Othello: Analysis Of Literary Techniques

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The linguistic and literary techniques used in William Shakespeare’s Othello enhance the meaning of the plot and characters. It is a tragedy-based play that explores many ideas and themes essential to the story using language employed throughout the scene shown in Act 1 scene 3.

A meeting that takes place between the senators and the Duke, in which The Duke gives the responsibility of protecting Cyprus to Othello. There is also a subject of discussion in providing justice to Brabantio, whose daughter has been captured. The senators become aware that this issue is more personal than the public interest. If the accusations are proven, the Duke says that ‘the bloody book of the law, you shall yourself read in the bitter letter, after your sense’ (line 406-408). This speech act matches the royal style of language that suits the Duke’s sayings because they are typical acts of kings and rulers. His evocative sounds imperative which summons the actions by the information Brabantio had conveyed. The alliteration of “bloody book” is a formality of him passing judgment to the culprit by law, followed by the modal verb “shall” suggesting predictability. It is important that we comprehend the language of Shakespeare to wield an influence on our understanding, Salmon and Burness (1987); the lexical phrases “bloody”, “bitter” connote negative assumptions they have of Othello. The adjective “bloody” connotes death, murder, inauspicious, symbolising that this “book of the law” will serve legal attention if read by “yourself” or “you.” These pronouns are direct and commanding implying by the tone of the Duke seeming serious and stern, he is the vehement figure based on his language. The one in control of the situation whom Brabantio relies on.

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There is the manner of styles of devices, the great kind, when we use great words, or vehement figures and the small, when we moderate our heat by meaner words, Wilson (1560). Brabantio points at Othello as the culprit, ‘Here is the man: this Moor’ (line 411). As a sentence, it starts normally, “here is the man.” This colloquial negative is sarcastic therefore making the style seem small. However, by its inclined meaning from the stressed imperative “this Moor”, making the audience feel disgusted with Othello, considering we have no knowledge of Othello and his actions; we as well as the duke are hearing of Othello’s changed side for the first time. Brabantio addresses him using the mode “Moor”, he believes nature has made some mistakes because he is not white. Therefore, this becomes a great style, making the duke feel under attack as he trusts Othello, but is now on trial.

Othello’s speech in defence is separated into two parts. The first part of the speech includes the narration of his time in the military and in the second part, Othello tells the stories of how his adventures won the heart of Desdemona. Although Othello pretends to be poorly spoken, his language shows pride. His speech shows what he believes Desdemona’s love to be; she loves him for the stories he tells which fascinate her. ‘The Anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders.’ (line 490) Shakespeare’s language doesn’t always make sense, that is why it is special. They portray irrelevant relationships from words by which relationships do not pertain or are filtered from consciousness, Alexander (2004). Shakespeare using a great word which is long and strange to show how prosopopoeia “Anthropophagi” represents a mythical cannibal who is depicted with their face on their chest and belong to a different race. This is rhetoric as Desdemona amplifies her feelings for Othello connotes him as different. “With a greedy ear devour up my discourse” (line 491). This metonymy of Desdemona’s “greedy ear” has connotations of passion and desire which are animalistic by the verb “devour”, she clearly has sexual desires. Othello’s language wins the Duke over, his speech is full of respect, ‘Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, my very noble and approved good masters’ (line 416-417). He speaks very formally at the meeting respectfully to suggest he would never steal someone’s daughter. The superlative adjective ‘most potent’ is having great influence and power. “Potent, grave, and reverend signiors”, this power of three emphasise the formality in the tone of his speech. The mode of address amplifies his reverence for them, “my very noble…good masters”, this is rhetorical giving an impressive portrayal of himself. Completely dissimilar to what Brabantio represented him as. Shakespeare’s speaking style is complementary to the rhythm of his language Hawkes (1973). “What drugs, what charms, what conjuration and what mighty magic (…) I won his daughter” (line 426-427). The change in tone and stress becomes higher when he starts to question, “what” repeating it three times, this hyperbole increases tension to the audience who are in suspense. Shakespeare has outlined this stirring sentence because the audience’s expectations are gratified by “I won” which delays that act. The semantic field of “drugs, charms, magic” is ironic that his love is greater than any supernatural illusion.

