Shakespeare's Othello Essay

1495 words - 6 pages

“I asked her to wear something revealing, so she showed up in a prophet's toga.”(CITE) Jarod Kintz’s words are an example of miscommunication, or failure to comprehend meaning. In this case, it is implied that one person misunderstood the message of another, but incomprehension also applies to problems other than falsely interpreted requests. Incomprehension can occur when people misinterpret another’s words or intentions, or when a person misreads situations or events. The outcome described in Kintz’s quote is unexpected and unintended, but there are instances of incomprehension that have consequences of greater severity. Perhaps a classic tragedy with a high body count falls under these parameters.

Nick Potter states: “Othello is a tragedy of incomprehension, not at the level of intrigue but at the deepest level of human dealings. No one in Othello comes to understand himself or anyone else.” Within Shakespeare’s Othello, no character fully understands themselves of one another. This is especially true in human dealings, where the intentions of characters and how others interpret them are often misaligned. Conflict, and eventually, tragedy arises in Othello due to the incomprehension between characters, as well as within the characters themselves. From the reader’s perspective, it is tragic to understand the reality behind all the incomprehension, since the characters are oblivious to what the readers are aware of.

Characters in the play fail to comprehend Iago’s true nature until it is too late. Those interacting with Iago fall into the belief that Iago is loyal to his superiors, when Iago is actually focused on bringing them (Cassio and Othello) down. Iago constructs a false impression of his loyalty to Othello through his words and conduct among the company of others. During the castle hall scene, people fall into incomprehension when Iago appears to be hesitant in betraying Cassio:

“I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth
Than it should do offence to Michael Cassio;
Yet, I persuade myself, to speak the truth
Shall nothing wrong him. Thus it is, general” (II.iii.221-225).

To the observer, it appears that Iago is reluctant to give a negative report of Cassio, while in reality his true intentions are the opposite. Besides Iago himself, nobody properly comprehends the fact that Iago has betrayed Cassio, regardless of Iago’s seemingly innocent methods. Iago engineers Cassio’s public misconduct with the goal of Cassio’s downfall; Iago plots against Cassio beforehand. Iago, while conspiring with Roderigo, says to him: “I'll not be far from you: do you find/some occasion to anger Cassio, either by speaking/too loud, or tainting his discipline; or from what/other course you please,” (II.i.271-274). Lack of comprehension of these hidden plots lead to Cassio’s dismissal, a turning point down the path of tragedy for the play. Iago purposely constructs incomprehension in Othello; due to Iago’s manipulation, Othello believes...

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