The play Othello by Shakespeare is an interesting play which manages to twist the nature of a character into different directions hence confusing the readers view towards the character. This is evident with Othello's character in the play. Othello change over time as the play progresses and at the end of the play, the reader is left wondering whether he is the victim of the entire play or is he the villain in the play. One's choice depends on the understanding of the play and the different interpretation of the different incidences occurring within the play towards Othello. From my stand, Othello is the victim within the entire play since all his actions are driven by factors unknown to him but only the readers of the play and the Lago and Roderigo.
From the beginning of the play Roderigo, a rich man and Lago the main villain in the play formulate a diabolic plan to separate the marriage of Othello and his wife, Desdemona. They accuse Othello of stealing the daughter of Brabanzio which is not true. Both characters have their hidden motives which include the fact that Lago hates Othello for passing a promotion he found fit for him to an inexperienced soldier Michael Cassio while Roderigo is after getting Othellos wife.
Were I the Moor I would not be Iago.In following him I follow but myself;Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,But seeming so for my peculiar end.For when my outward action doth demonstrateThe native act and figure of my heartIn compliment extern, tis not long afterBut I will wear my heart upon my sleeveFor daws to peck at. I am not what I am. (I.i.5765)
From this speech by Lago, e explain to Roderigo his plain on how he is going to frame his master so as to revenge on what he did towards him as well as how to get Roderigo the wife he needs. He explains how he is to follow is master not because of love but because of his duty and his plans. The speech exemplifies Lego's cryptic and elliptical manner of speaking. Also, this portrays his real intentions.
Up to this point, we have not been introduced to any weakness of Othello which may make him a villain in the entire play. On confrontation, Othello confirms that he has not used any sort of witchcraft to lure Desdemona into marrying him but out of his stories of war and adventure she has fallen in love with him and decided to marry him. This brings out an image of who Othello is to the reader. He is seen as an honest man, and this is confirmed by Desdemona. She claims that she has fallen in love with Othello and it has nothing to do with witchcraft.
My noble father,I do perceive here a divided duty.To you I am bound for life and education.My life and education both do learn meHow to respect you. You are the lord of my duty,I am hitherto your daughter. But heres my husband,And so much duty as my mother showedTo you, preferring you before her father,So much I challenge that I may professDue to the Moor my lord. (I.iii.179188)
The above is Desdemona's speech which is directed to her father where she tries to show her father that her decision to be with Othello is completely based on her the love she has for him, and she now owes her loyalty to her husband.
The duke wants Othello to go to Cyprus so as to aid the defense against the Turks. This shows the resourcefulness of Othello. It's hard to possess such qualities if one has any signs of being a villain since one is usually motivated by personal gains. Good examples being Lago and Roderigo. Their trip to Cyprus has all sorts of hidden motives which make them more of villains rather than the heroes within the plot of the play. The failed attack on Cyprus by the Turkish is an event that gets them in a relaxed mood. Othello has the intentions of the people at heart and reveals of the celebration to be held due to the turn of events. It takes a good heart to let people celebrate and have fun together.
Every person happens to have their weaknesses and Othello is no different. After Lago plots on how to get him into thinking his wife is having an affair, this gets him so jealous that he starts acting badly towards her. He does not take time to think through the situation and acts out of information given to him by Lago. This is a huge character flaw, he does not take time to consider the actions of Cassio before the incident that happened, and neither does he take his time to listen to his wife.
as summer flies are in the shambles [slaughterhouses],
/ That quicken even with blowing (IV.ii.6364, 6869)At some point some readers may consider these as the main reasons to perceive Othello as a villain. As the Victim within the play, Othello is expected to have better ways to address the problems rather than how he handles them. Bearing in mind the same Lago who had conspired with Roderigo to claim that he had used witchcraft on Desdemona. But all this can be overlooked by the fact that Othello ha no clue of all the events that were happening. This does not clearly justify his actions in relation to the situation, but the fact that he had no idea he was being set up makes him more of a victim within the play.
The killing of his own wife seals the thought of many readers towards the conclusion that Othello is less of a victim but more of a villain. It's hard to refute this claim due to the evidence within the play. There is no justifiable reason behind the murder of your loved one despite the amount of love towards the person. But it is still possible to claim all these actions were based on false information feed in his mind by the true villain within the play. On the discovery of this information Othello cannot bear the thought of having killed his wife as long as the guilt of his actions. He wants to revenge on Lago but when this is impossible. This leads to his next cause of action which is taking of his life.
Then must you speakOf 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 awayRicher than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,Albeit unused to the melting mood,Drop tears as fast as the Arabian treesTheir medicinable gum. Set you down this,And say besides that in Aleppo once,Where a malignant and a turbaned TurkBeat a Venetian and traduced the state,I took by th throat the circumcised dogAnd smote him thus. (V.ii.341-354)
The speech is before he stabs himself and tries to identify himself as a threat and an outsider. He takes his act of suicide as a service to his state. This shows words of a good person who finds out his mistakes and decides to take action on himself for a villain to do such an act it is completely impossible. We find Lago again trying to escape so as to avoid the consequences of his actions, unlike Othello. From the different analysis, it is evident that he turns out to be the victim throughout the play although different readers may have different opinions regarding the entire play.
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. "Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, drama, and writing." Compact Interactive Edition (2010).
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