6 May 2014
In William Shakespeare’s Othello, unspoken fears of being an outsider and concerns about his public image contribute to the downfall of a tragic hero named Othello. Othello, a general in the Venetian army’s, final monologue reflects the importance of reputation and the conformity needed to fit his surroundings. He is seen as an outsider of the Venetian culture; he is frequently referred to as “the Moor” and is called an abundance of racial slurs by the Venice born natives. Although Othello never voices his internal struggle to feel accepted by the people around him, his image and physical appearance are some of major issues he faces. Even in the moments before he stabs himself, Othello is more concerned with the legacy he is leaving behind than with the death of his wife, Desdemona. Shakespeare uses Othello’s transformation from a heroic military soldier to a tragic figure to warn of the dangers of obsessing over one’s reputation and the need to feel accepted by society.
Othello is very particular in how he wants to be remembered by stating that he does not want his image to be exaggerated or toned down, but subconsciously, he is only trying to protect his reputation. After murdering Desdemona, Othello pleads with Lodovico and Gratiano, Desdemona’s father’s kinsmen, not to ask for forgiveness for committing such a heinous crime, but to remember him as an adequate man who made an irrevocable mistake. Instead of acknowledging his wife’s lifeless body, Othello is more with how he will be described in Lodovico and Gratiano’s letters. In the beginning of the play, Othello would profess his love for Desdemona at every available opportunity, but now he cares more about his own reputation than he does for his dead wife. Even after Emilia, Iago’s wife, reveals that Iago, Othello’s ensign, manipulated him and that Desdemona was never unfaithful to him, Othello still tries to justify his actions. In fact, Othello calls himself “an honorable murderer” (5.2.299) and does not think that he has done anything wrong. He is never truly remorseful for his actions until he realizes that he will be remembered as a murderer instead of as a hero.
In his final monologue, Othello prays to be remembered as is, but when he starts to describe himself, it seems as if it is how he wants to be remembered, not for who he actually was. The tone is ironic when he describes himself as “one not easily jealous” (5.2.350) because in actuality, his jealousy is what led to the death of his wife. If he was not easily made jealous then Iago’s deceitful lies and actions would have not have affected Othello as much as they did. Othello lies about his personal qualities because he is concerned with how his reputation will be presented after his death. The tone is remorseful when he “like the base Judean, threw a pearl away/ richer than all his tribe; of ones who subdued eyes” (5.2.352-353). Othello could not see how much...