“Emilia. But did you ever tell him she was false? / Iago. I did. / Emilia. You told a lie, an odious, damnèd lie! / Upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie! / She false with Cassio? Did you say with Cassio? … Othello. I scarce did know you, uncle. There lies your niece, / Whose breath indeed these hands have newly stopped. / I know this act shows horrible and grim.” (5.2.214-243). Throught the play Othello, Iago has been decieving and manipulating his associate Othello into believing lies about his newly married wife. The play explores the complicated nature of trust and how it is created and broken. Shakespeare has been provoking questions through his plays that surround topics of society, human nature, and social interaction for centuries. One question that Shakespeare seeks to answer through his demonstration of soliloquy, symbolism, and dramatic irony in Othello is why is trust so hard to gain, but so easily broken?
Shakespeare used many examples of soliloquy in Othello. These soliloquies give the listener an insight into characters inner thoughts and the motives behind their actions. “That Cassio loves her, I do well believe ’t. / That she loves him, ’tis apt and of great credit. / The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not, / Is of a constant, loving, noble nature, / And I dare think he’ll prove to Desdemona / A most dear husband. Now, I do love her too, / Not out of absolute lust… / If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trace / For his quick hunting, stand the putting on, / I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip, / Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb / (For I fear Cassio with my nightcap too), / Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me / For making him egregiously an ass / And practicing upon his peace and quiet / Even to madness. ’Tis here, but yet confused. / Knavery’s plain face is never seen till used.” (2.1.308-334). This soliloquy that Iago provides us with is a great example of the amount of work that would go into a plan that will eventually break trust. A major portion of the play focuses on Iago’s grand scheme to break the relationship between Othello and Desdemona by whatever means possible. He steals, lies, and even kills to achieve his ultimate goal. Soliloquies give us a more solid understanding of his plans that we would otherwise miss. Trust is built up over time and a plan with this much work quickly dissolves any trust that existed before. When the person whose trust is broken finds out about the plan, they are mad because a lot of work went into wronging them, and they feel that that relationship and trust were a fallacy. They are hesitant to give any sort of trust back again because they are afraid that it will just be broken again.
Many instances of symbolism are also present throught the duration of the play. “Nay, but be wise. Yet we see nothing done. / he may be honest yet. Tell me but this: / Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief / Spotted with strawberries in your wife’s hand?” (3.3.490-494). The handkerchief is a prominent symbol that is placed throughout the play. It is used as a symbol of Othello’s love and devotion for Desdemona, but it was easily manipulated by Iago to become a symbol of disloyalty and untrustworthiness. He uses it to convince Othello that Desdemona sees other men and betraying his trust for her. As Othello sees more of these signs that Iago has cleverly left behind his trust for Desdemona quickly leaves. He starts to question her and it is very hard for Desdemona to talk to him and try to convince him that she is trustworthy and loyal to him. Shakespeare uses symbolism to append a deeper meaning to some of the everyday acts of love between Othello and Desdemona. These acts build trust over time but are not enough. The trust that was once so prominent in the lover’s lives is quickly dissolved after Iago carries out his plan.
Finally, Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to address the question. “I am glad of this, for now I shall have reason / To show the love and duty that I bear you / With franker spirit. Therefore, as I am bound, / Receive it from me. I speak not yet of proof. / Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio; / Wear your eyes thus, not jealous nor secure. / I would not have your free and noble nature, / Out of self-bounty, be abused. Look to ’t. / I know our country disposition well. / In Venice they do let God see the pranks / They dare not show their husbands. Their best / conscience / Is not to leave ’t undone, but keep ’t unknown.” (3.3.224-236). Iago’s plan is constantly changing and evolving. Many characters, mainly Othello and Desdemona, are not aware of his scheme. The listener is able to see the trust between Othello, Iago, and Desdemona shift and change before it is known in the play. We see when Iago is going to try something to destroy the relationship and we can see how it will affect the character’s trust. After the trust is broken, it is difficult to try to repair it. Broken trust ends in hurt feelings. People won’t want to give their trust out to those people anymore because they have caused pain in the past. They are scared that if they give their trust back the other person will just wrong them again. Shakespeare uses this literary device to create suspense and to illustrate the more complex thoughts and feeling behind character’s motives.
Shakespeare’s writing does a great job of getting the listeners thinking about themes and questions that arise when the hear his plays. In Othello, through Shakespeare’s masterful use of literary devices, we see why trust is easily broken, and how and why it is difficult to gain that trust back. Iago’s schemes throughout the play are a great example of trust being broken between two people who had trusted each other and how trust between two people can be broken by a third party.
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