Generally, irony is the literary technique that involves differences between appearance and reality, expectation and result, or meaning and intention. More specifically, verbal irony uses words to suggest the opposite of what is meant. In dramatic irony there is a contradiction between what a character says or thinks and what the audience knows to be true. Finally situational irony refers to events that occur which contradict the expectations of the characters, audience, or readers. Identify the various types of irony used in Othello and explain their significance to the plot.
I. Thesis Statement: In Shakespeare’s Othello, verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony are used to propel the action forward and to intensify the drama as it proceeds.
II. Act I
A. Iago tells Roderigo “I am not what I am.”
B. Iago tells Othello “I lack iniquity / Sometimes to do me service.”
C. Othello discusses how his merits will speak for themselves.
D. Brabantio wants Othello to go to prison for eloping with Desdemona.
E. The invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish fleet causes Othello’s commission to the island.
F. Brabantio’s insistence on how Desdemona was beguiled by Othello versusIago’s beguiling of Othello.
G. Othello’s comments to the Duke that Iago “is of honesty and trust”
III. Act II
A. The storm destroys the Turkish fleet off the coast of Cyprus.
B. In the humorous praise of women, Iago pretends that he has difficulty imagining ways to praise the various women Desdemona mentions.
C. Othello tells Desdemona “If it were now to die, / ‘Twere now to be most happy.”
D. Desdemona responds to Othello with “that our loves and comforts should increase / Even as our days grow!”
E. Othello proclaims an evening of celebration of victory over the Turkish fleet and his marriage.
F. Othello comments to Cassio, “Iago is most honest.”
G. Iago encourages Cassio to “have a measure to the health of black Othello.”
H. Iago tells Othello that he would “rather have his tongue cut” from his mouth “than it should do offense to Michael Cassio.”
I. Iago urges Cassio to ask Desdemona for help to get reinstated with Othello.
IV. Act III
A. Iago tells Cassio that he will “devise a means to draw the Moor / Out of the way, that your converse and business / May be more free
B. Emilia says that the rift between Othello and Cassi“greives my husband / As if the cause were his.”
C. Desdemona says to Cassio that “thy solicitor shall rather die / Than give thy cause away.”
D. Iago says to Othello, “My lord, you know I love you.”
E. Iago states to Othello that “men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would they might seem none!”
F. Othello comments that “This honest creature doubtless / Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds” with reference to Iago.
G. When Desdemona offers to bind Othello’s head with herhandkerchief, it falls and Emilia picks it up.
H. Othello tells Iago, “Thou hads’t been better have beenborn a dog / Than answer my waked wrath” after demanding visible proof of Desdemona’s infidelity.
I. Othello tells Desdemona that to lose or give away the handkerchief “were such perdition / As nothing else could match.”
J. Cassio gives Bianca the handkerchief for her to copy the design.
V. Act IV
A. Iago instructs Othello to eavesdrop on a conversation he has with Cassio about Bianca.
B. Bianca enters and chides Cassio for giving her the handkerchief.
C. Lodovico delivers the letter recalling Othello to Venice and appointing Cassio in charge in Cyprus.
D. Emilia says to Othello that “If any wretch have put his in your head” to “Let heaven requite it with the serpent’s curse.”
E. Iago asks Desdemona “How comes this trick upon him?”
F. Emilia suggests that “some eternal villain …devised the slander.
G. Othello tells Desdemona to get “to bed on th’ instant …...
(The entire section is 1703 words.)
Sample Othello Essay
“Heaven Is My Judge”: Literary Devices in Othello
William Shakespeare's classic drama Othello centers around the two conflicting characters of scheming, manipulative Iago and the honorable, but often times faithless Othello. Despite the fact that these men are completely opposite in character, Iago commands such persuasive powers that he literally starts to affect Othello’s thinking, altering the figures of speech he uses and his perceptions of those close to him. Both Othello and Iago use many of the same literary devices and much of the same figurative language to express not only their opinions of those around them, but also their general conceptions of the workings of the universe on a more spiritual level.
Act I of Othello closes with Iago giving a soliloquy introducing his plan to make Othello lose faith in his wife. This speech reveals Iago to have an incredibly materialistic and conceited nature, as he reduces everyone mentioned to an object easily capable of manipulation. Roderigo becomes Iago's purse, Cassio is simply a handsome, noble man who can be used to make Othello jealous, and Othello himself is “As tenderly [led] by the nose/ As asses are” (1163). Even Iago's own wife, Emilia, is referred to as Iago's “office,” an item that he has earned, rather than a woman he has vowed to love. He concludes this speech by saying “Hell and night/ Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light,” comparing Othello and Desdemona's marriage to a “monster birth,” while equating himself and his deceptions to Satan. Iago continuously makes comments about how hell is superior to heaven. In a later soliloquy near the end of Act II, Iago continues to relate the people he is manipulating to objects, this time also comparing the entire scenario to a game in which he plays the villain and Othello is a prize to be won. Iago mocks himself and his feigned innocence in this speech, exclaiming “Divinity of hell!/ When devils will the blackest sins put on/ They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,/ As I do now” (1180). Iago hates that he must play an innocent underling in his own plot, but at the same time he realizes that the easiest method to achieve his goals is to hide his true intentions under a cloak of innocence.
Othello's soliloquy in Act V, before he kills Desdemona, bears many parallels to the speeches made by Iago throughout the play. Othello, like Iago, objectifies Desdemona several times, first refusing to spill her blood, for fear of ruining her “smooth as monumental alabaster” skin. He then says “Put out the light, and then put out the light” (1124), trying to give himself the resolve to literally extinguish the room's light before figuratively extinguishing Desdemona's life. This comparison of Desdemona to an extinguishable candle, rather than granting conviction, serves to stay further action briefly while he fully considers the analogy. He muses that if he extinguishes a candle, he can always light it again, while if he “extinguishes” his wife, here compared to some object of intricate design, nothing can bring her life back. When Othello finishes the candle analogy, he repeats the same idea, this time comparing Desdemona to a rose that, once plucked, can never grow again. This speech is concluded with the very Iago-like statement “this sorrow's heavenly,/ It strikes where it doth love” (1125). Othello believes he is doing the right thing by killing his wife because according to his Christian beliefs, his God tests those He loves. This is not exactly what Iago was referring to when he mentioned devils putting on “heavenly shows,” but it greatly increases the audience's sense of dramatic irony to know that Othello believes himself to be doing the right thing, even at this late point in the play.
While Othello uses much of Iago’s own figurative language by the end of the play, he does so to achieve different results. Iago degrades every other character by comparing them to objects that can easily be manipulated, while Othello, when he dehumanizes people, somehow makes them out to be more than human. Likewise, when Iago makes reference to heaven and hell, he always describes how hell comes out on top. Othello, on the other hand, knows that heaven represents all that is good and right on Earth and so eventually throws himself at the mercy of his God, making him the tragic hero of the play.
Abcarian, Richard, and Marvin Klotz, eds. Literature: The Human Experience. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2006. Print.
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