My Perception of William Shakespeare\'s Othello


Othello, by William Shakespeare, is perhaps not as exciting as a
ravishingly sexy poster of Laurence Fishburne and Irene Jacob. Yet, with its
intoxicating mix of love, sexual passion and the deadly power of jealousy,
Shakespeare has created an erotic thriller based on a human emotion that people
are all familiar with. It all depends on how those people receive it. There is
an extraordinary fusion of characters\' with different passions in this tragedy.
Every character is motivated by a different desire. Shakespeare mesmerizes the
reader by manipulating his characters abilities to perceive and discern what is
happening in reality. It is this misinterpretation of reality that leads to
the erroneous perceptions that each character holds.

After reading this tragedy, the depth of Shakespeare\'s characters
continue to raise many questions in the minds of the reader. The way I
percieve the character of Othello and what concerns me, is that Othello is able
to make such a quick transition from love to hate of Desdemona. In Act 3, Scene
3, Othello states, "If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! I\'ll not
believe \'t." (lines 294-295) Yet only a couple hundred lines later he says,
"I\'ll tear her to pieces" (line 447) and says that his mind will never change
from the "tyrannous hate" (line 464) he now harbors. Does Othello make the
transition just because he is so successfully manipulated by Iago? Or is there
something particular about his character which makes him make this quick
change? I believe that "jealousy" is too simple of a term to describe Othello.
I think that Othello\'s rapid change from love to hate for Desdemona is fostered
partly by an inferiority complex. He appears to be insecure in his love for
Desdemona (as well as in his position in Venetian society). Othello\'s race and
age ("Haply, for I am black . . . for I am declined into the vale of years," 3.3.
279-282) and his position as a soldier contribute to his feelings of inadequacy.

Othello admits to Desdemona that he doesn\'t have "those soft parts of
conversation" possessed by well-bred Venetian noblemen, those to which (as a
senator\'s daughter) she has become acclimated (3.3.280-281). Othello\'s speech
(1.3.130-172) also conveys his feeling that Desdemona loves him for his
exploits and achievements rather than for his mind. Othello apparently feels a
constant responsibility to prove to Desdemona (through his heroic deeds) that
he is worthy of her love.It is my opinion that Othello is a man governed by a
subconscious need or impulse to believe ideas rather than reason. In believing
Iago\'s lie, Othello apparently is controlled by his aforementioned inferiority
complex -- his feeling that he just doesn\'t measure up to (young, suave, and
of course, white) nobleman Michael Cassio in Desdemona\'s mind. Othello is more
naturally predisposed to believe this "idea" rather than to engage in rational
discourse in an attempt to find the real logic of the situation.

It is also unclear weather or not the position of soldier and that of
husband can be percieved as two seperate role\'s. Yet the two seem inextricably
intertwined. Military operations are Othello\'s primary priority. Othello had
been a soldier since he was seven years old (" ...since these arms of mine had
seven years\' pith.....they have us\'d/ Their dearest action in the tented field"
1.3.83-85). So Othello was not a newcomer to the battlefield. Yet, Othello
encounters a battlefield the likes of which he has never seen when he marries
Desdemona and enters Venetian society -- the rules are different, the enemy has
more cunning, and words are used for weapons. Military service and marriage are
not incompatible -- Othello has the potential to make a perfectly suitable
husband (as well as lover) to Desdemona. Othello only self-destructs because he
and his inferiority complex fall victim to the duplicitous and vengeful Iago on
society\'s battlefield.

Perhaps Othello\'s precipitous change from ordered general to chaotic
killer occurs because he is black. Africans were starting to appear in London
at the time of Shakespeare and were viewed with suspicion, to say the least. It
is not inconceivable that Shakespeare exploited this popular fear of the nature
of these black Africans and portrayed Othello as a vengeful savage. Is Othello
a noble minority with jealousy as his single fatal flaw, or is he an over-
reacher whose pride causes his ultimate downfall? I don\'t believe he is truely
either. He is an outsider who has tried to believe he has been fully
integrated in a society he really knows only tolerates him. He could hardly
believe that Desdemona would