English Literature » Notes » Conflict in Othello

Conflict in Othello

Othello” is a play which contains many conflicts between the characters. The main conflicts in ‘Othello’ are between friends and foes. Othello’s inner conflict, cultural and racial differences which lead to racial judgement and discrimination, to express these conflicts; Shakespeare uses many techniques such as soliloquies, dramatic irony, imagery foreshadowing and symbolism. Amongst the main characters there are many conflicts, however the main reason for most of the conflict if Iago and Shakespeare use the techniques to show us how Iago causes the conflicts.

This also analyzes Othello’s pride, his self conscious nature, his jealousy and his rash behavior. Conflict between the characters especially Iago and Othello is partly portrayed through the use of language devices such as imagery and metaphors animal imagery, sexual innuendo, irony and dramatic irony, repetition, classical and religious allusions. These devices are used to provide insight into the characters relationships, thematic concerns and a wide variety of alternatives reading.

The metaphors and imagery portray how Iago despised Othello and the conflict to come between them. Conflict is also presented through the Binary Opposition, which allowed the audience to see the change within the characters or between characters from one extreme to another. For example, we are able to follow the personal conflict and deterioration through the Binary Opposition of love and hatred as well as rational and emotional. This provides the audience to see how Othello transforms from a rational to an irrational man.

Another example is the Binary Opposition of wisdom and foolishness which illustrates the conflict between Iago and Othello. Other forms of conflict involved in this play are internal which includes hate and identity, external that consists of race, sex, gender and marriage. Adding on there is in international conflict with the Turks and Venice, racial conflict as Othello being the outsider, conflict within marriage which involves Desdemona and Othello as well as Iago and Emilia and filial conflict within the family with Desdemona and her father.

Internal Conflict: Jealousy, Hate and Identity

Why else do men hate each other? Ego & Envy.

Othello picks Cassio for promotion instead of Iago which hints Iago is jealous of Cassio. Iago is the embodiment of pure evil, and enjoys having power over others, which also makes him jealous of Othello; his life, his position, his beautiful wife. It is also been said that Iago was a homosexual, and that he hates Othello because he couldn’t have Othello to himself. Iago frequently declares his ‘love’ for Othello by stating that he is ‘bound to (Othello) forever’ by ‘heaven’s light’.

External Conflict: Racism

Othello was ‘dark/swarthy’ and other characters looked down on him for this. He was a black man from Northern Africa and his status in Venice is complicated as both an insider and outsider. However, even though he is from a foreign culture he is the commander of the Venetian military system which is where he gets his respects from. Iago’s comments against Othello are racist and denigrating. “The old black ram is tupping your white ewe’ refers to the eloping of Othello and Desdemona as both degrading and racist. Iago also refers to Othello as a ‘Barbary Horse’ in other words an ‘uncontrolled sexual beast’.

Interpersonal Conflicts: Iago vs. Othello

The conflict between Iago an Othello is many between the two but only one person can see what’s happening. Iago constantly manipulates, lies and plots to ensure that he can down-grade Othello, because of his hatred for Othello that he wasn’t granted the position of Othello’s second in command. Until the end of the play, Othello trust Iago and therefore does not realize the conflict of which he is in.

Othello takes an emotional plunge from a valiant, respected military general, whose love for Desdemona runs deeps and true to a jealous husband who becomes emotionally distressed. Othello becomes metaphorically poisoned by Iago. The conflict arises from the insecurities that Othello faces, he so easily doubts the love of Desdemona as he could never truly grasp why she loved him. These insecurities as well as the self-ignorance lead Othello to his personal conflict.

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