An examination of Shakespeare's Portrayal of the Capitulation of Othello through imagery and language.

Essay by bellj16High School, 12th grade April 2003

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Examine Shakespeare's Portrayal of the Capitulation of Othello.

Othello, at the start of the play, ennobled by his exemplary service and invigorated by love, is a model of Renaissance humanity, dignified and eloquent; jealousy reduces him to raving savagery, his angelic poetry to an incoherent snarl.

Even with such a poor introduction to the audience from Iago as "an old black ram" tupping the white ewe that was Desdemona, however early in the play Othello effectively counteracts such accusations that he is bestial, through his own imagery. His language is exotic and extraordinary in ways that excite and fascinate. His sentences are elegantly constructed; his command of balance, sound and rhythm is sophisticated. Othello ostentatiously and eloquently makes his point that he is "[his] speech".

Shakespeare portrays Othello's control vividly through his speech defending his marriage, through an image that suggests extraordinary powers of endurance:

"The Tyrant custom, most grave senators,

Hath made the flinty and steel couch of war

My thrice-driven bed of down"

That a "flinty and steel couch of war" should become a "thrice-driven bed of down", captures in vivid visual terms Othello's capacity to exert control over adverse conditions.

We also have a sense of enormous power, subdued by complete self-control when Othello threatens the brawlers in II, iii. Man is distinguished from the beasts by his upright posture, and Othello's physical stature is a metaphor for his full humanity. Thus, when poisoned by Iago's lies, he writhes on the stage and lies comatose, Othello is seen to be robbed of humanity. This idea is reflected in his speech, as he repeatedly refers to animals, (toad/dog/goats/monkeys/wolves/a monster and a beast/crocodile).

Iago persuades Othello through vivid language to picture all too vividly Desdemona's infidelity. Even if she and Cassio were "as prime as goats, as hot...