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“Othello’s Weakness Lies in Himself, Not in the Xenophobia or Malice of Others.” Do You Agree?


“Othello’s Weakness Lies in Himself, Not in the Xenophobia or Malice of Others.” Do You Agree?In Shakespeare’s

play, The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice (1603 ), the problem of whether Othello’s weak point lies only in himself, and not in the xenophobia or malice of others, is one that is enmeshed in a good deal of intricacies due to the extenuating situations which can be seen to deeply affect the lead character’s sense of self throughout the course of the plot. Moreover, these extenuating situations do undoubtedly involve the xenophobia and the malice of others to a big degree.

For instance, there is racial bias that Othello undergoes within the play’s chronotope– a Venetian setting at a time where foreign ethnic backgrounds are quite seen as the inferior ‘other’. Hence, with Othello being a Moor of African origin, he is viewed as an ‘outsider’, and his ‘blackness’ often generates negative connotations, such as the association of ‘blackness’ with ‘wicked’ (Cohen 2091). This can then be seen as causing Othello’s alienation in society and consequently instills in him an underlying insecure disposition, despite his self-assured veneer at the start of the play.

Furthermore, the intentional malice of others against him, such as with Iago’s diabolic adjustments, can be argued to infect Othello’s judgments and exploit his weak point. However, Othello’s duty ought to not be overlooked, as the protagonist is a character who is nevertheless flawed. Maybe then, it is better to argue that Othello’s weak point definitely depends on himself to a fantastic degree, whilst it is also being helped with by the xenophobia and malice of others. In the play, Othello is portrayed as holding opposing characteristics, with numerous flaws undermining his worthy qualities.

For example, at the start of the play, Othello is seen as dignified, ensured and assertive. He states that, “My parts, my title, and my best soul/ Shall manifest me appropriately” (1. 2. 31-32) when faced with allegations by Brabanzio of taking and ‘bewitching’ his daughter (1. 2. 63-64). Nevertheless, though Othello is viewed by some such as the Duke as “much more reasonable than black” (1. 3. 289), most others see his racial colouring as representative of his inferiority. For instance, Othello is referred to as an “old black ram” that is “tupping [a] white ewe” (1. 88-89). This images is connoted to be profane and indicates the xenophobic fear of miscegenation, with Othello being conveyed as not worthy of Desdemona due to the fact that of his status as a black guy. Greenblatt competes: Othello’s blackness; the indication of all that the society discovers frightening and hazardous; is the indelible witness to Othello’s permanent status as an outsider, no matter how highly the state may value his services or how regards he has actually accepted its values (mentioned Schapiro 489).

For this reason, Othello’s preliminary confidence is shadowed by an insecurity which is aided by the xenophobic society in which he lives. Consequently, this insecurity opens him as much as be susceptible to Iago’s guile. As Porter describes, “Othello’s story is a tragedy … due to the fact that it is the story of the destruction of a noble, deeply exceptional man produced through his own weaknesses, systematically exploited by a harmful enemy” (27 ). Therefore, as the play advances Othello begins to doubt Desdemona with the support of Iago’s deceitful outlining.

This is evidenced when Othello says to himself: “Why did I wed? This honest animal doubtless/ Sees and knows more, far more, than he unfolds” (3. 3. 247-248) as a response to Iago’s ramifications of her infidelity. For this reason, this case shows that both Othello’s own weak point of insecurity and Iago’s malice contribute to the doubt which eventually leads to the hero’s downfall. Othello is also revealed to be efficient in being impassioned and unreasonable, in spite of being set up at the start of the play as being logical and tactical.

For instance, Othello “does not react mentally” (Macaulay 261) to Brabanzio’s attacks in Act 1. Instead, he sensibly crafts a story to discuss the “witchcraft” he was implicated of seducing Desdemona with (1. 3. 128-168). However, in Act 3, Othello displays another side– one that is consumed with violent passion and infuriated with jealousy. Furthermore, Othello’s character is ruined by pride. He idealises his other half and sees her chastity as “a mirror for his own idealized self-image” (Snow pointed out Schapiro 489). Furthermore, this weak point can be viewed as an action to his xenophobic society.

