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Othello Comparison Essay

1427 words - 6 pages

Shakespeare himself once described the state of humanity, “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.” He applied this profound observation to the characters of his play Othello, the story of an interracial marriage destroyed by manipulation. In this tragedy, the title character Othello falls from his status as a respected, even glorified, leader to an incredulous murderer, while his “friend” Iago thrives on Othello’s downfall. Shakespeare’s original script illustrates Othello’s vulnerability and destruction quite obviously, while more modern interpretations take a vaguer approach. The 1995 feature film Othello and the video adaption of Verdi’s opera Otello both serve as prime examples of ...view middle of the document...

Othello is a stranger to hatred, so when he is overcome with the emotion he is taken by it fully, acting rashly and unreasonably. He justifies the common fear of raw emotion, because in his emotion he betrays himself and the woman he loves. This characterization of Othello distinguishes Shakespeare’s script from the newer versions of the story, as does his use of language, dialogue, and relationships.
Iago takes advantage of Othello’s goodness. He uses Othello’s trusting nature to manipulate his emotions. Iago’s words never actually offer legitimate proof of Desdemona’s affair, but because Othello is trusts him as a friend, Iago simply plants seeds of thought that cause Othello to convince himself the irrational idea. This type of manipulation is a unique aspect of Shakespeare’s version. He show is by blatantly showing the characters’ thought processes. Through soliloquy and dialogue, it is easy to trace Iago’s devious plan, Othello’s deterioration, and Desdemona’s confusion. All of the characters make their thoughts clear to the audience, which adds to the depth of the problem. The manipulation itself is also more complex in the play than in the two films; for example, Iago works hard to keep Othello and Desdemona from ever consummating their marriage, and he strives to get others unknowingly involved in the sabotage. He ponders, “I’ll have Michael Cassion on the hip/Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb,” because he is striving to make the situation as complicated as possible. When this more intricate plan is applied to a more simplified Othello, the results appear even more disastrous. Lastly, Othello is faced with more obstacles in the play than in the films. He must overcome racial barriers, from slight degrading remarks like “Moor” to deliberate disapproval from his father-in-law (1.3); epilepsy, when taunted by Iago (4.1); war, immediately after his wedding (1.3); and various personal battles with Cassio and Iago. In overcoming these obstacles, he is made to seem like a hero, because he rises above circumstance. This, once again, makes his fall even more tragic. Overall, Shakespeare stresses the perfect humanity that Othello embodies, then brings him down through his weaknesses harshly and dramatically.
The film adaption of Othello uses much of Shakespeare’s original script, yet it manages to alter the way Othello’s vulnerabilities are exposed. Instead of changing drastically, Othello hardly changes at all, but instead the people around him change to expose his meltdown. Laurence Fishburne plays Othello roughly from the beginning; he is never the kind, beloved man seen at the beginning of the play. He is consistently aggressive and maintains an expression of ferocity throughout the film. The way he is received, however, particularly by Desdemona, implies his shifting disposition. At the beginning, when Othello and Desdemona are to consummate their marriage, Desdemona embraces Othello’s intensity with a smile. But as he is...

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