Shakespeare employs the use of irony to convey his message to his audiences. The use of irony creates exciting scenes and makes the audiences identify with the characters. There are several instances of use of irony in the play. Shakespeare uses irony significantly to demonstrates Othello’s prejudice. This is probably the ultimate irony in the play.
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Critics have focused their attention on Othello has the victim of Elizabethan prejudice. Ironically, Othello commits a shocking act of prejudice in the play against his wife, Desdemona. He refers to his faithful wife as “cunning whore” that must suffer for unfaithfulness with her life.
Othello blindly refuses to prove the innocence of his wife and summarily execute her. Othello is a good man who commits ironical act of murder. This is an ironical act of prejudice against Desdemona (woman). Audiences know that Desdemona is a victim of Iago’s evil plots against Othello. However, Othello neither knows the innocence’s of his wife nor Iago’s evil schemes.
Irony drives the scenes in Othello. The audiences know Iago as an evil man. However, he is masquerading as a man of honor. Iago assertively declares his good name in the play by extolling himself as “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord. Is the immediate jewel of their souls……But he that filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him.
And makes me poor indeed” (Shakespeare 185). Iago, a jealous man from the beginning of the play, pretends to befriend Othello and speaks to him about the danger of jealousy. Therefore, it is ironical for Iago to warn Othello of jealously as follows “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock, The meat it feeds on… .” (Shakespeare 193).
Anagnorisis is a time of recognition of unknown or unsuspected truth in Greek tragedies. Anagnorisis emanated from the works of Aristotle. The idea forms a turning point in Greek tragedy. The protagonist recognizes his tragic mistakes almost at the end of the play leading to his failure and downfall.
Shakespeare uses recognition in Othello whereby the tragic hero wrongly murders his wife leading to Othello’s downfall in the play. Othello must get a form of recognition in order to make his fate as well as the play tragic. There are no chances of saving the victim of the tragic hero.
Otherwise, the play will not be tragic. Shakespeare cleverly relates his plots to create anagnorisis leading to the climax of the play. This creates a catharsis among the audiences.
Recognition depends on the doubts, beliefs and skepticism of the main characters in the play. Othello demands that Desdemona confesses her infidelity to him as he prepares to kill her. Othello tells Desdemona thus “If you bethink yourself of any crime unreconciled as yet to heaven and grace, solicit for it straight” (Shakespeare 156). Othello believes that he acted fairly by killing his wife.
Recognition occurs when Othello learns the truth after smothering his wife. Othello’s belief that his wife is unfaithful comes to an end. Emilia challenges Iago about the fabrication he had told Othello. We learn that it is Emilia who gave Iago the handkerchief. This is the moment of recognition where the play turns to tragedy.
There are other elements of recognition which emerge through the traits of other characters in the play. These revelations are mainly evil, and they contribute to the final tragedy of the play. The main tragedy in Othello can be partially due to unavoidable accident and characters flaw of Iago. Jealous Othello ends up killing Desdemona. Jealousy is a ruinous character flaw in Othello (Mabillard 30).
What follows recognition are strings of other revelations and the evils characters meet their fate too. Shakespeare reveals the tragic fate of Othello to the audiences as the play continues. The tragic death of Desdemona reverses Othello’s fortunes in the play.
Othello must be punished for the murder he has committed. Therefore, he takes his own life. Emilia’s life ends because of conveying the truth to Othello. Iago is terribly wounded and captured and will pay for his sins.
Shakespeare reveals characters’ intentions, dreams, motives and desires through the use of speeches and actions. Shakespeare uses messenger speech to reveal the innocence of Desdemona through Emilia and the cunning nature of Iago.
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Othello’s messenger arrives to deliver the news of a broken Turkish ship in the storm. The speech enables the audience to see that the “Moor” is still at sea amidst the storm. The storm signifies unrest and trouble to come. Iago’ schemes are part of the storm to unfold in the story.
Iago’s message to Desdemona’s father depicts Elizabethan prejudice towards race outside the white society. Whites do not see any civilization in blacks. Therefore, the whites constantly refer to Othello with names depicting animals.
Messenger speech in the play allows the audience to have a clue of the scenes Shakespeare does not present on the stage. The use of the herald of Othello is particularly important in setting the plot for the next scene. After the storm of the sea ends, Iago’s storms of schemes follow.
Emilia is a messenger who delivers truth to Othello. Without her speech, Othello cannot learn the truth about Desdemona’s innocence. This is particularly essential since it contributes to the recognition or Anagnorisis of the play. This speech marks the downfall of Othello and other evil characters in the play.
Mabillard, Amanda. Othello Study Guide. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Othello: Cliff Notes. Chicago: IDG Books Worldwide, 2000. Print.