Among 37 plays created by Shakespeare, the tragedy “Othello” is one of the most outstanding. The plot of the play, like many other plays of the English playwright, was borrowed. The source was the “Un Capitano Moro” novel, which belongs to Giovanni Battista Giraldi, the Italian prose writer. According to the researchers of Shakespeare’s creative work, the master only borrowed the main motives and the general storyline, since Shakespeare did not know Italian so well that he could perfectly understand all nuances of the novel, and the Giraldi’s novel was translated into English language only in the 18th century.
At the core of the conflict in the play lie contradictory feelings of trust, love, and jealousy. Greed and desire by any means to climb the career ladder of Iago are stronger than the Cassio’s devotion, the pure and faithful love of Othello to Desdemona. Knowing the strong nature of Othello, his military-style clear and strict views, the inability to perceive the surrounding world in half-tones, Iago turns his intrigues on only one doubt, sown in the soul of the Moor. One hint, gently thrown by the “faithful” lieutenant, leads to the tragic final.
In the “Othello” play, the basic laws of the tragedy genre are clearly observed – the collapse of hopes, the inability to change the reality, and the death of the main characters. The desire to never part with his beloved is very strong for him. The “faithful” lieutenant forces his wife Emilia, Desdemona’s servant, to steal her handkerchief, which belonged to Othello’s mother. He gave it to Desdemona at the wedding with a request to never part with it. She accidentally drops her handkerchief, and Iago throws it into the lieutenant’s house, telling Othello that he saw something wrong. The lieutenant arranges a conversation with Cassio, where the latter demonstrates his frivolous and mocking attitude to his mistress Bianca. Othello can hear this dialogue, thinking that it is about his wife and is absolutely convinced of their relationship. He insults his wife, accusing her of an adultery, not listening to her oaths of loyalty. Witnesses to the scene are guests from Venice – Ludovico and Desdemona’s uncle Graziano, who brought news of Othello’s call to Venice and the appointment of Cassio as Governor of Cyprus. Graziano is glad that his brother Brabantio will not see such a low attitude towards his daughter since he died after her wedding.
The dramatic events take place in the XVI century in Venice and later transferred to Cyprus. From the first line,s the reader becomes a witness of the dialogue between Iago – Lieutenant Othello and the local nobleman Rodrigo. The latter is passionately and hopelessly in love with Desdemona, Senator Brabantio’s daughter. But Iago told a friend that she had secretly married Othello, the Moor in the Venetian service. The lieutenant convinces Rodrigo of his hatred to Othello since he took a Cassio instead of Iago for the position of lieutenant, that is, his deputy. To take revenge on the Moor, they report the news of Desdemona’s escape to her father, who begins to seek Othello furiously.
At this time, news comes that the Turkish fleet is advancing towards Cyprus. Othello is summoned to the Senate, as he is one of the best generals. With him, together with the Venetian Doge – the main ruler – Brabantio arrives. He believes that his daughter could act unworthy only under the influence of a sorcery. Othello tells the Dog that Desdemona, listening to stories about his military exploits, loved him for his courage. The Doge gives a blessing to them, despite the senator wrath. It was decided to send Othello to Cyprus. Cassio, Desdemona, and Iago follow him. Iago convinces Rodrigo that not everything is lost, and persuades to follow with them.
During the storm, Turkish galleys drowned. The young couple is happy. Iago continues his insidious plans. He sees an enemy in Cassio and tries to get rid of him using Rodrigo. On the eve of the holiday on the occasion of the wedding of Othello and Desdemona. Cassio is losing control in the booze. Rodrigo deliberately touches the drunk Cassio. A fight begins, which caused a general turmoil. For the unworthy behavior, Othello expels Cassio from service. The lieutenant asks Desdemona for help. She, knowing Cassio as an honest and devoted man to Othello, tries to convince her husband to soften his rage. At this time, Iago drops in Othello’s head the seeds of doubt that Desdemona is betraying him with Cassio. Her ardent persuasion in defense of the lieutenant foments more and more the jealousy of her husband. Othello is in doubt and demands the evidence of betrayal from Iago. The jealousy hints Iago to kill Cassio. Rodrigo comes to the lieutenant, angry that Iago pulled out all the money from him, but there is no result. Iago convinces him to kill Cassio. Tracing the victim in the evening, Rodrigo injures Cassio, and he dies, killed by Iago. Othello, hearing screams, decides that the traitor is dead. Graziano and Ludovico come in time and save Cassio.
Othello, after asking Desdemona to repent of her sins, strangles her and cut her with a dagger. Emilia runs in and assures the Moor that his wife was the holiest creature, incapable of betrayal and meanness. Graziano, Iago, and others come to the Moor to tell about the incident and find a scene of Desdemona’s murder. Othello says that Iago’s arguments helped him learn about the betrayal. Emilia confesses that she gave her husband a handkerchief. In the turmoil, Iago kills her and escapes. Cassio stopped Iago. The lieutenant is terrified of what happened because he did not give the slightest reason for the jealousy. Iago is sentenced to the execution, and the Senate must judge the Moor. But Othello stabs himself and falls on the bed near Desdemona and Emilia.
Characteristics of the Characters
The characters created by the author are lively and organic. Each of them has both positive and negative features, which makes the tragedy vital and always relevant. Othello is a brilliant military commander and ruler, a brave and strong man. But he is inexperienced in love, he is rather limited and rude. He can hardly believe that a young and beautiful woman really loves him. It was his uncertainty that allowed Iago to make Othello confused so easily. A strict and a loving Moor became a victim of his own strong feelings – an insane love and frenzied jealousy. Desdemona is presented as the embodiment of femininity and purity. However, her attitude towards her father allowed Iago to prove Othello that his ideal wife is capable of cunning and deceit for the sake of love. The most negative character, at the first glance, is Iago. He initiated all the intrigues that led to the tragic end. But he did nothing himself but killed Rodrigo. All responsibility falls on Othello’s shoulders. Succumbing to the slander and gossip, he cannot understand the situation. Accusing both his beloved wife and her faithful servant, he is unable to withstand the remorse and pain of the bitter truth.
The Main Idea
The drama “Othello” can rightfully be called a tragedy of feelings. The problem of confronting the mind and the feelings is at the basis of the play. Each character is punished with death for blindly following his wishes and emotions: Othello – by jealousy, Desdemona – by boundless faith in love to her husband, Rodrigo – by passion, Emilia – by credulity and indecision, Iago – by the vehement desire for revenge and profit.
Othello, of course, killed himself because the murder of Desdemona is a crime. But before he kills himself, he cries with tears of joy because Desdemona proved innocent. Having escaped from the intrigues of Iago, he regained his freedom, and the loyalty of Desdemona became the truth of life. The victory of the humanism over Iago’s betrayal is seen in this Othello’s joy.