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Animal Imagery In Othello Essay Prompts

Othello Animal Imagery Essay

Animal Imagery

Many authors and play writer have effectively used the comparison of humans and animals which has been interesting to say the least and also a powerful tool. Shakespeare has used this comparison in many of his plays. Even today people see authors and play writers using animal/human comparisons. It is very influential and isn't very difficult to comprehend. In Shakespeare's play Othello, animal imagery is used through the entire play. Animal imagery helped show the characters actual identity. It also gave the play some added drama. Mental vivid pictures were created in the reader's mind, which helped understand the play. It also helps show differences between things and characters. So the animal imagery is a convincing device used during the entire play to further develop the tragic play.

The use of animal imagery helps differentiate the characters from each other. It's demonstrated from the very beginning with Iago. Iago is evil and very manipulative and uses animal imagery right from the beginning. Iago tells Brabantio about what Desdemona has done which was run away and marry Othello. Iago says to him, "…You'll have your daughter/covered with Barbary horse." (I, i, 112-113) Iago wants Othello to seem like the bad guy. Iago wants Brabantio to do something to Othello. Iago's evilness is shown right from the get go and is noticeable during the entire play. His devilish thoughts were particular illustrated by his use of animal imagery. At the beginning Othello and Iago were completely different. Othello was a noble gentleman and was known for his importance. He never compared humans to animals and never talked about animals. It all changed once Iago began to manipulate and lie to him. When Othello's character started to change from good to bad, he started to use animal imagery more and more. After Iago started planted more lies about Desdemona cheating on Othello with Cassio, Othello was talking to himself and said, "O curse of marriage, that we can call these delicate creatures ours/and not their appetites! I had rather be a toad/and live upon the vapour of the dungeon/than keep a corner in the thing I love/ for others' uses." (III, iii, 270-275) In this statement Othello is being very negative towards Desdemona. He said he would rather be a toad, than be in a relationship with her. Othello believes Desdemona is in fact cheating on him and isn't happy about it at all. This is why he would rather be a toad. He is also implying that if he were a toad, he would be in a better situation than he is in now. Othello also talks about living upon the air of a dungeon. Dungeons were typically sewers of castles which shows how hurt and desperate he really is. The quote is...

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The most significant use of animal imagery is in Act I, scene i, and it is used in reference to Othello.

Iago and Roderigo are under Brabantio's window, awakening him to alert him to the fact that his daughter, Desdemona, has run off with Othello.  Under cover of darkness, Iago says:

Even now, very now, an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe. . .

And later:

. . .you'll have your daughter cover'd...

The most significant use of animal imagery is in Act I, scene i, and it is used in reference to Othello.

Iago and Roderigo are under Brabantio's window, awakening him to alert him to the fact that his daughter, Desdemona, has run off with Othello.  Under cover of darkness, Iago says:

Even now, very now, an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe. . .

And later:

. . .you'll have your daughter cover'd with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you. . .[Y]our daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

All of these derogatory images are meant to anger Brabantio, as Iago and Roderigo refer to Othello having sex with Desdemona in an animalistic way.  Throughout this scene, it should be noted, Othello is only ever referred to as the "Moor" or by racial slurs like "thicklips."  All of this is intended to add up to an expectation of who/what Othello is when the audience meets him in Act I, scene ii.  How surprised they are to see a dignified, noble and beautifully well-spoken man arrive onstage, overturning the expectations created by the opening scene..

So, the animal imagery aimed at Othello in Act I, scene i is meant to prepare a false perception of him in the mind of the audience, while also highlighting the prejudiced points of view of Iago, Roderigo and Brabantio.

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