Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stages of Iago’s attempt to seduce Othello, Othello’s state of mind in the Temptation scene and Confusion between Honor and Reputation

Introduction: Conventionally Morality drama has a temptation scene in which man is subjected to the Devil’s allurements. The third act of Othello has a scene that corresponds to it. Othello is entangled in a situation where he must choose between the two, Iago’s poisoning or his love for Desdemona. At the end of the scene, he is embraced by Iago in a spiritual union and Desdemona is ultimately rejected. He sees through the eyes of Iago. The tools and threads, with which he will weave his net, have already been prepared. Othello has not yet learnt to question and he will by the code of Iago and will be guided by him to the point of his devastation.

Credibility: Although the temptation scene ahs been criticized as incredible, it is quite convincing in its dramatic context. Shakespeare’s artistry infuses the scene with an illusion of reality which is remarkably effective in the theater. The very speed of the action carries the audience along in Iago’s spell and gives it no opportunity to consider questions of logical probability. Shakespeare has certainly provided certain elements in the first two acts which make seduction of Othello plausible.  He has stressed his simple trust in Iago, his unfamiliarity with civilized life and particularly with Venetian women, his role as an alien ever potentially hostile society. Perhaps most significantly, by a series of events, Shakespeare has caused Othello to doubt his own powers of judgment and perception. His marriage to Desdemona has resulted in an accusation of witchcraft from one who has always been his friend. Cassio, the officer he has so carefully chosen, in his drunkenness has caused Othello to question the wisdom of his choice. Othello is now ready to question the goodness of Desdemona in which he had believed as firmly as in the friendship of Brabantio and the soldiership of Cassio.
Iago’s Offensive: Iago excites Othello’s natural curiosity by his veiled remarks touching the honesty of Cassio and by the implication that he has secret knowledge which he will not reveal. There’s no evidence of jealousy on Othello’s part; however, until Iago himself raises the issue.      O, beware, my lord, of jealousy. This suggestion Othello at first resists with the memory of Desdemona’s virtue and with a true awareness of his own excellence for which she married him. Othello’s awareness of how jealousy operates is in effect a rejection of jealousy. To this point of the scene, Iago has been unsuccessful. He has not been able to shake Othello’s faith in himself and Desdemona. Now he turns to Othello’s ignorance of Venus.
In Venus they do let God see the pranks
They dare not show their husbands; their best
Is not to leav’t undone, but keep’t unknown
Here Othello’s belief is shakena dn eh tends to doubt whether the virtue of Venetian girls is a mask seeming virtue only and not the inner one for which he married Desdemona.
She did deceive her father, marrying you;
And when she seem’d to shake and fear your looks,
She lov’d them most.
Here, presenting the motifs of evil wearing the mask of apparent virtue, Iago is gains his first victory, for Othello is forced to reply ‘ And so she did.’ It is Othello who first raises the question of Unnaturalness which had earlier been pleaded by Brabantio before the Venetian Council. He is now inseparably stuck to the point of unnaturalness and is drawn to the side of Iago. He is fully convinced of Iago’s expertise in human psychology and dealing.
This fellow’s of exceedings honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,
Of human dealing.
After this attack of Iago, his spiritual union with Desdemona appears to him only a sensual appetite and he begins to see things through the eyes of Iago.
Othello’s Struggle:  There are moments in which, we find Othello breaking the net laid down by Iago. When Desdemona is before him, he finds her again the same beautiful and virtuous Venetian girl who saw Othello’s visage in his mind and not in his face. He rejects all doubts attached to her by Iago and says,
If she false, O, then heaven mocks itself!
I’ll not believe it.
But when she tries to bind his temples, he is overcome by the poison fed by Iago. His honor is at stake and he farewells the soldier’s life. He says that he is ready to accept all evil attach to her; but hidden from him.
Othello’s Surrender: Although, Othello still demands proof, jealousy has so maddened him and benumbed his reason that he is willing to accept whatever proof and evidence, Iago has to present as truth. Iago’s lie about Cassio’s dream and his sensuous descriptions are all enough for Othello to dig his own grave. He renounces his love for Desdemona and accepts hatred and revenge. Iago’s words have so worked upon him that Othello ends up with Desdemona as evil and Iago as his Lieutenant again and he even gives orders for the death of Cassio.
Othello’s Delusion: Despite the fact that Othello has allowed himself to ensnared by Iago, there is awe and solemnity in the culmination of the surrender scene. Othello, in his delusion, would convert his sinful vengeance into the guise of a lawful justice and his hatred into duty. Truth will appear as falsehood, love and loyalty as lust and betrayal. Always in his delusion, Othello will see himself as the instrument of justice executing his duty his duty in a solemn ritual, although his court-room will be brothel and his act of justice the destruction of love and truth.

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