Dr. Andrew Elfenbein
13 December 2017
Subtext Analysis of Othello Act II Scene III Pages 50-52
The primary conflict in this scene is between Iago and Cassio. The conflict is not overt; rather Iago is subversively trying to manipulate Cassio into doing what he wants. Iago is disguising his intentions, appearing to join Cassio in trying to get him reinstated, whilst actually setting him up as part of a complex ploy to bring down Othello. The conflict within the text is brought out by the subtext. The scene uses a lot of binary and religious imagery, for example, Cassio refers to drink as “the devil” whilst Iago refers to it as a "good familiar creature". This sets up a binary difference between Cassio and Iago. There is an argument between them as to the value of reputation which brings in a minor, and perhaps subtextual, conflict between Iago and himself. Iago previously states one of his primary motivations for setting up Othello is his wounded pride at Cassio's promotion ahead of him. But here, when Cassio speaks of his own pride, his wounded reputation, Iago downplays reputation as "idle and most false". It could be read that Iago is downplaying a flaw in himself when it is recognized in Cassio.
Because the scene contains few stage directions, strong dialogue is essential. It must be functional as well as able to maintain the audience's interest. Every line establishes character, reinforces subtext, or moves the story. For example, Iago's dialogue furthers the plot twice, first when suggesting that Cassio be reinstated, and second when he suggests how Cassio should go about being reinstated. Cassio's fears about reputation can be seen as his defining characteristic, one that alludes to other virtues that the character may have, as does Iago's answering comment, "you are too severe a moraler". His flaws are also revealed, as he shifts the blame of his actions to the influence of drink and concern for his reputation is painted as a flaw-- one which Iago will exploit. Othello's character is hinted at by both Cassio and Iago when Cassio, in protesting his worthiness, indicates that Othello is morally...