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Question: Characters are memorable when they both annoy and endear

William Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’, fits into the classical mold of a Greek tragedy, which is based on conflict and the tragic downfall of highly ranked characters. The protagonist, Othello, is the Venetian Army General who experiences a calamitous fall from grace on account of his hamartia, which is his fatal error in the judgment of his wife. This hamartia stems from his hubris, which is his overwhelming ambition that he can balance the roles of husband and soldier. Shakespeare creates Othello to be a memorable character as he both endears and annoys the reader. Othello endears with the raw and powerful love that he possesses for his new wife, Desdemona. However, he annoys the reader when he allows the conflict within him to spark a jealousy which ultimately transforms who he is.

Shakespeare displays the destructive nature of jealousy through Othello, who allows himself to be overcome by this emotion as he is too preoccupied with the conflict within his heart. The play warns us of jealousy’s dangerous consequences as it is famously described as ‘the green-eyed monster that doth mocks the meat it feeds on’. Once jealousy secures it’s grasps upon a victim, there is no stopping the damage it will inflict.

When Shakespeare first introduces us to Othello’s relationship with Desdemona in act 1, scene 2, it is easy to be endeared by the love he bears for his new wife. He is utterly captivated by Desdemona, describing her as his ‘fair warrior’. The use of the adjective ‘fair’, highlights the black and white imagery which is present throughout the play as it represents the contrast between purity and evil. Desdemona is at first seen by Othello as being pure and untainted, a beautiful young lady who has captivated his heart. Not only is she lovely in appearance, but she also displayed kindness and compassion to the General, who had walked a path of war and violence. ‘For all my pains she gave me a world of sighs’, is dialogue which signifies the remedy that Desdemona is to Othello’s past pain and grief. Instead of leaving him to carry his burden alone, Desdemona sympathises with Othello and comforts him. As Othello is a black man with a rough background, he probably never came across someone like Desdemona who was willing to listen to and love him. This is why he so generously gives his heart to her and falls so deeply in love that it is endearing to witness. This links to our tendency as humans to give our hearts away to those who are willing to accept every part of us, even if we come in broken pieces.

In 1904, A.C. Bradley described Othello as ‘the most romantic figure of Shakespeare’s heroes’, however, it does not take long for Othello to annoy the reader when he falls into jealousy’s vicious grasp. Despite his wisdom and the love he bears for Desdemona, the Machiavellian villain, Iago, is able to ensnare Othello is a web of lies and deceit, urging him to believe that his wife has ‘cuckholded’ him. As Othello is a man of honor and he chooses to trust ‘honest Iago’, he becomes conflicted over whether to believe in his wife’s innocence or Iago’s word. This conflict is portrayed through Othello’s dialogue, “ think my wife be honest and think she is not”. The repetition of the verb ‘think’ highlights that Othello is divided and does not know what to believe. This becomes annoying for the reader, who knows of Iago’s plan to deceive Othello, who falls so swiftly into the antagonist’s poisonous grasp. The fact that Othello chooses not to confront Desdemona serves to further annoy as this may have revealed the innocence of his wife. However, instead of this, Othello chooses to believe in his fellow brother-in-arms, Iago, and he perceives Desdemona as a ‘strumpet’ and a ‘whore’, which are two derogatory and shameful phrases for women, especially during the 17th C.

‘The only thing worth writing about is conflict in the human heart’, a quote by William Faulkner that perfectly relates to Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ as the protagonist’s fall from grace triggers a wild conflict in his heart that serves to annoy the reader as it blinds Othello from the truth. Othello’s decision to believe Iago over consulting his wife highlights the danger of believing lies over seeking the truth. Sometimes it is easy for us to believe what we hear and choose not to investigate the truth behind the words. This is dangerous as we can fall into a web of lies, just like Othello did when he allowed Iago to fool him.

Lastly, Othello annoys the reader again during act 3, scene 3, when he experiences a catharsis that is triggered by the jealous rage which corrupts his mind. It is in this moment when Iago’s poisonous words truly invoke a hatred within Othello, who is vulnerable as his mind is conflicted and flooded with jealousy. Othello laments “Thou hast set me on the rack”, as he compares the mental and physical pain that he is experiencing to being a victim of the rack, a medieval torture device. It’s annoying for the reader to see how Iago has inflicted such grief upon the protagonist, who becomes a darker and more violent version of himself. Iago drives Othello to believe that he must seek revenge to the extreme point that he convinces him to “strangle her in her bed”. The gruesome verb ‘strangle’ signifies the level to which Othello’s hatred has reached as he is prepared to murder the woman he fell in love with while she sleeps.

‘Jealousy, the dragon which slays love under the pretense of keeping it alive’, portrays the dangerous consequences of jealousy and how it can so easily convince a person to take a regrettable action under the impression that it is the only way to free oneself from the heartache. Othello believes that by killing Desdemona, he is saving his honor and freeing himself of the consuming conflict within his heart. The power of jealousy is unprecedented, making it a dangerous emotion that can drive a person to take violent and extreme action.

In conclusion, Othello is a character who endears but annoys the reader as his love is replaced by jealousy and conflict. Othello begins as a man besotted with his new wife and filled with love, which is endearing. However, it does not take long for jealousy to take hold of his heart on account of the antagonist’s scheming and lies. It is annoying to see Othello become consumed by conflict a he chooses to believe Iago’s lies over Desdemona’s innocence, ultimately leading to the death of the two lovers. Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’ is much like his other creation ‘Romeo and Juliet’, in that both end with the tragic deaths of lovers. Both of these plays highlight how poor judgement and miscommunication can lead to tragedy. It is therefore important to take away that, instead of being quick to believe everything you hear, search for the truth and be wary of who you trust.

Kiā ora
You establish an argument in the intro, good work, perhaps a little more on the fact that the two reactions make him memorable because he appears to be more human? more easily to relate to? Easier to empathise with?..
Excellent coverage of the play and integration of critical voices - you follow an argument and the only thing that could strengthen this a little more would be a closer look at the memorable part.
A solid response. Well done.
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