Language in Othello Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists used language to establish and build dramatic atmosphere, to define time, place and character. But in Othello, language is not simply the medium by which the drama is conveyed: in this play language is action. Othello falls' because he believes a man whose every utterance is deceptive.
When the hero is taken in by false words, tragedy is the result. The play shows us the power of words; we watch as characters construct their own and others' identities through language, and exert power either by speaking, remaining silent or silencing others.Verse and prose Othello is written in blank verse and prose. Blank verse consists of unrushed iambic pentameters, with five stressed syllables and five unstressed syllables to each line. Shakespeare uses this traditional form flexibly, however, varying the pace of his writing to achieve specific effects.
He also creates specific idioms for each of his characters. If we look at the language of Othello and Ago we can see how the dramatist creates not only character, but also the theme of opposition which is central to the play. From his opening speeches in Act l, Scenes 2 and 3 it is clear thatOthello characteristic idiom is dignified, measured blank verse. This is appropriate, given his status in the play. His use of blank verse also helps establish his heroism.
In Shakespearean plays, verse is usually used to indicate strong feeling or emotion. Characters of high rank and position speak in verse which sounds dignified. A servant or low-class character who usually speaks in prose is often made to speak in verse as a mark of respect, when speaking to his master or superior. Such a character also speaks in verse when he or she is moved by strong passion.On the other hand, person belonging to a high rank or position speaks in prose when he speaks to his servant or to a subordinate person. When Othello is in a state of mental chaos, he speaks in prose.
For, in Shakespeare prose is used for incoherent language of madness frenzy and mental paralysis. Desman turns to prose when she talks in a playful mood with Ago, but she uses verse in her pleading colloquy (conversation) with Ago. Ago speaks naturally and normally in prose. But, we should remember that he is playing an important role throughout the entire play. So, there is a distinct purpose in every change in his speeches.Prose and verse coincide with and expose the subtle changes in his mood.
When Ago is Jocular, simple and "honest Ago," he speaks in quick prose. But when he is feigning honest indignation or expressing real hatred, he is an emotional being and hence, all his soliloquy are in verse. In his soliloquies he hatches the successive steps or exalts in their success. At his first entry in the beginning of the play, he is seething with anger because Othello has ejected him and chosen Cassia as his lieutenant. This seems to be the real Ago speaking from the heart.
His hatred of Cassia Jets out in spasms of indignant rhetoric.Verse can only be the medium of such an expression. It is not until Abrogation also loses his temper that Ago regains his self-control. Then outwardly once again he is the mocker speaking prose.
Next he appears in company with Othello. He is not feigning indignation, and verse is the proper medium for his speech now. At the end of the Council Chamber scene he is left alone with Ordering. Again, the mark is on and he speaks a flippant supple prose, until Ordering leaves him.
Then once more he is left alone, and his real emotion breaks out in powerful passionate verse, as the idea of his plot begins to grow.It is the language of conscious superiority to his credulous victims. But, when in the Fourth Act Othello uses the prose of frenzy, Ago also adopts with him prose. With superior persons he uses verse.
When he addresses Montana in the brawl scene he uses verse. In the same scene he talks prose in familiar talk with Cassia. Cassia is a lyrical character and hence he speaks verse habitually. But, in familiar talk with Ago in the drinking bout in the third scene of the Second Act, and in the contemptuous talk about Bianca in the first scene of the Fourth Act, he drops to prose.The prose-character of Ago inspires Cassia's anguished prose loquat with Ago in the third scene of the Second Act, where he laments about his lost reputation. Emilie is seen in company with her mistress, Desman, her master, Othello, and her husband, Ago.
She is on deferential terms with them all. Hence she uses verse. She falls into prose only once, in the cynical confession of her last confidential talk with Desman. The Clown is a comic character and so he speaks in prose.
The herald announcing the proclamation in the second scene of the Second Act uses prose.The sailor in the presence of the Venetian senate uses the ceremonial language of verse in deference. Bianca is a low-class woman and uses prose normally. But in her wishful pleading with Cassia she passes to verse. The Duke and the senators are noble men and they use verse regularly.
Of course, there is one exception. When the Duke turns from the affair of Othello marriage to the urgent business of the state, he slips into prose. Thus, the matter-of-fact dry realistic situation induces the adoption of prose. Shakespeare, thus, has followed a definite method in using prose and verse for the speeches of different characters in his play.The use of prose or verse depends sometimes on the rank and position of the harassers, sometimes on the emotions expressed by them and sometimes on the situations in which the utterances are made.
