One of the most outstanding Shakespeare’s quotations runs as follows: Love is a familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love. Indeed, in literature we may often observe unusual and contradictory cases, which can hardly be called a real love. Othello may be regarded as a bright example of such arguable, mysterious and conflicting feeling.
What kind of person is Othello? Is his soul as black as his skin? Does he really love Desdemona? Can he love at all? Can we blame him for his deeds after all? Let’s try to clear it out.
To begin with, Othello is depicted as a man of an extraordinary appearance and an exotic temper. Obviously, he’s contrasted to all the other characters, his image in the work is very complicated and his actions are quite unpredictable. During the whole play, he is not described as great passionate and sophisticated lover, though he tries to do his best. The inner world of the Moor is rather strict and emotionless, though we cannot deny that he is very kind and fair. Othello claims to have an innocent soul, he often speaks about his position, honor and justice. Having married Desdemona, he’s not intended to hide, the Moor defends his feelings:
“My parts, my title, and my perfect soul
Shall manifest me rightly”.
However, Othello is a stranger in the Cyprian civilized society; he is wild and maladjusted to it. This can be observed in comparison with Iago and Cassio. These characters represent the worlds they were brought up in. Iago is mean and cruel; Cassio, on the contrary, is kind and frank. All the same, they both are smart and intelligent what cannot be said about Othello:
“loveliness in favor, sympathy in years, manners, and beauties-
all which the Moor is defective in”.
In spite of this, Desdemona loves him with all her heart and is devoted to him. The question is does Othello love Desdemona as selflessly and sincerely as she does. From their first meeting the Moor is impressed by compassion and sympathy of Desdemona, by her attention to his life:
“She gave me for my pains a world of sighs;
She swore, in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange
‘Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful”.
Othello’s words show us the reasons of their love, which are for sure very different. These characters find each other like extremes meet. Desdemona is devoted to Othello because she never met such a sincere and brave man with so innocent soul. The Moor, in his turn, appreciates more his wife’s feelings than his own ones, her compassion means much more for him than his own feelings:
“She loved me for the dangers I had pass’d,
And I loved her that she did pity them”.
As we may observe, Othello doesn’t tell about his own sentiments, but does he know what they should be? He loves Desdemona because she likes and appreciates his stories. No wonder, Othello doesn’t know what true passion is, he just has never been loved, his previous life was rather strict and cruel, he even hasn’t been treated as a unique personality. The Moor was just a slave in different conditions. No one was so kind and devoted to him before. A former slave could never dream of such a chance to be happy and beloved. Brabantio even cannot understand how his beautiful daughter could fall in love with such man, he even thinks that Othello did it with the help of magic:
“She is abused, stol’n from me and corrupted
By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks”.
Throughout the whole play, there is also an internal conflict, taking place in Othello’s soul. As far as the Moor has no character, his feelings are always undermined by Iago’s tricks. On the one hand, he sees that Desdemona loves him and has done nothing wrong, and on the other one, jealousy and suspicion swallow him up more and more. The Moor suffers much but he doesn’t know how to cope with the situation:
“Perdition catch my soul,
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again”.
Othello has all the benefits from Desdemona: “he had her father and her country and her friends”, but he couldn’t distinguish between the true virtues and the false ones. Thinking that it’s Iago who is his only honest friend, he betrays the people who really love him.
Then can we blame him for such behaviour? Of course, Iago benefits from Othello’s lack of wisdom and evokes the deeply hidden vices, such as lust, jealousy, pride and desire for revenge. Undoubtedly, such feelings never go with love, they destroy it; but Othello is too blind to realize it. Driven to despair, he turns into a beast; he knows no mercy and no self-control. Nevertheless, it’s not the deepest pain for him, the climax goes when Emilia talks to him elucidating the truth. Before death, she calls him “a cruel Moor”, because he killed her innocent mistress. So finally, Othello’s vices turn against himself. We can only pity him for his weakness and lack of wisdom. Only when Desdemona is dead, he realizes what he has done and what treasure he has lost and he is judged by himself; Othello feels like “one whose hand,/ Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away/ Richer than all his tribe”. In the end, he understands all his faults but it’s too late, it turns out that slaves don’t change much, their nature remains the same, Lodovico confirms it in his final words:
“O thou Othello, that wert once so good,
Fall’n in the practice of a damned slave,
What shall be said to thee?”
Therefore, the essence of all Othello’s story is that he is “one who loved wisely but not too well”. The Moor possessed everything he could and wished, and lost his happiness because of his own foolishness.
To crown it all I should say that William Shakespeare shows a very dubious love in Othello. Desdemona’s feelings are innocent and pure up to her death. Othello’s love is cruel and destructive; it provokes incredible jealousy and evil. May be, it cannot be called love at all, but as they loved for different reasons, so their feelings could lead to such unlike results.
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