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How Othello's Personality Evolves in The Tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare

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The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice is a famously written tragedy play by William Shakespeare. The main character of the play, Othello, is introduced in the beginning as a brave, almighty general and is surprisingly evolved into a character whose naivety and jealousy has lead to cruel murders. Othello goes from being head over heels for his newly wed wife, Desdemona, “But that I love the gentle Desdemona,” to evilly plotting her death “I’ll tear her to pieces” (Shakespeare, 1985). The personality change that took place in Othello was mainly due to Iago’s cunning plans of deceiving him, and this paper will explore the evolution of Othello’s personality change by examining the emotional and psychological journey Othello undergoes as well as the reasons for this life-changing journey which will reveal the personality of Othello early on in the play and the personality of Othello at the end of the play along with the transition point that changed him.

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The play opens with a scene of Iago and Rodrigo talking about their hate of Othello, and how Brabantio wants anything but his daughter to be married with Othello. In Brabantio’s opinion Othello is a Moorish soldier who is like a well-behaved barbarian that isn’t worthy of his daughter. However, after hearing Othello’s talking of how Desdemona fell in love with him, Brabantio agreed for his daughter to be wedded to him. When he talks about his love to Desdemona, Othello states things such as “I will… deliver of my whole course of love” and “phrase of peace” which reveal his wholehearted and never-ending love to Desdemona (Shakespeare, 1985). Despite being happy as a newlywed, Othello has other things going on for him; he’s also a triumphant general in war and well-liked within his society. While Roderigo’s hate for Othello stems from his love for Desdemona, Iago’s hate for Othello stems from being passed off to a lesser military position by Othello.

Othello begins to change from his rational and calm composure to a ferocious and groundless one as Iago begins spreading rumors of Desdemona cheating on Othello with Cassio. Iago sneakily plans out various events that lead up to him revealing the rumor. For instance, after Cassio’s reputation is damaged, Iago tries to urge Desdemona to talk to Othello for Cassio, so he can be promoted again, which can give Othello the implication that Desdemona cares for Cassio. Also, when Cassio walks out in Act 3 as soon as Othello and Iago enter, Iago states that “Cassio wouldn’t act like a guilty man when you approach,” which utilizes reverse psychology to further manipulate Othello before even revealing to him the rumor (Shakespeare, 1985). Iago’s aim was to have Othello collect his own clues and hints which would verify Iago’s rumor when he told it. Even though Iago ultimately reveals to him the rumor, the transition point in Othello doesn’t become fully evident until the scene of Othello finding Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s room.

Othello, being a man of action and being of high reputation, was enraged with the idea of being cheated on. Having a linear point of view, which can be seen from him taking everything at face-value, such as seeing the handkerchief and immediately thinking that he is being cheated on. Othello fails to ask the right questions and is easily affected by his emotions. From the play, one can see that after finding out the handkerchief, Othello has no remorse for Desdemona, and degrades himself to calling her a whore, hitting her in front of others, and at the end killing her in an unfounded jealous rage. From the beginning, Othello should’ve suspected that Iago, someone who is upset for being passed off as a lieutenant by Othello, should care for the well-being of Othello.

As can be seen from Othello’s play, Othello who started off as a selfless and moral general and newly wed groom ended up in turmoil and in killing himself due to the betrayal he believed had been done to him. Othello’s self-inflicted pain blocked him from being able to see anything, including Iago’s cunning plots, Desdemona’s never-ending love for him, and Cassio’s lack of involvement with Desdemona.

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