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Humerous Themes in Othello

Uploaded by Admin on Jan 30, 2001

When the well-known English dramatist William Shakespeare began writing Othello, he had already been educated in the classics and in literature. Although his contemporary Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare knew "little Latin and less Greek," scholars know that Shakespeare knew, at least, about Greek ideas about comedy and tragedy. He was not incredibly educated, but he was aware that his play would comment on ideas about comedy. By looking at a few crucial scenes in the play, this paper will demonstrate that, although most people consider Shakespeare’s Othello a tragedy, it is actually a black comedy.

In Act V, Scene I (17-30) lines Iago comments comically on the murder scene he has set up himself. This is the scene:

Iago. O murderous slave! O villain! [Stabs RODERIGO]
Rod. O damn’d Iago! O inhuman dog!
Iago. Kill men i’ the dark! Where be these bloody thieves?
How silent is this town! Ho! murder! murder!
What may you be? are you of good or evil?
Lod. As you shall prove us, praise us.
Iago. Signior Lodovico?
Lod. He, sir.
Iago. I cry you mercy. Here’s Cassio hurt by villains.
Gra. Cassio!
Iago. How is it, brother?
Cas. My leg is cut in two.
Iago. Marry, heaven forbid,
Light, gentlemen; I’ll bind it with my shirt.

Iago has the audience and everyone other than Roderigo believe that he is looking for thieves. If you think about it, that is a funny statement. He has committed a murder, but he pretends that he has not. Further, he pretends that he is looking for the killer and is the only one who cares enough to do so, and cannot believe "how silent" the town is. Even his final gesture, of trying to "bind" the wound with his shirt, is a supremely comic one, perhaps for Shakespeare more than Iago. Iago may be able to stem the flow of blood coming from Cassio’s leg. But it would be silly for the audience to believe what Iago implicitly asks them to believe, that anyone or anything can stem the tide of destruction that he has already unleashed on the play’s characters, and by implication, in the play’s plot.

Earlier in the play, in Act II, Scene I (lines 87-95), a similar event occurs, when Cassio greets Desdemona and speaks about Othello and Iago:

Cas. She that I spake of, our great captain’s captain,
Left in the conduct of the bold Iago,
Whose footing here anticipates our thoughts
A se’nnight’s speed. Great Jove, Othello guard,
And swell his sail with...

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Uploaded by:   Admin

Date:   01/30/2001

Category:   Othello

Length:   4 pages (911 words)

Views:   1948

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