist ideas that he has encountered in Venice. It also seems like Shakespeare is asking us to consider whether or not this is the inevitable outcome when a society tells a man over and over again that he's a "savage."

Othello also seems pretty preoccupied with the way people will think of him after his death. On the one hand, he wants to be remembered as a soldier who "has done the state some service" and who has killed a lot of Venice's enemies.

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Othello: Act 3 Scene 3 Quote

'I am your own forever.'

One such interpretation within the analysis is that Iago is motivated by jealousy of Othello’s love for Desdemona and is maddened by a repressed homosexual desire. There is a hint of this in Act 3, Scene 3, as Iago, pledging his loyalty to his general, tells Othello, “I am your own forever”. Iago’s chosen word’s perhaps express more than soldierly devotion and possess a distinctly romantic tone not too dissimilar to the language of a marriage vow.

There is also a clear sexual undertone within Iago’s implied relationship with Cassio. When he informs Othello that he “lay with Cassio lately”, we wonder whether this is as soldiers in the barracks in adjacent beds, or as gay lovers. 

Iago’s supposed gay attraction to both Othello and Cassio is given additional weight by the indifference and contempt with which he regards his wife Emilia, and indeed women in general — a component of Iago’s psychologically twisted personality and dark cynicism. His coarse misogyny becomes a springboard for assumptions of a latent homosexuality. 

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Othello: Act 4 Scene 3 Quote

"But I do think it is their husbands' faults. If wives do fall."

Emila's character is the centre of powerful action in Othello and escalates the dramatic effect of the entire play. Both a Jacobean and 21st century audience would not judge Emilia too harshly for her views, knowing Iago’s true nature. 

Although Emilia has remained faithful to Iago, despite his imaginings, she is understanding of other women who find a way to survive their relationships via subterfuge (deceit to achieve goals) Feminist critics would celebrate Shakespeare’s understanding of Emilia’s bid for women’s desires to be acknowledged and not frowned upon.

Emilia’s solution is for wives to play them at their own game. It is understandable that she wants to make Iago pay for the pain he has inflicted and to live beyond the constraints of an unsatisfactory marriage. In this way, Emilia can be seen as striking a blow for feminism. However, it needs to be remembered that Shakespeare frames these comments by Desdemona’s desire to ‘mend’ wrong behaviour and her abhorrence at being unfaithful to Othello, an attitude his audience would uphold. Perhaps because Emilia transgresses these values, once her voice is silenced she is hardly acknowledged by characters on stage.

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Othello: Act 1 Scene 3 Quote

"Rude am I in my speech."

His first entrance on the stage presents him as a wise man, a leader whose experiences have made him all the more observant and patient with the world around him. The hardships of his enslavement and the experiences of war have made him a calculating, reserved leader who looks at a situation from every angle, who never acts rashly or without understanding all sides. 

Othello identifies himself with the roughness of the battlefield, in contrast to the gentleness or sophistication of civilized Venice, when he says his "speech" is "rude" and he's not been "bless'd with the soft phrase of peace." Yet Othello knows darn well that he is quite eloquent, as he demonstrates here in an incredibly well-wrought speech that he delivers as a defense of his marriage to Desdemona.

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Othello: Act 2 Scene 1 Quote

"Tis my breeding that gives me this bold show of courtesy"

Cassio makes this comment to Iago after greeting Emilia with a kiss. He intends to signal that he did not mean any disrespect by kissing another man’s wife but that this sort of behaviour is simply part of the good manners he is used to displaying. He might also be commenting on manners in his native Florence being different from what would be expected in Venice. The quote is significant because it shows how Cassio’s gallant and possibly even flirtatious behaviour could be open to misinterpretation, a weakness Iago will later exploit.

Cassio compliments Desdemona to Iago as the two men praise Desdemona’s beauty. Iago seems to be trying to get a read on Cassio’s feelings about Desdemona by encouraging him to praise her. Cassio certainly acknowledges her beauty, but his comments remain respectful and he notes that Desdemona is a virtuous and loyal woman who always behaves appropriately. The quote shows that Cassio is not looking to make trouble in any one’s marriage, or cause problems for Desdemona.

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Othello Act 2 Scene 1 Quote

"my fair warrior!"

Shakespeare uses a personal pronoun and describes Desdemona in militaristic terms which does not only foreshadow the theme of incompatibility heroism and love that drives Othello's rage and anger but it shows how he is "composed very largely of ignorance" and unaware to Iago's malicious intent, as critic Janet Williams asserts.

It could also be indicative of Othello's obsession with his military prowess and involvement with anything reputation-related. He is so emotionally invested in his reputation that he almost views Desdemona as a battle to be won and his territory no other man can walk on. He perceives her not as a wife but a mere commodity by which he can hide the negative thoughts of Venetian society and cling to the identity of a white soldier.

From a Freudian perspective, Othello's id is exposed in his eloquent language used by Shakespeare to further encapsulate that Othello is the conflict between female figures’ moral and honest voices and male figures’ villainous deceit. Othello's id being the primitive and instinctual part of his mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories. With these in mind, Othello speaks using lexis that society would approve of and of course not forgetting his "dangers" he passed which cause him to proceed with such precaution. Additionally, his super-ego operates as a moral conscience, making him articulate and with care, choose what he says with consideration; Othello's ego balances the two in order to impress Desdemona and everyone in his presence.

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Othello: Act 3 Scene 4 Quote

"They are all but stomachs, and we all but food"

Emilia will have been speaking out for all the females in the Jacobean audience as they would have been "belch[ed]" by their husbands and fathers. Shakespeare utilises Emilia to show the reprecussions surrounding the patriarchy and how females should not attempt to subvert the hierarchy. The worthlessness of Emilia from a feminist perspective, one could argue, echoes the silencing of Desdemona in Act 5 Scene 2 and is reminiscent of every woman who has been disrespected, undermined and ruined during the time this play was perfomed.

The lexical choice of "stomachs" used by Shakespeare illustrates to the audience the notion of men being "led.. easily" by their sexual appetites and their hunger for subservient females. Or it could be suggesting that men are a mere body part, they have no intellect or skill, just thirst to control women and consume females like they are at the bottom of the food chain, nothing more. The diminishing status of "food" places females as something momentarily craved and thrown like trash when they are finished with. Indeed, Shakespeare throughout the whole play provides a commentary to the audience that the mindset and rapacity seen in men will not change in the Jacobean society. 

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