The sample essay on Othello Power deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
Whilst there are many types of power one can hold in society, these all vary in influence. Such is the case in Othello for the most part, since we see examples of authorial, military, sexual and oratory power to different degrees. However, although many of us would consider the former to be the most important within the play, due to the malevolent nature of Iago this turns out to be otherwise.
The authorial power of Othello stems from his position in Venice as a military commander. This in itself is also an important power; without Othello’s skill in warfare he would never have any influence in Venice at all because of his skin colour, seeing as Moorish mercenaries were a common sight even in Italy. As a result Othello is able to take command in Cyprus and be shown a lot of respect, such as when he disciplines Cassio in Act II Scene iii for his drunken behaviour: ‘…Cassio, I love thee/But never more be officer of mine/…I’ll make thee an example’ (229-30, 32) .
What Are The Kinds Of Power
Cassio is extremely shocked and appalled with his demotion, for it has resulted in the loss of his reputation – ‘the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial’- which indicates that he holds his superior in high regard to the point of hiring a clown and musicians to seek Othello’s mercy. If Othello did not have clear authority over Cassio, then the latter might have used his noble upbringing and race and disregard his demotion and openly criticize him, but Cassio instead shows nothing but respect to Othello and his wife.
Yet authority over people can count for nothing in Othello too. Brabantio is a key example of this; as a respected Venetian statesman he expects his daughter to obey him, which of course was a typical patriarchal attitude in Renaissance society. It was natural for him to believe that Desdemona had been “bewitched” by Othello for her to fall in love and marry a Moor, especially when she was ‘so opposite to marriage that she shunned/The wealthy curled darlings of her nation’ – let alone a supposedly uncouth dark-skinned general. Indeed, Desdamona’s confession that she does love Othello is a nervous one, since she mentions her “divided duty” between father and husband:
…You are Lord of all my duty;
I am hithero your daughter. But here’s my husband
And so much duty as my mother showed
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due the Moor my Lord (I.iii.182-186)
Consequently, Brabantio is deeply offended by his daughter’s supposed deceit and delivers a line that would be brought up by Iago when Othello begins to lose trust in his wife: ‘She has deceived her father thus and may thee’. The basis for this allegation is Desdemona’s cheating on Othello, and is an example of the sexual power present in the play. Desdemona does think she holds prowess over Othello; when she appears to see what was happening in Act II Scene iii Othello is at first angered at her being roused from sleep, but then remains calm as he guides Desdemona back to bed: ‘All’s well now sweeting; come away to bed’ (233).
Othello’s calm is significant in that the couple were disturbed on their wedding night and so he had reason to be furious at Cassio, but he was composed for Desdemona’s sake. Furthermore, she uses her closeness to Othello in an attempt to get Cassio reinstated as lieutenant: ‘Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do/All my abilities in thy behalf…I will have my Lord and you again/As friendly as you were’ (III.iii.1-2, 5-6). Conversely, it is this request that causes Desdemona to fall under suspicion of cheating, and when asking Othello to meet with Cassio her constant appeals appear to have an ambigious tone that Iago manipulates:
What! Michael Cassio,
That came a-wooing with you, and so many a time
When I have spoke of you dispraisingly
Hath tane your part, to have so much to do
To bring him in?’ (Act III, iii, 68-74)
Iago’s oratorical skill is the most dominant type of power in Othello, as he uses it to great effect on several characters. The first person influenced is the unfortunate Roderigo, who is brought several times round to Iago’s train of thought; firstly in Act I when he is on the verge of committing suicide, to which Iago bombards him with regular prose (instead of blank verse) on how that is a foolish idea, and again in Act IV when a largely ignored Roderigo begins to wonder if Iago is really helping him to attain Desdemona:
Why, now I see there’s mettle in thee, and even from this instant do build on thee a better opinion than ever before. Give me thy hand, Roderigo. Thou hast taken against me a most just exception; but yet I protest I have dealt most directly in thy affair.
Whilst Roderigo thinks he is “using” Iago to win Desdemona, the reverse instead is true. Iago thinks of him as ‘poor trash of Venice’ and that he is just another puppet in his grand scheme of revenge. His contempt is shown through his backstabbing and murder of Roderigo in Act V Scene i when the plan to kill Cassio backfires. Othello also trusts Iago a lot, referring to him with the common epithet ‘Honest Iago’, and this great trust is what results in jealousy of Desdemona and Cassio as well as the belief she is cheating even without irrefutable proof. It is remarkable how Iago only says ‘Ha! I do not like that’ (III.iii.34) to allow the thread of suspicion to grow in Othello’s mind over seeing Cassio hurrying away from Desdemona.
In turn, Othello is an easy victim in his trust of the ensign since he does not have excellent rhetoric skills, and his unhealthy trust in Iago affects his language, going from the eloquent man introduced in Act I Scene ii to the coarse person halfway through Act III Scene iii: ‘All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven;…Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!’ (446,448). When Othello regains his nobility in the last scene, the destruction he has partially caused has already been revealed to everyone who once respected him.
So we can see how, despite his lower ranking and lack of physical power, Iago is able to bring almost all the characters to death or ruin with no mercy. This shows that different types of power manifest themselves depending on how that person recognises and uses them to their advantage.