Thinking about your interpretation of the play, find significant instances where prose is being used. Othello Othello speaks clearly and purposefully. His authority comes across in these lines, and there is a sense of both danger and beauty - entirely appropriate to the speaker - in his references to 'bright swords' and 'dew. We are immediately aware that the hero is an impressive character and a powerful speaker.
This power is reinforced in he next scene when Othello uses words not Just to defend his elopement with Desman, but also to enable him to keep her; if he does not speak convincingly the 'bloody book of law' (1. 3. 68) may deprive him of his wife. Desman acknowledges her husband's rhetorical power when she enters. We already know that she was seduced by his storytelling; now we discover that she uses the same dignified and purposeful idiom that he employs.
Through their shared speech patterns Shakespeare conveys the harmony and mutual affection of Othello and Adhesion's match; the lovers are as Ago expresses it Well tuned' (11. 1 . 98) at this point. Each of Othello long speeches in this scene could be compared to a poem, expressing the nobility and romance we come to associate with the tragic protagonist. Many critics see Othello as Shakespearean most 'poetic' hero, a fitting Judgment given the fact that we focus on the protagonist's experiences of love in this play.But Othello does not just speak of his love poetically; he also speaks of his glorious career as a soldier in the same vein, thus establishing himself as a great military man.
The orderliness of his verse suggests not Just his confidence, but also the fact that we, and the senate re wise to trust his composure and reason. Linked to this, Othello reference to and pride in his 'estimation' (1. 3. 275), also help to convey a sense of the hero's worth; while also suggesting that the way in which you are perceived by others - your reputation - is going to be an important theme in this play.When Othello begins to see himself and his wife through lags eyes and is corrupted by lags idiom, his stately style begins to break down.
At his lowest point, Just before he falls to the ground in an epileptic fit, Othello words convey his agitation: Lie with her! Lie on her! We say lie on her, when they belie her. Lie with her! That's fulsome. --Handkerchief--confessions--handkerchief! --To confess, and be hanged for his labor;--first, to be hanged, and then to confess. --l tremble at it.
Nature would not invest herself in such shadowing passion without some instruction.It is not words that shake me thus. Fish! Noses, ears, and lips. --last devil! ? (IV. I .
35-41) There are a number of points to be made about this breakdown. Firstly, Othello fractured sense of self is conveyed through the lexis and syntax. Previously the hero spoke of himself in the first and third person (their usage conveyed his nobility and status as hero); now his SE of pronouns We', they, 'his', 'I', 'me' suggests insecurity. His use of questions suggests this too.
Othello identity is threatened because he no longer feels he 'knows' his wife; he cannot trust her looks and words.There is a terrible irony in the fact that Othello declares 'It is not words that shake me thus'; the events of the play and the violence of his outburst here suggest that words are the cause of Othello destruction. Note the use of disjointed prose rather than measured verse: reason has given way to passion. Othello has also begun to use oaths (zounds! ') which are associated with Ago, suggesting not only the ensign's power as a speaker, but also his ability to influence and control the powers of speech of others. Right at the end of this speech we struggle to make any sense of Othello words (Fish!Noses, ears and lips.
1st possible? / Confess? Handkerchief? O devil! '). These lines suggest the hero's degradation and degeneration. From this point on Othello and Desman struggle to understand one another's use of language. The break-up of their marital harmony is conveyed through the disruption in the lines and Othello measured calm gives way to verbal bullying (see 111. .
80-98). This pattern mirrors the disrupted lines of Act Ill Scene 3 when Ago first started to poison Othello mind. Desman later says, 'l understand a fury in your words / But not the words' (IV. . 32-3). By this point he misconstrues everything she says: DESMAN: Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed? OTHELLO: Was this fair paper, this most goodly book, Made to write 'where' upon? What committed! Committed! O thou public commoner! (IV.
2. 71-4) Eventually, unable to comprehend his wife's honesty, failing to see that her words should be taken at face value, Othello smothers and silences Desman. When unfrosted with the truth he then recovers, returning to the majestic idiom of his earlier speeches at the end of Act V.His final speech echoes his first speech to the senate, but Othello no longer speaks of himself as a worthy hero only.
