Othello: Religious Motifs
Relationships in which individuals permit themselves to be controlled through their weak points are really flawed and have a terrific prospective for failure. These relationships can end up being tainted by jealousy and rumours nurtured by sly individuals. Such is the situation in Shakespeare’s Othello, which depicts the terrible downfall of an apparently ideal relationship.
Shakespeare uses images of paradise in the start of the play to highlight the apparently perfect love between Othello and Desdemona. Moreover, as the play progresses, the juxtaposition in between paradise and hell is used to represent the manipulative powers of Iago over Othello revealing the weaknesses of Desdemona and Othello’s relationship. As a result, the twisted heaven and hell imagery utilized near the end of Othello shows the eventual break down of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage.
Thus, in Shakespeare’s Othello, the connotation of the spiritual concepts throughout are used to develop the idea that even the most caring couples have their defects leaving them vulnerable to the damaging powers of jealousy brought on by the manipulative impacts of others, resulting in suspicion and ultimately betrayal. The apparently ideal love between Othello and Desdemona is initially highlighted by Shakespeare’s usage of incredible images. Through images of paradise, Othello’s enthusiastic love for Desdemona is exposed.
After being implicated by Brabantio of utilizing enchantments to win over his child’s love, Othello swears against it assuring their love holds true: And till she come, as really regarding heaven I do admit the vices of my blood, So justly to your grave ears I’ll present How did I flourish in this fair girl’s love, And she in mine (1. 3. 122-126). Othello swears on paradise that his love for Desdemona and her love for him is not a result of witchcraft, but the result of an honest love for one another. The image of heaven is used to emphasize that Othello thinks that the love between him and Desdemona is as pure as heaven itself.
To call their love heavenly programs an overstated passion between the 2 further stressing the appearance of their ideal union. Similarly, Desdemona feels that the love in between her and Othello is predestined to be, and through Shakespeare’s use of divine images this point is stressed. Upon getting here in Cyprus, Desdemona and Othello are reunited for the first time given that their journey: “The heavens forbid/ But that our loves and comforts should increase/ Even as our days do grow”(2. 1. 190-192). For Desdemona to pray that absolutely nothing come between them and their everlasting joy reveals a great deal of enthusiasm.
In addition, to believe that their love will only die if they die highlights the certainty in which Desdemona feels that their love is more than simply a coincidence, however rather fate itself. The intensity of Desdemona’s sensations for Othello adds to the idea that their marriage is ideal. Additionally, images of the soul illustrate Desdemona’s love and her desire to risk her whole being to be with Othello. When faced about her love for Othello, Desdemona reveals that [her] heart’s subdued/ Even to the extremely quality of [her] lord. [She] saw Othello’s visage in his mind, And to his honours and worthy parts
Did [she her] soul and fortunes consecrate (1. 3. 250-254). “From the start, Desdemona has viewed love as a danger and difficulty. She has strongly uprooted herself from her dad’s security and the traditional expectations of Venetian society …”(Thomas Neely 96). Desdemona believes that a life full of dangers and unknown dangers is worth living if she is by Othello’s side. This complete devotion of body and soul exposes Desdemona’s sensations of commitment towards Othello. The rendering of her soul; her whole entire being, completely to Othello highlights the remarkable love in between the 2 of them.
Thus, through incredible images the obviously ideal union in between Desdemona and Othello is portrayed throughout the first scenes of the play. In spite of the obvious perfect relationship in between Othello and Desdemona, the flaws within their marital relationship are revealed through Iago’s manipulative powers as shown by the juxtaposition of paradise and hell. Shakespeare utilizes Iago’s character to produce the doubt in Othello and Desdemona’s ideal divine love through images of hell. During his first soliloquy, part of Iago’s strategy is exposed: “I have’t! It is engender ‘d!
Hell and night/ Need to bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light”(1. 3. 392-393). Desdemona and Othello’s relationship is represented as the good on the planet; the light. For their relationship is that of perfection, they both love and trust each other with a deep passion. However, Iago is the opposite of this heavenly light and with him comes hell and corruption. When the characters fulfill, the sense of perfection is lost and human faults come into play. In addition, the juxtaposition of paradise and hell highlights that Iago is the tempter in Othello and Desdemona’s relationship.
After giving Cassio advice on how to approach Othello concerning his task, Iago exposes his true strategy: Divinity of hell! When devils will the blackest sins place on, They do recommend in the beginning with heavenly programs, As I do now (2. 3. 321-324). By comparing himself to a devil that appears innocent, Iago is exposing his ability to deceive those around him with a facade of generosity. “To interpret Iago as a devil in turn implies … Iago is more than that: a fiend whose fiendishness remains unverified in [the] play …”(Christofides 19).
