Discuss the Techniques Used by Shakespeare to Present Othello’s Transformation
Discuss the Techniques Used by Shakespeare to Present Othello’s Transformation The transforming of Othello is perhaps one of the most important parts to the play. Shakespeare uses a number of techniques to get across the monumental change in Othello and to dramatically present both the characters and the story. Perhaps the most climatic of all the approaches is Othello’s given state of mind. To begin with, he is calm, reserved and commanding, knowing what he wants and how he is to get it.
Shakespeare consigned Othello short, impressive imperatives like ‘stand there’ to demonstrate his amount of control. Othello continues to use majestic language throughout the beginning of the play: ‘but look’ and ‘keep up’. As most of his orders are realized, again it indicates Othello’s ability to obtain all he desires and his assertive stride. Othello’s vocalization style immediately evokes a loud and proud man, standing before us with great authority, whilst also holding his own and without revealing his purpose.
He says ‘most potent, grave, and reverend signiors’ to display the amount of respect he has for those above him, lavishing them in glorifying adjectives: ‘noble and approved good masters’ and ‘gracious patience’, flattering them to acquire all he wishes. Othello continues to appear humble and reserved, ‘rude am I in my speech… little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace’, when covertly he knows and understands he has an ulterior motive, and understands how to proceed to succeed in this motive.
Othello has been given an ability to be sycophantic, in order for those listening to be taken in by his sweet flattery, so he can get in their head, and make them conceive to his demands. Othello does, after all, still remain with his confident and unflappable manner: ‘I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter’, is just one is the few examples of the audacious and defiant demeanour he pronounces us with. Othello’s character is not distressed when clarifying the obvious, and is not afraid to express it in such a style that could be portrayed as abrupt and ungracious.
However, due to the earlier honeying of his words, Othello can get away with saying such things in a comparable scheme. Essentially, he knows what he is doing. Othello displays an ability to use staggering poetic images: ‘Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. ’ This shows a lyrical side to him and is just another way he expresses his assurance. It is delicate language, and is said in a dignified fashion, flaunting his unobtrusive authority and his dexterity to remain unruffled.
Othello could be powerful, persuasive and emphatic, simply by becoming a profitable raconteur, and drawing his listeners into the tale. The story of Othello and Desdemona’s love (act 1, scene 3), was told so one could see how impressive Othello could be; he could stand in front of a court, confidently and surely, divulge an account, and use elaborate images, captivating all around him completely, when the person he is challenging is one of higher authority. To the audience we view him as an intimidating person, making us quiver in our seats and look to him as one that can hold himself no matter what.
Later on, however, Othello changes the manner in which he speaks ‘– Handkerchief — confessions’. He changes to prose, signifying numerous things. Perhaps it is announcing to us that he is now a puppet, a minion, rather than a high general; also that he has lost all his earlier fluency and rhythm. His language is broken and erratic, much like the way he is thinking. When once Othello used the imperatives, by the end of the play, he is succumbing to the orders given by others. ‘Do it not with poison, strangle her’ Iago tells Othello, and Othello is very easily swayed: becoming the passive one.
He not only has no control over those around him, but cannot even control his own actions and his own mind. Previously, Othello could stand in front of the Venetian Court and persuade them to listen to his version of events, giving him extravagant respect, whereas the later on in the play one reads, we see him transformed to the afore mentioned minion characteristics. If one was respected by others, they would not say ‘Damn her, lewd minx! ’ and ‘O damn her! ’ It is aggressive and emotive, bordering out of control, and is a complete contrast to his previous, calm self.
Othello would not return to that sturdy, serene and placid man he once was. When he uses base language (‘damn’ and ‘lewd’), this again, shows us his metamorphosis to one who has become far more moronic, and lower in the hierarchy. ‘Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them’ is a demonstration of the imagery that Shakespeare presents Othello with. The majority of his imagery is fairly theatrical, establishing his assurance, as he can execute such extravagant mental images, and carry them off.
It also shows that his mind is in a harmonious situation, and is not poisoned, giving him the ability to elect images that would be effective in the circumstances: ‘of moving accidents by flood and field, of hair-breadth escapes ‘ the imminent deadly breach’. Thereafter, we see all his images transforming to become grotesque and incongruous, ‘rather be a toad’. Toads are slimy, unbecoming animals, and Shakespeare is giving us perception to what Othello has been corrupted to adorn. ‘Vapour of a dungeon’ is just another example of the putrid imagery Othello is given.
His change in images (both what we acknowledge, and the thoughts of Othello) is monumental, and therefore disturbing. When Othello is speaking to others, we can observe his reaction to what is said. At the beginning, this would not help us perceive much, as he may be thinking one thing, but say another in an entirely believable manner. This was when Othello’s soliquies mattered. Nearer the end, however, Othello was in such a predicament that he always said what he was thinking, and all his emotions were displayed.
He is ruled now by what he feels, not by what is right, not what would make sense to the man he once was. In one soliquy he says ‘for I am black’ which indicates insecurity, something that would not have bothered him before. Othello is also feeling sexually insecure, ‘I am abused’, thus feeling sorry for himself. However the earlier Othello would have no reason to be, because he had everything he wanted: ‘boasting is an honour’. Not only is he insecure, he also starts to hold an inability to keep his anger under control.