As Schapiro states, “the Moor’s outsider status as a black male in a white, Christian society is vital to appreciating the extremity of his egotistical vulnerability” (489 ). Furthermore, Novy argues that, “Othello’s desire for a love that is total blend is, in part, his effort to get away from his underlying sense of separateness” (pointed out Schapiro 489). As a result, his pride drives him to put all he has at stake on Desdemona. As such, when Brabanzio alerts him, “Aim to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see,/ She has actually tricked her daddy, and might thee” (1. 3. 91-292), Othello boasts, “My life upon her faith!” (1. 3. 293). Therefore, when he thinks that he will be shamed with the social disgrace of his idealised other half being a “raunchy minx” (3. 3. 478), his pride and “egotistical vulnerability” (Schapiro 491) lead him to respond in the extreme style of damning Desdemona and condemning her to death. This is due to the fact that he connects a big part of his own worth to Desdemona’s fidelity, so that he is even more wrought at the idea of her unfaithfulness: “Her name, that was as fresh/ As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black/ As mine own face” (3. 443-444). Also, Othello associates order in his life to his love for his spouse: “And when I like thee not,/ Chaos is returned” (3. 3. 91-92). Moreover, Iago’s machinations also served as a catalyst for this occasion, as the antagonist aimed to “put the Moor/ At least into a jealousy so strong/ That judgment can not cure” (2. 1. 287-289). Nevertheless, it is through Othello’s own weak point that sees Desdemona’s ‘affair’ as more than simply a threat for their domestic relationship, but one that threatened his very position in society.

Another weakness that falls on Othello’s accountability is his own bias in regards to who can and can not be trusted, and Othello’s actions resonate with the popular belief in his time that views ladies as typically deceitful and military men as typically truthful (Porter 29). This for this reason leads to another set of his conflicting traits; he is both credulous and suspicious albeit with the wrong people. He falls for Iago’s shrewd trickery (3. 3), yet is dismissive of Desdemona’s pleas of innocence and Emilia’s protestations (5. 2).

His bias thus triggers him to be a “gull” and a “dolt” (5. 2. 170) for Iago’s harmful intent, with the villain making the most of his “complimentary and open nature,/ That thinks guys truthful that however appear to be so” (1. 3. 381-382). Additionally, Othello’s gullibility towards Iago’s lies can be credited to the manner in which Othello is a creator of fiction himself, with the protagonist enjoying dishonesty when it matches him so. This makes him susceptible to Iago’s ideas and enables the “monstrous birth” (1. 3. 386) of his jealousy as he produces his wn erroneous fiction of his spouse’s adultery from Iago’s insinuations and merely circumstantial evidence. Certainly, Macaulay asserts that Othello “actively translates Iago’s violation of the maxim of amount” (272 ). Through this weakness, Iago is thus able to create “a simulated world to transform Othello’s perception, and ultimately his sense of himself” (Oatley 21). This is evidenced when Othello selects to accuse Desdemona of her affair with Cassio by alluding to it through a narrative about his mom’s handkerchief that possessed an undercurrent of Iago’s contamination (3. ). In addition, the influence of Iago on Othello makes the issue of who is responsible for Othello’s downfall and Desdemona’s murder problematic as the borders for responsibility are not specific due to the villain’s manipulation. As Macaulay states, “Shakespeare’s Othello has provoked comprehensive interpretive action since at the heart of the play a guy murders his other half in a state of jealousy largely of his own creation, abetted by a villain whose own motives have been queried” (259 ).

At the end of the play, Lodovico does undoubtedly address Iago’s part in the catastrophe, saying to the ensign: “O Spartan pet,/ More fell than suffering, cravings, or the sea!/ Look on the awful loading of this bed;/ This is thy work” (5. 2. 372-375). Consequently, Neely claims that there are basically three interpretive positions with regard to Othello (cited Macaulay 259). Macaulay discusses, “Some critics exonerate Othello of any blame, others see Iago as a truthful realist, and a third camp sees Othello and Iago as sharing obligation in addition to aspects of personality” (259 ).