Desdemona’s speech displays how intellectual she is, her words emphasise similarity, “and so much duty as my mother showed to you” (line 429). The personal pronoun “my” clarifies her intensity of love that she encourages him “you” a stressed pronoun, to recall the love he had for her mother, and to see Othello as the husband he had once been. Repeating the noun “duty” connotes ideas of responsibility and burden, she loves her spouse regardless of colour. Orientation is expressed by terms of address which stand outside the syntactic sentence that are marked in vocative form, Salmon and Burness (1987). She uses modes of address, “my lord” (line 427), “my husband” (line 432), accentuating “my” as her belonging. Ironically from the innocent Desdemona she contradicts the traditional stereotypes associated with the submissive woman. In arguing for her right to accompany Othello to Cyprus, she insists upon the “downright violence and storm of fortunes” (line 501). “Violence” and “storm” are high register phrases that amplify how intensely she loves him. Creating a sense of pathos for the audience who end up feeling sorrow and pity for Desdemona because of her position that she is in.

The Duke’s words of advice to Othello and Desdemona predict trouble between the couple if they do not let criticisms go, here the change of verse into couplets signals the importance of the advice being offered. Since, Othello is written in blank verse and prose, deviations made from communications are for emotional and structural purposes, Salmon and Burness (1987). The duke’s communication that consist of unrhymed iambic pentameters, with five stressed syllables and five unstressed syllables to each line. ‘The griefs are ended (…) which late on hopes depended. To mourn a mischief that is past and gone. Is the next way to draw new mischief on. What cannot be preserved when fortune takes. Patience her injury a mockery makes. The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief; He robs himself that spends a bootless grief’ (line 51-58). Shakespeare varies the pace of his writing to attain specific effects, the words of the Duke are emphasized by the couplet rhyme, which are marked so the audience can regard his stressed lexis.

Iago’s Soliloquy expresses his hatred towards Othello and can manipulate others with ease. He states boldly, ‘I hate the Moor’ (line 728), he uses a very direct and powerful verb ‘hate’ to signify his simple motives that will be hidden by complicated lies and evil plans. The direct verb in this diction is Iago’s way of telling us his plan to destroy Othello. Since this speech is presented in verse, this feeling of hatred comes across at the time of heightened sentiment conveying his detestation of Othello. Iago refuses to addresses him as the “Moor”, by not mentioning his name proves Iago recognises the humanity of Othello, which he has tried to cheapen. ‘Thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets ‘has done my office'(line 746). Iago reveals his inner motive to take down Othello by stating his belief that Othello slept with Emilia, his wife. This foreshadowing depicts what Iago believes Othello has “twixt” his “office”. There has been no evidence of Othello committing this act which shows he has no control on his jealousy.

Iago is only concerned about himself, by the re-occurring pronouns “I”, “my”, “mine.” A scene turns out to be a model for how language functions within the play: communicating by adapting words to create strong awareness, Alexander (2004). Iago reveals his true feelings to Roderigo, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (line 744). Roderigo offensively infers Iago has no antipathy towards him, by mentioning Roderigo as a “fool”, an atmosphere of irrationality and a “snipe”, a bird that fall for traps. The word between “my” and ‘I’ showcases his feelings to others such as Roderigo. “Fool” links the two pronouns together in the sentence which is how Iago exploits other characters. “Ever” is not just one time but has been using people for many years. Iago forms a plan, “double knavery–let me see now…How, how? Let’s see:” (line 751). Shakespeare uses hyphens, colons and ellipsis to show Iago’s thinking, conversing to himself and devising a plan in which he will use other characters to be able to manipulate their emotions as the play develops.


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