This, in turn, represents a lack of power. ‘Think, my lord! ’ shows his frustration, and the passage that follows unveils a simmering exasperation. This creates tension, as we are waiting for Othello to pronounce us with an unleashed fury. In contrast, when Othello would get angry beforehand, a dignified response was ensued, ‘Good signoir, you shall more command with years than with your weapons’. Even in the face of danger, Othello used to manage keeping control of both himself, and the situation.
The change in punctuation is significant to the change in Othello, as it gives us an insight as to how he is reacting, and his state of mind. In the first instance, Shakespeare does not render Othello with too many questions or exclamations, revealing his capacity to remain unruffled and collected. The lack of questions signifies that Othello knows all, and does not question situations or people. Later on, we see the transformation, as Othello is seen to use many more exclamations: ‘not their appetites! ’, ‘the tranquil mind! ’, ‘content! , ‘ambition virtue! ’, ‘glorious war! ’… The list goes on. This implies excitement, anger and perturbation. Before he may not have needed to become animated; if he did, he could keep it under control; perhaps so he could manipulate others. Now, however, he is emotive and dramatic, contrasting his earlier emotions. The new use of question marks expresses Othello’s stupidity and confusion: ‘what didst not like? ’ Not only does this verify his turmoil, but he is also questioning himself. It’s another example of his new found insecurity: ‘is’t possible? Shakespeare has made it as such Othello cannot understand what is going on around him, making him an easier target to wield. Othello’s ‘Love’ for Desdemona was so powerful and passionate, ‘that I love the gentle Desdemona’. Othello wished to marry her, even though it will cause an inimitable eruption. ‘I loved her’ again shows that is his Love was influential (much like him). Othello loves Desdemona so much that he was prepared to ruin his hard-earned career for her, ‘I would not my un-housed free condition put into circumscription and confine for the sea’s worth’.
He talks about her countless times throughout the first part of the play and it demonstrates how dominant she has been in his life. Then, however, he goes on to describe her as ‘lewd minx’ disclosing to us that he holds an unaccustomed hatred toward her; he uses ‘fair devil’ at one point, an oxymoron, establishing two things: he is confused, and he loves Desdemona, but hates her also. Moreover, Othello rarely uses her name, when nearing the end of the play: ‘with her, lest her body’, ‘lie with her’ etc, which shows us that he cannot bear to say it.
To begin with, however, he would use ‘Desdemona’ regularly, as though by saying her name, it would bring him closer to her, and that’s all he wanted. ‘If I do prove’ discloses the fact that he doth endeavour to believe that Desdemona still Loves him, perhaps because he couldn’t imagine it any other way. Not merely this, but again it is demonstrates his freshly found insecurity and vacillation. Perhaps the most dramatic of the changes presented when looking at Othello’s bestowed behaviour towards Desdemona, is when he hits her.
He strikes her accompanied with ‘devil’. Desdemona is simply perplexed, and responds, ‘I have not deserved this’. Her retort explains that what he has done is unconventional for him, and that there is no reason behind the attack. Lodovico plays a vital part when noticing the change between the lovers. He saw how in love they were since the rudiments of the play, and how that has modified. He goes from one extreme to the next, so we see the monumental adaptation between their love through Lodovico’s eyes.
He reacts to Othello hitting Desdemona as such: ‘would not have been believed in Venice’, whereas earlier he could see that they were in love. Cassio used to be Othello’s lieutenant, and was when Othello had his own state of mind, his own sense of morals, indicating Cassio was of the correct calibre when it comes to his job. After Othello had been poisoned, however, ‘now art thou my lieutenant’, Othello promotes Iago. It demonstrates his conversion in trust, and reveals that he has almost been twisted to the maximum. It is as though he must have Iago there to endure ‘if thou dost love me, show me thy thought’.
He is insecure and paranoid, and must know what Iago is thinking. Dramatic irony also comes into the equation here, as we know Cassio is the one that Othello should accredit, but Iago is the one he believes. Ultimately, this creates tension in the audience. Again, Othello’s soliquies elucidate a great deal when it comes to how he is thinking. ‘O curse of marriage’ tells us that Othello no longer appreciates the idea of marriage, and ‘had rather be a toad, and live upon a vapour of a dungeon, than keep a corner in the thing I love’.
Before, we knew that he held certain adoration for marriage, as he decided to espouse Desdemona although it would cause havoc. This soliquy also deduces a great deal about his sentiments, as we see him with pessimistic view-points: ‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death: even then this forked plague is fated to us’. Finally, Othello returns to his imperturbable self, opening with imperatives on his last speech: ‘soft you’. He is confident again ‘I have done the state some service, and they know’t’. Othello goes on to realise he has been ‘wrought’ by Iago, and ‘perplex’d in the extreme’.
He describes Desdemona as a ‘pearl, richer than all his tribe’ and discerns that he threw away something beautiful and vulnerable, due to Iago’s cunningness. Othello finishes with ‘I took by the throat the circumcised dog, and smote him, thus’ indirectly calling himself the enemy, as he stabs himself after the last word. Othello’s veil that was put there by Iago was ripped away and he must have feel satisfaction from realising the truth; however we know he loves Desdemona, as he ends his life because of what he has done, and what he believed to be true.
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