As such, the change in Othello’s character can be viewed as a kind of belongings by Iago, with the villain “affecting Othello with what he himself feels” (Cohen 2093). Indeed, from the start of the play, Iago is aligned with the devil as he states: “I am not what I am” (1. 1. 65), in a turnaround of the bible rhetoric in which ‘God’ recognizes himself to Moses. Likewise, the juxtaposition of Othello’s conclusion that he can not kill Iago if he “beest a devil” (5. 2. 293) with the event that Iago is injured “however not killed” (5. 2. 94) at the end of the play further parallels Iago with the devil. Furthermore, Othello bluntly implicates Iago of being a “demi-devil” (5. 2. 307) and alludes to a supernatural-like belongings when he asks, “Why he hath therefore captured my soul and body?” (5. 2. 308). Hence, Cohen mentions that “faced with a supernatural adversary, Othello’s nobility is less stained … Othello is both culpable dupe and noble victim” (2094 ). However, the play likewise represents Iago as the ‘typical’ guy, with his commonness being a primary reason that he is overlooked by the other characters as he carries out his treachery.

For this reason, although Iago is quite cunning, he is not a mastermind of genius proportions. This is highlighted when he stops working to leave trouble as his deceptiveness unravels in the last scene, instead relying on simply trying to peaceful his wife before eventually killing her (5. 2). This duality of Iago hence makes complex the issue of whether Othello’s weakness lies only in himself, as it alludes to the concept of Othello as being under the ownership of a “motiveless malignity” (Coleridge cited Cohen 2093).

However, regardless of the extremely genuine influence of external occasions and intentional malice towards Othello’s death, Iago can not be seen as a scapegoat for Othello’s weak point. Undoubtedly, the hero’s terrible downfall is caused by his own deadly defects, and it is Othello himself who picks to punish Desdemona with death (3. 3, 5. 2). Porter denotes: Of course, Othello is the victim of a purposeful deception, however … it is by no ways clear how Iago manages to persuade Othello of Desdemona’s regret– after all, he has no real evidence …

What is more, even giving Othello’s conviction of Desdemona’s guilt, it would not be necessary for him to kill her– he could eliminate her, as she pleads (5. 2. 79)… divorce her … [or] even forgive her and attempt to obtain his marital relationship. Hence, Iago’s destructive deception, while troubling in its own right, need to not be allowed to obscure the puzzles provided by Othello’s own behaviour … We must try to find the answers to these concerns in Othello himself (28 ). Hence, through his employment of death as vengeance, Othello can be viewed as quite a problematic character, with troubling deficits below his honorable veneer.

Accordingly, this shows that Othello’s weakness lies heavily in himself, regardless of the impact of the xenophobia and malice of others on his actions. It can be seen for that reason, that much of Othello’s flaws do certainly originate from his marginalised position in society, which can mostly be attributed to the xenophobia against him from other characters. It is likewise apparent that although Iago’s malicious scheming is a driver for Othello’s misdirected actions, it is through the Moor’s own weakness that causes his supreme downfall.

As such, Othello’s weak point lies in himself, though worsened by– and inextricably linked to– the xenophobia and malice of others. It is therefore an amalgamation of these factors that sees Othello’s weakness reach its complete extent in Shakespeare’s play. Referral List: Cohen, Walter. ‘Othello’. Stephen Greenblatt. Ed. The Norton Shakespeare. New York City: W. W. Norton & & Business Inc., 1997. 2091-2099. Macaulay, Marcia. ‘When Chaos Is Come Again: Narrative and Narrative Analysis in Othello’. Design 39. 3 (2005 ): 259-276 Oatley, Keith. Simulation of Compound and Shadow: Inner Emotions and Outer Behaviour in Shakespeare’s Psychology of Character’. College Literature 33. 1 (2006 ): 15-33. Porter, Jean. ‘Moral Mistakes, Virtue and Sin: The Case of Othello’. Research Studies in Christian Ethics 18. 2 (2005 ): 23-44. Schapiro, Barbara. ‘Psychoanalysis and the Problem of Evil: Discussing Othello in the Classroom’. American Imago 60. 4 (2003 ): 481-499. Shakespeare, William. The Disaster of Othello the Moor of Venice. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 1603. New York City: W. W. Norton & & Business Inc., 1997.

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