Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Deception or stupidity?

Deception seems to be a popular theme in Shakespeare.  Even those who haven't studied Shakespeare most likely know how Romeo and Juliet ends: with Romeo seeing Juliet unconscious and believing she is dead, leading him to drink poison himself.  Perhaps it is because the works we have studied in this class have all dealt with it, but deception is so common in Shakespeare's work that I begin to question whether or not its even believable.  Some deceptions are done well in my opinion, but I just cannot believe it in Othello.  Ever since the beginning I kept asking myself: Why doesn't Othello just confront Desdemona about it? In Act IV, scene ii, Othello approaches Emilia about it, who tells him flat out,  "I saw no harm...I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest...Remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom" (4.2, 4-14). He responds by saying it is "strange" that she has never seen anything nor has she been given any reason to suspect Desdemona of doing anything wrong.  Even though the "trustworthy" Iago was the one who was feeding him all of these lies, one would think that if someone else was saying otherwise, it might plant a few seeds of doubt in his mind.  But instead of asking Desdemona, he just accuses her of being unfaithful.  Even though she refuses it over and over again, he still doesn't believe her.  In my opinion, it is a little far fetched that Othello believes Iago even after all of this and doesn't ever think that Iago could have been wrong.  If Othello loves Desdemona to the point where he is so torn up about the idea of her being unfaithful, why doesn't he believe her? He tells her to swear her honesty, and she does, and he retorts saying that she's lying.  Unless he saw it for himself I don't think he would be so adamant about it and so unable to be swayed from this thought of her infidelity.  I am not sure what is going to happen in Act V, but the foreshadowing seems to hint that Desdemona is going to be killed. If Othello is the one who kills her, I think that is the stupidest thing he could do.

7 comments:

Brianna said...

I agree, there is a great deal of deception in this play, more than I think any of the plays we have read and because the play is in fact a tragedy I believe it makes us angrier with the situation. If the issue of “cheating” were to be resolved by the end I don’t think the deception would have been frowned upon as much. Although it may be difficult to believe that Othello could somehow manage to believe everything Iago says, I think there is some valid reasons in doing so. Iago is a sneaky character, everything seems to work in his way, he knows how to cover his tracks and make sure no know sees the truth behind his character. In doing this, it makes perfect sense for Othello to believe Iago to be trustworthy and honest. Iago has never “done or shown” Othello anything to make him believe otherwise, hence the reason he doesn’t have an issue believing him. Othello’s overwhelming “green-eyed monster” also is a huge factor, who would he believe, Iago, the man who has never let him down, or Desdemona, the woman he married but disobeyed and tricked her father? That is another point that I’m sure stays with Othello. Desdemona’s father, Brabantio told him to be careful, she has tricked me and she will do the same to you. If anyone planted the initial seed in Othello’s mind I would say it was Brabantio. Either way, I don’t agree with the deception on Iago’s part or Othello’s inability to even listen to his wife’s side, but can you blame Othello entirely?

Samantha Grove said...

I agree, Othello does seem to be a little bit too naive about the situation. Maybe that goes to show that it is Othello's "green-eyed monster" who is really in charge, like Brianna stated in her comment. I tend to think it shows a favoring of homo-social relationships over hetero-social relationships though. Shakespeare wrote often about the deception of women, especially in this play. Maybe this is why Othello doesn't listen to Emilia or Desdemona when they tell him that Iago's accusations are untrue. Maybe its just because they are women, and are therefore natural deceivers in his eyes.

ssomer said...

After reading your post, I definitely agree with what you're saying. I think the deceit in every play can be argued unrealistic. It reminds me of a movie where someone hears a scary sound and instead of running the other way, they choose to explore. It can be very annoying to watch or, in this case, read about but I feel like that is what has to happen in order for there to be a conflict. If Othello just simply talked to Desdemona before coming to any conclusions, there would be no plot. It would make the play boring. Although it seems really irratating, I think the unrealistic deceit is necessary.

Nicole Belladone said...

I also agree. I think that's why I laugh a lot when reading these plays because in the back of my mind I'm thinking "are they serious?" I mean honestly you're right, why wouldn't Othello just take his wife aside and talk about it with her? But I guess if he did do that then the play wouldn't be interesting for us to read. I think that it also goes to show how unimportant these woman are in Shakespeare's plays. Othello would rather take Iago's word over just going to talk things out with Desdemona, as if he can only get the truth from a man.

Stacy Carter said...

I would have to disagree somewhat with this. I think that the deception in Othello is actually one of the most believable in any of Shakespeare's play. Sure, it is dramatic and definitely comes to harsh ending, but I think that Iago's character is crafted brilliantly. He has a very realistic way of deceiving, and I find it easy to believe that Othello slowly grows more and more suspicious until he drives himself mad with jealousy thinking about Desdemona.

Jillian Landau said...

I think that the deception throughout this play is what gives an aura of comedy. Like MND and Twelfth Night, characters are deceived quite easily, giving a comedic aspect to the play. It makes the audience laugh that characters can be so easily influenced. In the comedies, the perpetrators often play on the egos of those being deceived. In Othello, Iago plays on the insecurities and honor of Othello, knowing that an unfaithful wife would be his undoing. The distinction between this tragedy and the previous comedies is that unfortunately no one is around, or is willing, to see that truth is brought to light. I agree that many of the events in Othello seem quite unbelievable, like only one small change in plans could fix everything. Unfortunately, Iago’s apparent understanding of his opponents’ psyche is more powerful than anyone can counter. Here, comedic interruptions cannot prevail.

Cyrus Mulready said...

Very interesting discussion! I think that in order to believe the deception of Othello, we have to believe that there is more to it than what we see on the stage before us. In other words, it is not just the handkerchief
that prompts Othello to his jealous rage. I think a big part of this (as Jillian discusses) is the dominant cultural stereotype of the unfaithful wife (an idea that Brabantio plays on immediately (as Brianna notes). Ania Loomba makes a point of this, saying that the ideology of gender in the play is very important in helping us understand how the tragedy unfolds.