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The Theme Of Self Esteem In Othello

1459 words - 6 pages

The Theme of Self Esteem in Othello

For the theater-going people of the Elizabethan age, there were many hardships. Many of them experienced poor living conditions and treatment. All of them faced the dangers of a comparatively underdeveloped medical knowledge which often left the young and elderly to die of common diseases. The magic of Shakespeare is not only that historians can learn of otherwise undocumented details of the 1500's, but also that all readers can discover the many similarities between Shakespeare's day and now. These similarities reside heavily not only in speech, but also the human condition. When compared with the people we know today, Shakespeare's characters exhibit only skin-deep differences. Some identical language expressions may owe their modern existance to Shakespeare's presence in literary education, but identical emotional reactions surely cannot stem solely from the lecture hall. The English inhabitants of the 16th century, as seen through William Shakespeare's eyes, experienced the same love, hate, and jealousy that we do today. Just as our modern films and music often include implied moral lessons, so too does Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice. All its primary characters and themes of unstable love and exploitation culminate into one simple message about the key importance of loving oneself.

Iago, the villian of the tale, is responsible for initiating most of the turbulence found in the plot. Essentially, Iago chooses two insecure individuals on which to work his exploitation: Roderigo and Othello. Othello, arguably the main character of the play, is Iago's primary pawn. Roderigo becomes a secondary card in Iago's deck, as well as his source of money. Blinded by his love for Desdemona, Roderigo makes a nearly ideal target for Iago's manipulation. It is not only this love, however, which makes him such a prime target. Were it not for Roderigo's insecurity, Iago might never have managed to use him to such an extreme extent. Iago is initially tipped off to Roderigo's weakness when he witnesses his despair following the public announcement of Desdemona's marriage to Othello. Roderigo tells Iago, "I will incontinently drown myself" (1.3.305). "It is silliness to live when to live is tornment" (1.3.308). Abraham Maslow, an experienced psychologist, announced in the early 70's his theory of a "hierarchy of needs" (Myers, 426). This hierarchy states that humans are generally predestined to chronologically follow a set of five different requirements. From first to last, they are: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and finally self-actualization needs. Myers states that humans will reach for higher needs "only if" (426) the lower ones have been met. Upon hearing Roderigo threaten suicide after a failed romance attempt, Iago saw an individual who had just recently begun to sense the need for love, and was nowhere near a stable level of self esteem. In...

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