Violence in Shakespeare's Othello
Length: 1336 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
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In William Shakespeare's Othello violence can be found in several different ways. Violence can be expressed physically, mentally, and verbally. This tragic play shows how jealousy and envy can overpower a person's mind and lead them to wreak havoc on others. Not only does this story give many different examples of violence, it displays how mental violence can promote physical violence, and continues on in that cycle. Mental promotes physical which ultimately leads back to mental.
All of the violence in this story revolves around the deception of Iago. Iago has a built up rage because he feels that he did not get the recognition that he deserved from Othello when he was not named lieutenant and Cassio was. The first obvious form of physical violence that occurred was when recently named lieutenant, Cassio fought Roderigo in Act two Scene three. Iago persuaded Cassio to drink even though he didn't want to. Cassio's drunkenness caused him to act differently and start a fight with Roderigo. Cassio says, "A knave teach me my duty! I'll beat the knave into a twiggen bottle (p. 48)." At this point he strikes Roderigo much to the dismay of Governor Montano. Montano tries to stop Cassio from inflicting any more pain on Roderigo, but Cassio says, "Let me go, sir; or I'll knock you o'er the mazzard (p. 48)." Montano lets Cassio go and at this point he and Roderigo fight. This fight ultimately leads to the dismissal of Cassio as Othello's lieutenant. This instance specifically shows how Iago's manipulation leads Cassio to mental insanity, and causes him to become physically violent.
The situation above leaves an opening for Iago to fulfill his vital plan to bring down Othello through Desdemona. Cassio was a mental wreck and told Iago that his reputation was ruined. Iago told him that he can get his rank back through Desdemona and get back on Othello's good side. "Confess yourself freely to her, importune her help to put you in your place again (p. 54)." Once Cassio talks to Desdemona, Iago will speak with Othello and get him to think of his wife's trust. In Act three Scene three Iago is speaking to Othello and warns him to look out for Cassio and Desdemona. Othello asks Iago if it was just Cassio that left from speaking with his wife.
Iago replies, "Cassio, my lord? No, sure I cannot think it that he would steal away so guilty-like, seeing you coming (p. 60)." This causes Othello to initially ponder the possibility of his wife and Cassio. On page 65 Iago says, "Utter my thoughts! Why, say they are vile and false (p. 65)?" This statement although it seems innocent will cause Othello to think more about Desdemona and Cassio, and will make Iago look like the good guy. Iago is constantly feeding Othello with thoughts that will lead Othello's mind to become mentally violent. Othello begins to play out violent scenarios in his mind regarding his wife and Cassio. These scenarios change from just thoughts to beliefs, and Othello convinces himself that Iago speaks the truth.
One of the main circumstances that convinces Othello of Desdemona's affair with Cassio involves a handkerchief that Othello gave to his wife. Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio's room. Iago then tells Othello in Act three Scene three, "I know not what; but such a handkerchief- I am sure it was your wife's- did I today see Cassio wipe his beard with (p. 77)." Othello at this point needs no more convincing and becomes mentally unstable. He says, "Now I see tis true. Look here, Iago, all my fond love thus do I blow to heaven; tis gone (p.77)." On the next page Othello explains, "Within these three days let me hear thee say that Cassio's not alive (p. 78)." He is no longer thinking in the correct frame of mind, and now wants nothing more than to see Cassio dead. This is a perfect example of how mental violence causes Othello to want to inflict physical violence upon Cassio. Othello later asks Desdemona if he can see the handkerchief and she says she can't find it and tries to change the subject. At this point Othello leaves in rage.
Othello's thoughts promote mental violence, and overtake him at one point. Iago tells Othello that he saw Cassio lying with/on Desdemona. This causes Othello to become mentally unstable, "Lie with her? Lie on her? We say lie on her when they belie her. Lie with her! Zounds, that's fulsome... (p. 90)." His thoughts are running so wild that he causes physical violence on himself and falls into a trance. Once Othello comes to, Iago tells him to hide while he talks to Cassio. Iago and Cassio's conversation proves to Othello that Desdemona is having an affair. A prostitute Bianca comes in the room at this time with Othello's handkerchief further proving that Desdemona gave Cassio the handkerchief. Once Cassio leaves, Othello asks Iago, "How shall I murder him Iago? (p.95)" Once again this is a perfect example of how Othello's mental violence has overpowered him and caused him to want to physically murder Cassio.
Later in this scene Lodovico enters with Desdemona with a letter for Othello from Venice. The letter calls Othello back to Venice to reinstate Cassio. Desdemona and Othello get into a verbal argument and on page one-hundred Othello calls her the "devil." This shows how Othello's mental violence caused him to become verbally violent with his wife. This verbal argument escalates and Othello strikes his wife causing physical violence. Later he refers to her as a whore as well specifically on page one-hundred five. Desdemona does not know what she has done wrong so now she is too pondering mental violence in her head.
Iago's mental violence and jealousy causes him to convince Roderigo to kill Cassio. Roderigo's attempt to kill Cassio is not successful so Iago is forced to wound him. The mental violence Iago had caused him to plot against Othello and Cassio, and Othello became mentally violent and ordered the murder of Cassio. This shows how everybody's mind led them to physical violence.
All of Othello's mental violence ultimately leads him to kill his wife in Act five Scene two. "Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee and love thee after. One more, and this the last (p. 126)." Desdemona wakes up and tries to plead her innocence but Othello is so driven by his thoughts that he smothers her to death. Emilia comes in and finds Desdemona dead, and Othello says he killed her for her infidelity. Emilia realizes what Iago has done once he comes into the room. "O, are you come, Iago? You have done well, that men must lay their murders on your neck (p.133)." Emilia explains how she gave Iago the handkerchief, and this causes Othello to emotionally break down. Iago kills Emilia at this point and runs away but is caught. Othello realizes now that he killed Desdemona for no reason and this causes him to mentally collapse and physically kill himself.
Iago's mental jealousy led him to bring down both Cassio and Othello. In doing that he caused Othello much mental violence. All of the mental violence became too much on Othello and led him to attempt to kill Cassio, kill his wife, and eventually kill himself. William Shakespeare's Othello conveys the cycle from mental violence to physical violence on several different occasions. The mental violence in this story led to the physical deaths of Emilia, Desdemona, Othello, and eventually Iago.