Shakespeare’s Venetian society is patriarchal and women are seen as possessions and bargaining tools by fathers and husbands. Iago plants seeds of doubts in Othello’s mind about his wife since he believes that if Desdemona was able to go against her father, she would be able to betray Othello. Iago also convinces Othello that Desdemona is capable of having an affair with Cassio since all Venetian women are whores: “In Venice they do let God see the pranks/They dare not show their husbands”. Since Iago is a Venetian, he claims he has a better knowledge of Venetian society and is able to use this against Othello.
Othello having been convinced by Iago that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio, wants revenge on Desdemona and Cassio: His language, once so measured and poetic, is reduced to barbaric violence: “I’ll tear her all to pieces. ” Othello’s change of language style emphasizes his fall from grace. Initially florid and prosaic “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust/them” his language is now monosyllabic and violent. This represents Iago’s control over Othello , expanding to the point where Othello is completely controlled by Iago: “I am bound to thee forever”.Othello’s vengeance against Desdemona in Act III starts the dramatic reversal of fortune for him. Iago remarks that after Othello suspects Desdemona of having the affair, he will never be the same again: “Nor poppy, nor mandragora/Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep/Which thou owedst yesterday” Iago’s use of considered, lyrical language here ironically parodies Othello’s usual language and emphasizes that Iago is in complete control of him.
Yet again, Iago again uses the image of drugs, medicine and poison to illustrate the power of jealousy on the peace of mind.The audience, watching Othello’s dramatic reversal of fortune would experience pity and fear for him, since he is suffering from a false need for vengeance. Before killing Desdemona Othello emphasizes that he is not killing Desdemona out of revenge for her supposed affair, but because it is “the cause” – it is fair and just that Desdemona should die. “She must die, else she’ll betray more men. ” Here, Othello tries to justify his intended murder of Desdemona by asserting that unless she is stopped, she will betray more lovers .He presents himself as an executioner through the use of grim language “It is the cause, it is the cause”. Othello sees the murder of Desdemona has carrying out a judicial sentence.
He uses ambiguity since “cause” meant legal case as well as reason. Othello further enhances the judicial language by personifying himself as Justice “That doth almost persuade Justice to break her sword”. However, critics criticized the assertation that Othello is a just executioner since the real reason for Othello’s murder is to get revenge on her for sleeping with Cassio.
He simply invents the justice reasoning to make himself appear nobler. After having killed Desdemona and discovered that she was not having an affair, Othello then has to avenge Desdemona’s death by killing himself. Othello also insists that he did not murder Desdemona out of revenge, but out of love. “Of one that loved not wisely, but too well” Ironically, Othello can only avenge Desdemona’s violent death by his own violent death. He insists that he did not murder Desdemona out of revenge, but because she was supposedly in love with Cassio, and he wanted her for himself.However, T.
S. Elliot criticizes this view, questioning whether Othello had really learnt from the events. He believed that Othello was simply “cheering himself up” by insisting that he didn’t murder out of revenge, but out of love.
In conclusion, despite his protestations, Othello does murder Desdemona out of revenge against her supposed affair and, with the discovery of the handkerchief, violently kills himself. However Iago’s primary motive isn’t revenge since Iago’s main role is to play the tragic villain and doesn’t need a motive to ruin people’s lives.