Month: November 2021 – Page 2

The Puppeteer in Othello

Othello is tragedy play about a black solider that falls to the societal and inner pressures of his ‘blackness’ as well as the influence from a malice villain. It is said to commonly often be the first person that speaks. A character that announces their problem and issues to gain sympathy from the audience. Iago does this first and makes further moves throughout the story to prove that he is the true villain in the story.

Othello begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument between Roderigo and Iago. These two men are highly respected by the people around him, but also by military officials. Iago especially is a big main character in this play as he introduces the setting and tone of the story first as he is auguring with Roderigo. Iago informs Roderigo that the woman he is wanting is already married to Othello. We are given descriptions of Othello, that only highlight his appearances and personality. Othello is a black man who has ‘thick lips’ and his sexualized for his features, but also his new found marriage to Desdemona, a white woman who is the daughter of Brabanzio. Iago says he hates Othello, who recently passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced soldier Cassio. Because he was passed over, the motives of Iago are said to be personally against Othello. The jealously he feels fuels the rest of the story as Iago begins to stir the plot with his malice. Iago urges to. He seems almost to wink at the audience as he revels in his own skill. As entertained spectators, we find ourselves on Iago’s side when he is with Roderigo, but the interactions between the two also reveal a streak of cowardice in Iago to tell Brabanzio about Desdemona and Othello’s new marriage, saying that he has stolen Desdemona to get a rise out of Brabanzio. Although Iago is very vocal about his feelings about Othello to others, he makes it clear to the audience that he is Othello’s right hand man and fellow friend, who is suppose to serve him. This also reveals Iago’s true motives as he runs to Othello to tell him of this sudden accusation and speaks nothing of his involvement.

The moment Othello appears he confidently speaks up for himself and the love he has found with Desdemona. This is the words from a truthful honest man, and we are given this through the dialogue. However with the amount of people against him already, especially Iago, we are given the sense that he will not keep his image much longer. Othello explains that he wooed and won Desdemona not by witchcraft but with the stories of his adventures in travel and war. The duke finds Othello’s explanation convincing, and Desdemona herself enters at this point to defend her choice in marriage and to announce to her father that her allegiance is now to her husband. Brabanzio is frustrated, but acquiesces and allows the senate meeting to resume.

This is a moment of Iago’s that shows his puppeteer ways as he speaks to the audience.

“Thus do I ever make my fool my purse,
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit.” (Act 1 Scene 3)

He uses the audience to understand his next moves, but also explain how everything unfolds from here on out. Like a puppeteer Iago maneuvers his way into different situations. This can be seen in the conflict of Desdemona and Othello, Cassio’s fall from his position, and the messy Roderigo. His first plan to get rid of Cassio, as he think he is truly unfit for his job. Iago is a jealous being who is spiting others on the things that he is lacking, higher ranking position, love, and consideration for others. Othello is these things, a high ranking official, a lover, and offers consideration for others throughout the story before madness slips in. Iago targets on Cassio goes through, showing that he is an oppurtunist at best who sneaks his way into situations to manipulate them his way. He plants the seed of the adultery in Othello’s eyes, knowing that Desdemona’s attempt to save Cassio’s job is innocent. Iago turns this into an issue for Othello, as Othello becomes suspicious of Desdemona and Cassio. The constant whispers in Othello ears by Iago his supposed trusted friend makes him insecure and start to question his worth with everyone. It begins with himself, as he is unsure of what he is hearing or seeing when he sees Desdemona with Cassio. The doubt that he feels looms over his head, causing him to see her as untrustworthy. This is a complete shift of Othello”s behavior, which knocks him off his game. However this is going perfectly in Iago’s favor, as he seemings to control the outcomes of his targets. He masterfully feeds his self-alienated ways onto Othello, making him feel the quick change of madness in the matter of three days. This hysterical way of influencing someone seems fast, but Iago does it quick and harshly, ending the play with lots of death and a lots of realization. It is Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him both a powerful and a compelling figure.At the end Iago sees his revenge plan complete, each person he manipulated in down from their position of power. As much as he was not rooting for death, a tragedy is a not a tragedy without death. At that finale moment, Iago says nothing. He does not pride in his success. He tries to defend himself to the end, but ultimately cannot as everyone realizes the hand that he has dealt in this dangerous game. It is the tension between Othello’s victimization at the hands of a racist culture and his own willingness to torment himself that makes him a tragic figure and  that makes him Iago’s ridiculous puppet. Leading the story to end with death and a questions of who is really to blame for everything and everyone. All signs can be pointed to Iago. Our Puppeteer Villain.

 

https://images.app.goo.gl/dSJrUdzDLgicZkwZ8

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fmiro.medium.com%2Fmax%2F874%2F1*MTHS5qX43JW7iJylIHPLOA.jpeg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fmedium.com%2F%40shadderz01%2Fiago-a-man-with-words-sharper-than-any-sword-4045f62261c7&tbnid=1FYSeJ69GOJBcM&vet=12ahUKEwjp-t-O8ZT0AhWsgU4HHSI3DCQQMyg4egQIARBj..i&docid=phWj9KQpm6M7aM&w=874&h=670&q=iago&client=safari&ved=2ahUKEwjp-t-O8ZT0AhWsgU4HHSI3DCQQMyg4egQIARBj

 

An in-depth analysis of Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice’

When you think of Portia in, “The Merchant of Venice”, you would probably think of her to be a polished young woman that lived in a secluded mansion away from the impoverished citizens of Venice. These ideas may hold some truth to it but they do not fully represent who Portia is as a supporting character. When you really analyze the characterization of Portia, you can begin to see that she is a lot more than a one dimensional character. Examples that point to this claim is the scene with the suitors and the three caskets, the courtroom scene, and her willingness to help Bassanio in his times of need.

