othello paper revised

othello paper revised - Robert Dutchen ENGL 1111.109...

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Robert Dutchen ENGL 1111.109 Professor Catherine Burroughs October 30, 2010 Virtue and Virginity: Honesty in Shakespeare’s Othello Shakespeare’s rhetoric is renowned for being layered in complexity in relation to the text. Although Othello falls short of garnering the acclaim of his other works, I find it to be perhaps his most striking in terms of plot development, character dynamics, and literary elements. The diction is written with such precision; each word is meticulously chosen for a subtle purpose. One instance of this which can be found in Othello is Shakespeare's repeated usage of the word 'honest'. As per the OED the word has an association with a virtuous wife, as in ‘to make an honest woman of her.” This illustrates the extent to which Othello feels threatened by Desdemona's sexuality, where upon his insecurity is only quelled by turning towards violence, an end that was destined since the start of their relationship. From a structural perspective alone some outlying observations can be made about the use of the word honest. Firstly, it appears a total of 52 times throughout the entire play. Many of the characters utter the word, but it is by far most frequently used by Othello and Iago respectively. Iago’s use of it is fairly clear; it functions as a manipulative precursor for inciting suspicion in Othello. Othello on the other hand utilizes the word in proclaiming both Iago’s good nature as well as the state of Desdemona’s purity. The degree to which his wife fulfills this trait is his most burning question, and the question which motivates him to do everything he does throughout the course of the play. Othello’s personal insecurities are the reason why he takes the bait of Iago’s manipulations so keenly, but moreover why Desdemona was inherently a sexual threat to him. Their relationship began, according to Othello, as “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them” (1.3.168-9). He thus needed her in a way that emasculated him for the very fact that we was
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dependent. As his doubt grew he speculated that his skin color, “Haply for I am black and have not those
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othello paper revised - Robert Dutchen ENGL 1111.109...

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