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The Role of Drama in Othello

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Essay title: The Role of Drama in Othello

The audience expects drama to entertain, stir emotions and provoke thought when viewed. All these three functions of drama are interrelated and cannot be studied independently. What defines a drama as a tragedy is its spectacular plots and overemotional characterization that enthral the audience into the world of the play. In theatre, the playwright uses the language of the characters and dramatic techniques to construct a view of the world and interrogate issues on the society of the time. The audience is positioned so the language and actions of the characters rouse their emotions and thus encourage them to question the ideas interrogated in the play. This can be seen in Othello, where Shakespeare uses language and dramatic irony to incite emotion in the audience, bringing them into the world of the play and encouraging them to make judgements on the issues presented. This contention can be proved in analysing the intense conversation between Iago and Othello in act three, scene three, followed by Iago’s devious aside. In this passage Iago poisons Othello’s mind forcing him to assume his wife unfaithful. It holds an important position in the play and marks the point where the tragic hero begins his personal destruction. The irony in Iago’s two faced language encourages the audience to hate him and enthrals them into the entertaining atmosphere of the drama. However, certain parts of the passage actually interrogate themes of jealousy, race, reputation and gender in Elizabethan times, positioning the audience to think and question the values of the Venetian state.

The play Othello, entertains the audience by pulling them into the world of the play through the speech of the characters and encouraging a judgement of the characters. It is a text rich in dramatic irony and gives the viewer an external and impartial view of the character’s actions through the various asides. This openness allows the audience to be disgusted by Iago’s duplicitous and deceitful nature and shocked at Othello’s naivety and jealousy. Whilst openly confessing to the audience that he wishes to abuse Othello’s “free and open nature,” earlier in the play he then lies blatantly by warning Othello,

“Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure.

I would not have your free and noble nature,

Out of self-bounty, be abused; look to't.”

Othello cannot see past the assumption that Iago is, “Full of love and honesty.”The audience is revolted by Iago’s cunning and dishonesty and shocked by Othello gullibility. Shakespeare wants the audience to question how Iago can be so cruel and how Othello can be so stupid. In provoking thought in the viewer and pushing them to form emotional judgement, Shakespeare is absorbing the audience into the gripping world of his play. This drama and deceit brings excitement and stimulation to the boring everyday life of the audience. If only for a few hours the audience is entertained as they are brought into this thrilling world of backstabbing murder.

Whilst being entertaining, the play Othello also provokes thought by promoting the audience to construct a reading of Venice as a society fuelled by jealousy. Iago’s language is full of mockery yet it does contain some truth that stirs the emotions of the viewer and positions them to judge Venetian culture. Iago confesses that he does, “know our country disposition well.” Whilst being himself deceitful and jealous Iago’s speech provides insight into the subtleties of Venetian society. Iago says,

“As, I confess, it is my nature's plague

To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy

Shapes faults that are not.”

The supreme irony in that Othello’s jealousy, not Iago’s, is in fact shaping, “faults that are not,” further interrogates this point that Venice is a jealous society. Iago is the epitome of a deceitful and plotting Venetian. He admits that,

“Trifles light as air

Are to the jealous confirmations strong

As proofs of holy writ… The Moor already changes with my poison:”

Here Iago shows that to a jealous man, something as small as a handkerchief can be proof of infidelity as it is with Desdemona. Thus through the characters language the audience is pushed to query and forms a judgement of Venetian culture as jealous and deceitful.

The play Othello also encourages the audience to question Venetian cultures obsession with

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