Bassanio had set his eyes on Portia before she decided to put together her test of the three caskets. Whichever suitor chose the casket that had a portrait of her inside, that person would be suited to be her husband. With this test, Portia was able to observe and judge the suitors’ nobility. Although, when you think about it, her test could have gone incredibly wrong if Morocco or Aragon chose the casket with her portrait in it. She trusted Bassanio with her future marriage with the casket test. Given the historical elements of the play, the story of the three caskets is not a common rite of passage for suitors to be wed with their spouses. However, Portia is put into a different position. The wealth she possesses is sacred and the test of the three caskets (at least to her) was one of the best tools to sort out her future spouse that would honor her and their marriage.

Act II, Scene 7

Portia : Go, draw aside the curtains and discover the several caskets to this noble prince. – Now make your choice.

Morocco : This first of gold, who this inscription bears : “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” The second, silver, which this premise carries : “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt : “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Portia : The one of them contains my picture, Prince. If you choose that, then I am with yours withal. (Pg. 300-301, lines 1-12)

Portia could have easily set her mind on only Bassanio instead of inviting two strangers to take part in a challenge that she devised. She knew her worth and knew that many men were willing to fight for her hand in marriage (as well as her wealth).

 

Linton, James Dromgole; The Casket Scene from the Merchant of Venice; Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-casket-scene-from-the-merchant-of-venice-76712

 

 

In Act IV, Portia truly shines as the deal breaker and the communicator to persuade Shylock to change his verdict on Antonio’s punishment. The courtroom scene is the probably the best scene in the entire play that really highlights how multi-faceted Portia is. She disguised herself as Balthazar in order to have a say and persuade the court. One of the main reasons why she disguised herself as a man was to help her husband. Portia truly sympathized with Bassanio and saw how beside himself he was about the situation between him, Shylock, and Antonio. This is quite telling of Portia’s character. She is not a ‘damsel in distress’ by any means and is very capable.

 

Act IV, Scene 1

Portia : Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh. Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more but just a pound of flesh. If thou tak’st more or less than a just pound, be it but so much as makes it light or heavy in the substance or the division of the twentieth part of one poor scruple – nay, if the scale do turn but in the estimation of a hair – thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate. (Pg. 325, l. 322-330)

….

Shylock : Shall I not have barely my principal?

Portia : Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture to be so taken at thy peril, Jew.

Shylock : Why, then, the devil give him good of it! I’ll stay no longer question.

Portia : Tarry, Jew- the law hatch yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice if it be proved against an alien that by direct or indirect attempts he seek the life of any citizen, the party ‘gainst the which he doth contrive shall seize one half of his goods; the other half comes to the privy coffer of the state; and the offender’s life lies in the mercy of the Duke only, ‘gainst all other voice. In which predicament I say thou stand’st: For it appears by manifest proceeding that indirectly, and directly too, thou hast contrived against the very life of the defendant; and thou hast incurred the danger formerly by me rehearsed. Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke. (Pg. 326, l. 340-361)

 

 

 

If it was not for Portia, Antonio might have faced his in-humane punishment. Cross-dressing as a man to be a in courtroom full of men in order to save your husband’s friend’s skin takes a lot of bravery. The final verdict was not ideal for all the people involved but at least the Christians won, right?

 

When Portia and Bassanio are wed, Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio detailing his unfortunate circumstance, Bassanio feels guilty because he involved Antonio in a deal that was supposed to benefit him. Not to mention Bassanio is broke and has nothing to his name. His newly wedded wife, Portia, realizes the state of distress Bassanio is in and asks what can be done about his friend. This example shows Portia’s devotion to her husband. Portia did not have a full grasp of the critical situation but she was ready to step in.

Bassanio : O sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasant’st words that ever blotted paper…

Bassanio (cont.) : When I told you my state was nothing, I should then have told that I was worse than nothing; for indeed I have engaged my friend to his mere enemy, to feed my means. Here is a letter, lady, the paper as the body of my friend, and every word in it a gaping wound issuing lifeblood. (Act III, l. 248-250, l. 256-264)

 

Bassanio is ‘high-maintenance’ in case you could not tell already. Trying to live a life for the rich when he cannot afford and has to rely on other people for funds.

 

In conclusion, Portia as a supporting character is quite under appreciated and much more honorable than her husband. She does not fit the mold of the helpless princess and instead beats that label/stereotype that is taken at a first glance.

 

Sources :

Courtoom photo :

Hill, Thomas. “The Trial Scene from the Merchant of Venice , 1865.” Artnet.com, http://www.artnet.com/artists/thomas-hill/the-trial-scene-from-the-merchant-of-venice-LcXeIhi51kt0Ds9Dq_sMgw2.

Portia and Bassanio photo :

Gray, Henry Peters. “Portia and Bassanio- from The Merchant .” Photos.com by Getty Images, 22 Jan. 2019, https://photos.com/featured/portia-and-bassanio-from-the-merchant-the-new-york-historical-society.html. Accessed 3 Nov. 2021.

Shakespeare, William, et al. “The Merchant of Venice.” The Norton Shakespeare: Essential Plays, the Sonnets, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2016, pp. 269–335.