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The Development Of Othello's Character In William Shakespeare's Play

3046 words - 12 pages

The Development of Othello's Character in William Shakespeare's Play

Othello was first performed by the King’s Men at the court of King
James I on November 1, 1604. Written during Shakespeare’s great tragic
period, which also included the composition of Hamlet (1600), King
Lear (1604–5), and Macbeth (1606), Othello is set against the backdrop
of the wars between Venice and Turkey that raged in the latter part of
the sixteenth century. Cyprus, which is the setting for most of the
action, was a Venetian outpost attacked by the Turks in 1570 and
conquered the following year. The story of Othello is derived from
another source, an Italian prose tale written in 1565 by Giovanni
Battista Giraldi Cinzio (usually referred to as Cinthio). The original
story contains the bare bones of Shakespeare’s plot: a Moorish general
is deceived by his ensign into believing his wife is unfaithful. To
Cinthio’s story Shakespeare added supporting characters such as the
rich young dupe Roderigo and the outraged and grief-stricken
Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. Shakespeare compressed the action into
the space of a few days and set it against the backdrop of military
conflict. And, most memorably, he turned the ensign, a minor villain,
into the arch-villain Iago.

Othello is a black army general in the service of the Duke of Venice
and he secretly marries Desdemona, daughter of the senator Brabantio,
who is against this marriage.

The first time we are introduced to Othello in the play is act 1 scene
2 in which he is confronted by Brabantio about his secret marriage.
Othello is accused of stealing his daughter, using witchcraft, and
drugging her to fall in love with him, saying that he ‘hast practised
on her with foul charms, abused her delicate youth with drugs on
minerals’. At this point we see the first attributes of Othello’s
character, he responds to these accusations calmly and explains with
perfect courtesy and dignity that he cannot allow himself to be taken
to prison, since he has been called to the council hall.

Firstly, the absence of Othello in act 1 scene 1 creates mystery
surrounding his character and the audience is left to wonder what he
is like through what other characters say about him. What we learn
about Othello in act 1 scene 2 is that he is a wise, calm, intelligent
and patient man, who speaks clearly, rationally and to the point. We
also learn that he is confident to believe that his service to Venice
and his noble descent will cause everything to smooth over. The
evidence to suggest this being when he says to Iago, ‘Let him do his
spite: my services, which I have done the signory, shall out-tongue
his complaints’. He then further goes on to say ‘from men or royal
siege, and my demerits may speak, unbonneted, to as proud a future as
this that I have reached. For know, Iago,...

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