Additionally, the contrast of the heaven and hell more highlights the Machiavellian nature of Iago that enables him to manipulate those around him without feeling remorse. Consequently, Iago tricks Othello into believing he is a sincere male, hence, offering him the ability to control Othello. Moreover, there is an absence of trust in between Othello and Desdemona which is made apparent through contrasts to the devil. Clearly, Othello is suspicious of something when he accuses Desdemona’s hand of being “hot, hot, and wet” and need [ing] a sequester from liberty, fasting and prayer, uch castigation, workout devout; For here’s a young and sweating devil here that commonly rebels (3. 4. 34-39). By accusing Desdemona of having a wet hand, a sign of amorous nature, he is implicating her of betraying. Othello believes that Desdemona is a devil who requires to repent for the criminal offenses she has devoted against him. However, Othello has no proof that she has actually done any damage; he is simply accusing her based upon lies told to him by Iago. In addition, the absence of evidence proving Desdemona guilty indicates an absence of trust within their marriage.
As an outcome, perverse pictures of paradise are used to reveal that Iago’s hoax has caused Othello to give up on those he enjoys. While Iago fills Othello’s head with lies of Desdemona and Cassio together, Othello concerns the conclusion that “…’t holds true … [and] ll [Othello’s] fond love therefore do [es] [he] blow to heaven./ ‘T is gone”(3. 3. 444-446). By thinking what Iago states to be the fact in such a brash manner, a lack of confidence in Othello is revealed. This lack of confidence causes Othello to question other elements of his life such as his relationship with Desdemona permitting Iago to even more control Othello.
For that reason, Iago has the power to make Othello think that Desdemona is betraying to him hence, triggering Othello to lose all hope in his marriage. This loss of love is reflected through Othello’s loss of religious beliefs. For that reason, Iago’s manipulative influences expose the true weak points within Othello and Desdemona’s relationship which is reflected through contrasting pictures of the divine and damned. In addition, due to their marriage’s weak points, the eventual breakdown of Othello and Desdemona’s relationship is shown through twisted heaven and hell imagery.
Through the paradoxical use of divine images it is shown that when he is conquered by jealousy, Othello’s sense of justice ends up being twisted. When confronted by Emilia, Othello provides reason regarding why he killed Desdemona: Cassio did top her. Ask they spouse else. O, I were damn ‘d beneath all depth in hell But what I did proceed upon just grounds To this extremity (5. 2. 136-139). Othello’s sense of morality is damaged; he believes that he is justified in eliminating Desdemona since of her betrayal. Here, Othello judges on behalf of God … but, of course, the audience knows Desdemona has actually been misjudged, that the sword of justice ought to rightly break”(Christofides 21) for Desdemona is innocent. Othello has actually been tricked by Iago into thinking that he has the authority to select what is best and wrong. He then uses this authority misguidedly, resulting in the breakdown of his character and ultimately his relationship with Desdemona. Additionally, the paradoxical referral to damnation further illustrates just how twisted his morality is; for he believes that what he did was genuinely simply.
Additionally, Shakespeare illustrates the contrast in between Othello’s presumed morality and his true criminal offense by again using pictures of paradise and hell. After Desdemona is dead, her virtuous nature is compared to Othello’s: “O, the more angel she,/ And you the blacker devil! “(5. 2. 130-131). Othello lacks self-confidence within himself due to his differences, which is stressed through making use of a racial comment. However, these distinctions had actually meant nothing in the beginning, for the love between him and Desdemona was too strong.
As a result, Othello lets these distinctions get to him enabling Iago to control him into losing the morality and honour he initially had, minimizing him to evil; a devil in comparison to Desdemona. Resulting in the more breakdown of Othello and Desdemona’s relationship. Eventually, as an outcome of wonder about and jealousy Othello betrays Desdemona, as is portrayed through making use of spiritual images. Emilia reveals to Othello the real tragedy of his criminal activity: “This deed of thine disappears deserving heaven/ Than thou merited her”(5. 2. 160-161).
Othello so overcome by jealousy and anger is no longer related to heavenly images, underlining the idea that he has truly fallen. Consequently, bringing down his whole marital relationship to Desdemona and eventually resulting in his betrayal of her. Nevertheless, since Desdemona is still connected with divine images, it stresses her commitment which in contrast further underlines Othello’s defects and the catastrophe of his betrayal. Hence, through twisted images of heaven and hell Othello’s betrayal of Desdemona and its consequential ruin of their relationship is depicted.
The shift from favorable to negative undertone of the spiritual motif throughout Othello is utilized to develop the idea that even the most loving couples can have their flaws manipulated by others permitting them to be gotten rid of by jealousy, leading to a lack of trust and ultimately betrayal. In the beginning, divine images are used to illustrate an almost ideal love between Othello and Desdemona. Later on, near the middle of Othello, the playwright uses contrasting pictures of heaven and hell to represent Iago’s manipulative powers over Othello exposing the defects within Othello and Desdemona’s relationship.
Thus, the ironic usage of heaven and hell images near the end of the play mirrors the tragic breakdown of Othello and Desdemona’s marital relationship. Since relationships are not perfect they can end up being easily tainted when delegated the deceiving will of others. For when people enable their weak points to rule over their lives true catastrophe ensues. It depends on those people to choose whether or not to let the lies brought about by others to affect them or not. This is the choice that ultimately identifies the strength of a relationship, not the variety of flaws within it.