Othello's downfall and character analysis.
Othello's character is, in simplistic terms, an innocent idealist. His love for Desdemona is pure and honest, he either has no understanding of hierarchy and societal roles, or chooses to ignore, and he is willing to trust others. As Iago states, "The Moor is of a free and open nature." Despite his hatred of him, Iago is able to pinpoint Othello's weaknesses within his strength, that he can "make the Moor thank me, reward me, love me." In the pivotal Act 3, Scene 3, this willingness to trust others is inextricably linked with Othello's insecurities as the cultural outsider.
Haply for I am black,
And have not those soft parts of conversation
That chamberers have; or for I am declined
Into the vale of years—yet that’s not much—
She’s gone. I am abused, and my relief
Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,
That we can call these delicate creatures ours
And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad
And live upon the vapor of a dungeon
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For others’ uses.
In this scene, Othello's poetic fluency is gradually deteriorating; instead, the audience as well as Iago is able to see the hero's flaws, perceptions, and insecurities. Othello does not seem to realise his own talent as an orator and poet, which he thinks is overshadowed by his age in comparison to his youthful, "virtuous Desdemona". The language is coarse, irregular, and full of hyphenated lines and enjambement, highlight Othello's emotional and mental breakdown. He can no longer hide behind his language. Moreover, Iago's hellish connotations are transferred to Othello, which is evident in his increasing use of animalistc imagery, "toads", curses, and dungeons. In fact the reference to the "toad" has a religious connotation - In Milton's 'Paradise Lost', Satan's ability to transform into different beings, or personas, is linked to Iago's polyglot skills. Othello does not however have this ability: he is one thing or the other, and he cannot hide his emotions. To Iago, this is the ultimate sign of weakness and esmasculation.
Despite his unreasonable justification to murder Desdemona as the ultimate, sacrificial "cause", it illustrates that Othello is not a "god", but a mere mortal. He is human, gullible, sometimes weak, sometimes strong. His perverse, brutal language in Act 5, "Put out the light, and then put out a light" is not overshadowed by his worship and praise towards Desdemona. In the same speech where he describes his motivations for killing Desdemona, he paradoxically calls her "Justice". This links heavily with Classical Greek connotations of goddesses and diety, in particular Athena who was the goddess of justice and wisdom. Othello, despite Iago's poison and manipulation, illustrate brief images of his former Romantic self, and his love for Desdemona.
Othello's final speech, Act 5
Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well,
Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinable gum. Set you down this,
And say besides that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by th’ throat the circumcised dog
And smote him thus.
Critics are often divided in Othello's mysterious reconcilation with his former, heroic self. It is clear that his former skills as a poet and orator, his ability to control his emotions in steady Iambic Pentemeter, have returned. The "pearl" in this instance is not materialistic, but a reminder of his adoration for his wife, who has been compared by most men as the "treasure" of the sea. I think, most of all, it is devastating and poignant that Othello is trying to rewrite the story, rewrite Desdemona's death, and his own involvement in it. He wants to restore them as they were, glorious and pure. The powerful exoticism of his words are powerful enough to evoke in the audience sympathy, which would have otherwise been impossible without his restored chivalry.