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Othello, one of Shakespeare’s ‘four great tragedies’, is a text with many applications of love, despise and worship. It is these ‘attitudes’ towards one another which leads to the eventual downfall of the characters; transforming a once noble ‘Othello’ into a murderous ‘black ram’ of devilish nature and the innocent Desdemona into a victim of his own demise. Shakespeare’s tragedies can be as so exaggerated that they are designed to question our own relationships, and whether we will fall victim to our own flaw becoming a tragic hero. It is by the intentional removal of a metaphoric ‘middle ground’ between their relationship that keeps the audiences on edge; waiting for the next dramatic act to unfold. Throughout this essay, I will discuss the contradicting opinions; both Desdemona and Othello have towards each other; the presentation of love throughout the stage play and whether or not there is a middle ground between ‘worship’ and ‘despise’ in their relationship.
Throughout the extract the audience is subject to the clear strain, Iago’s manipulation has placed on the attitudes between each lover. Othello who once described his wife as ‘my fair warrior’; now sees her as a mere ‘whore’, a typical stereotype amongst Venetian women up to an including the 17th century, in which the stage play was conceived. He has come to believe this from none other than his hamartia, jealousy. Though Iago’s manipulation acts as a catalyst to fuel his ‘despise’ it is truly ‘the green eyes monster’ which ignites Othello’s devilish nature. It is seen in the extract that Othello cries ‘heaven truly knows that thou art false’. In the context Desdemona swears that she is loyal to only her love, yet bind sided by jealousy Othello rejects this idea; she has broken his trust and violated the sanctity of marriage, whilst the religious connotation of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ does nothing more than reinforce this ‘despise’ of her. It can be seen as this ‘violation’ of the sanctity of marriage; which is the reason jealously plays such a large roll in the performance and how this exaggeration of despise and worship leads there to be little to no middle ground in-between.
Even though Othello has received no ocular proof that Desdemona has been unfaithful; it is the idea that the she has broken these loyal terms which prey upon him. This can be linked to both the historical time period that the play is set in and the time which it was written. In the heavily Catholic society of the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean time period; marriage can be seen as the one true testament of faith between lovers. Yet the critic of A.C Bradley contradicts these terms. He states that Othello has only ever loved Desdemona and by murdering her in the later act shows his attempt to ‘save her from herself’. This could prove a middle ground between ‘despise’ and ‘worship’ as though Othello’s fuelled hatred and despise through jealously ultimately leads him to killing his once beloved wife; it is all because of his true ‘worship’ of her perfect ‘soul’ and ‘image’ which leads his
Desdemona’s love of Othello can be criticised as nothing more than hero worship. This is brought up by her father Brabantio; who believes that her reasoning for wishing to go to the war zone of Cyprus to support her love is unjustified and that she is ‘too young’ and ‘naïve’ for loving a ‘moor’ like Othello. This worship is prominent throughout the extract in dialogue like ‘you wife, my lord; your true and loyal wife’. This exemplifies her undefined love for Othello; the fact that she remains his ‘loyal wife’ regardless of all the allegations pressed against her. Unlike Othello Desdemona never breaks her loyalty. She remains in a constant state of worship throughout the performance and even in death states how her end is ‘guiltless’. This further fuels the idea that there is no middle ground between the characters ‘despise ‘or ‘worship’ of one another. A modern feminist view of this idea of this contextual hero worship would be that this contributes to the patriarchal society. Shakespeare presents their relationship as so one sided that Desdemona attitudes and motives never change. In essence Shakespeare has made women ‘loyal’ dogs with little defiance despite any of their lovers crude actions. In the contextual time period that the performance is set it however; this meets the Elizabethan expected stereotypes of women and hence the audience would almost predict their relationship to be like this.