Power in Othello: Othello: Othello, the principle character, at the beginning seems to have power- whether it is physical, psychological, political or military. He is portrayed to the audience as a symbol of power and strength. As an experienced soldier, a General to be precise, Othello has had little experience with women. Even though he is a high ranking military official, he is less respected because of his dark skin and being a foreigner. His stature and tone of voice, along with his self-confidence and belief, lead the audience to think of Othello as the main representation of power in the play.
However, further into the play, Othello’s power seems to diminish, revealing his insecurity and susceptibility. He is very naive and strongly believes those close to him are honest- even deeper in the play when Iago’s doings make Othello despise those around him, he still believes Iago. Psychologically, Othello also seems to have power, mainly a result of his military rank. Between his soldiers and his friends, he is also very highly respected, this too being a form of power. Desdemona: Desdemona is Othello’s wife and the daughter of Brabantio.
Desdemona secretly married Othello, against her father’s wishes. Throughout the play, Desdemona’s power is not clearly conveyed to the audience, but her presence has an effect. Roderigo is in love with her and her presence has an effect on him- he wants Othello out of the way, so to speak, so he can once again attempt to win Desdemona’s love. As the play unfolds, different aspects of Desdemona’s character are revealed, and blend into a unique personality. Throughout the play, Desdemona is loyal to her husband, but once again, her presence (with Cassio) leads Othello to believe that she is disloyal to him.
Her handkerchief plays a pivotal role in the play- by Desdemona dropping it, Emilia gives it to Iago, who then stealthily gives it to Cassio. Othello sees Cassio with the handkerchief and believes Desdemona gave it to him, supposedly proving Iago’s claims to Othello of Desdemona being an adultress. Iago: Iago is an ensign to Othello, and also a soldier in his army. Iago is the antagonist of the play, and one of the most evil Shakespearean villains. Iago is extremely clever in the way he uses unsuspecting power- especially psychological power.
He gets into people’s heads in many dishonest ways- by spreading false rumours, telling lies and psychologically tricking people and secretly controlling certain situations. His power to manipulate is a key point in the play, as it results in major consequences and the deaths of some main characters. Iago’s schemes are multi-levelled- he conspires with roderigo, and makes him believe that Desdemona will take him back. On another level, he leads Othello to believe his wife is having an affair with Cassio. He uses his wife Emilia (unknown to her), to bring back the handkerchief he uses to deceive Othello.
Iago is an extremely resourceful and talented man, but he uses these resources and talents in detrimental ways. Iago is constantly referred to by numerous characters as ‘honest’. He himself also refers to honesty. Numerous characters believe that they know and trust Iago and that he would not lie, nor deceive them. Iago’s soliloquies also provide invaluable insight into his wicked mind and evil schemes and plans. Emilia: Emilia is the wife of Iago and Desdemona’s maidservant. Emilia, much like Desdemona, does not have much power but once again her presence has an effect.
Her role in the play, apart from being Desdemona’s maid, is to fetch Desdemona’s handkerchief for Iago, so that he can use it as evidence to Othello (unknown to Emilia) that Desdemona is unfaithful to him. Emilia’s character shows greater development in the 4th scene, where she declares that she would be unfaithful in marriage in the right circumstances, which shows less naivety than Desdemona who barely even believes adulterous people even exist. In the final act, Emilia reveals her true loyalty by stating that she gave Iago the handkerchief, a revelation of proof that Desdemona is not unfaithful.
For doing so, Emilia is stabbed by her husband Iago, and with her dying breath she sings the song Desdemona told her, “Willow”. Michael Cassio: Cassio is Othello’s lieutenant- he was chosen as lieutenant over Iago, much to Iago’s disappointment. Cassio’s power is shown more as an intellectual sort of power, rather than a physical or psychological power. However, Cassio is easily manipulated and often the victim of Iago’s schemes. In act 2, he becomes drunk at the stealthy hands of Iago, and begins a fight with roderigo, in which he injures him and Montano, and loses his ‘power’ as Othello’s lieutenant.
To the audience, Cassio does not seem like a major source of power, but rather a source of knowledge perhaps- that is until his drunken brawl, however. Iago then later manipulates him to talk about his mistress Bianca, knowing that Othello was secretly listening. However, Othello believed Cassio was talking about his affairs with Desdemona. This, again shows Cassio’s vulnerability. “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. ” “O! Beware, my lord, of jealousy: It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. ” “Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? ”