Now he compares himself to the base Indian' and the circumcised dog (V. 2. 345 and 353), his words and syntax recall former glories, but also point towards the 'bloody period' of the hero's death (V. 2. 354).
Ago Language is the source of lags power too, but his characteristic idiom is very different. It is full of compounds, colloquialisms and oaths, befitting a bluff soldier. But lags use of language is more complicated than this.We quickly notice that the villain slips between prose and verse, adapting his style to suit his different audiences and purposes. The blunt, persuasive and lucid prose of his exchanges with Ordering conveys lags base nature, but the ensign also makes use of a loftier style too, as in his parody of Othello idiom in Act Ill Scene 3 (lines 465-72).
This speech is an example of lags power: he can manipulate his style effortlessly. Most worryingly for the audience, Othello begins to use the villain's base idiom when he sides to revenge himself on Desman, showing his lack of Judgment and Gaffs increasing authority over him. Gags heavy use of asides also reveals his cunning, destructive power; he is able to not only direct but also to comment on the action of the play. His use of soliloquy reinforces his power. Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists used this artificial theatrical convention to evoke the inwardness of their characters, to show what they think and feel. Soliloquies are also used to convey information and for particular dramatic effect.
In Othello the evil ensign speaks his lousiness first (Toeholds soliloquies occur towards the end of the play), drawing the audience in as he outlines his intentions and ideas.Because we know exactly what his plans are, we might feel that Shakespeare forces us to collude with the villain in some way: Ago is so clever and such an impressive actor. lags soliloquies and asides are also a source of a great deal of the dramatic irony of Othello, which increases dramatic tension for the audience. Finally, Ago is also able to manipulate his silences, as in Act Ill Scene 3 when he deliberately introduces 'stops' (111.
3. 123) to infuriate and intrigue Othello. By faking a reluctance to talk he gains the opportunity to speak at length.At the end of the play lags defiant and deliberate silence can seem suggestive of continued power (the villain refuses to reveal his motives and admit remorse) or power thwarted; he no longer has the ability to sway others with his words and has perhaps been silenced, like his victim Desman.
It is both ironic and appropriate that Ago is unmasked by his wife, whose silence he has taken for granted and whose powers of speech he has not taken into account. This discussion of the hero's and villain's contrasting idioms might be extended; each of the harassers in Othello has his or her own style.For example, Cassia's speech is gallant and courtly, Amelia's salty and down-to-earth. The different Voices' and styles in Othello are an important part of the plays power to hold and move the audience. Another very important part of the linguistic power of the play is Shakespearean use of figurative language.
Imagery The purpose of Shakespearean use of imagery in Othello is to establish the dramatic atmosphere of the play. It also informs our understanding of characters and events. Figurative language and linguistic patterns can help to reinforce the themes and ideas that the dramatist wishes to explore.Some key images are discussed below. Poisoning There are a number of images of poisoning, which we come to associate with Ago and his methods of manipulation. In Act I Scene 1 the ensign says that he wants to 'poison his [Birdbrains] delight' (1.
1. 68) so that he can make trouble for Othello. In the following act we learn that lags Jealousy of the Moor is so strong that it 'Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw in my inwards' (11. 1. 295); so the ensign resolves to 'pour this pestilence into his ear' (11. 3.
351) and destroy Othello 'sweet sleep' (11. 3. 335).These preferences to poison are appropriate to Ago, whose actions are swift, insidious and deadly.
Ago relishes the pain he causes, as we can see from his description of his methods in Act Ill Scene 3: Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons. Which at the first are scarce found to distaste, But with a little act upon the blood. Burn like the mines of Sulfur. (111.
3. 329032). In the same scene Othello describes how he feels tortured by Jealousy, using images that recall lags words, 'If there be cords or knives, / Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams, / I'll not endure it. WSDL I were satisfied! 111. 3.
391-3). The most chilling reference to poison comes in Act IV Scene 1 when Othello decides to murder Desman: OTHELLO: Get me some poison, Ago; this night: I'll not expostulate with her, lest her body and beauty unproved my mind again: this night, Ago. AGO: Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated. (IV.
I . 201-5). His mind poisoned with foul thoughts, he hero now seeks to kill his wife in the bed that he thinks she has contaminated, poisoned with her lust. It is particularly ghastly that the real poisoned (Ago) suggests the method of killing Desman.