An essay on the dramatic irony in Othello is about the element of irony that is portrayed in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. The play was first performed in 1604 and it acted as a pioneering exploration of social injustice in the society at the time.
Summary of the play Othello
Othello is a heroic black general in the service of Venice, who appoints Michael Cassio and not Iago as his chief lieutenant. Because of jealousy for Othello and Cassio, Iago decides to ruin Othello’s life by coming up with an evil plot to cause their downfall. Iago’s evil plot involves Othello’s wife Desdemona and Cassio being in a love affair that he knows very well that Othello will not receive well. Iago carries out this evil plan with the help of his wife Emilia and a fellow malcontent, Roderigo.
Iago begins his evil plan by using a handkerchief that belonged to Desdemona to destroy Othello’s life. Iago’s wife, Emilia, found the handkerchief when Othello dropped it without knowing. He tells Othello that Desdemona gave the handkerchief to Cassio as a token of their love for each other.
To emphasize these lies, Iago manipulates Othello by asking him to eavesdrop on a conversation between himself and Cassio that is in fact about Cassio’s Mistress, Bianca. This conversation made Othello think they were speaking about Desdemona instead of Bianca, Cassio’s mistress. Iago’s lies with these small “proofs” proved to Othello that Desdemona and Cassio’s love affair was true.
Iago manages to convince Othello that being an older black man, his beautiful, white, Venetian wife will find him unattractive. Othello responds to this by killing his wife, Desdemona. Struck with guilt, Othello later finds out from Emilia, Iago’s wife, that his wife was blameless and that it was Iago’s lies that caused him to kill his wife. Othello believes Emilia and immediately regrets his actions and decides to kill himself because of guilt. Before he goes ahead with the suicide, he asks everyone to remember him as the one who loved not wisely but too well.
Types of Irony in Othello
Dramatic irony in Othello plays a very significant role. Iago’s plan from the beginning was to ruin Othello’s life because of jealousy. All the characters in the play call Iago the honest Iago because they all believed that he was trustworthy. In the whole play, Iago manipulates the surrounding people by telling them lies.
This is because Iago thought Othello would choose him to be his lieutenant, but Othello decides to choose Michael Cassio instead. This action by Othello makes Iago so angry that he vows to destroy Othello. Below are the various types of irony portrayed in the play Othello;
Dramatic irony in Othello
The dramatic irony in Othello is one that is built-in speeches or drama. It is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the play. An example of dramatic irony in Othello’s play is in Act ii scene iii.
Quote One: Summary of Act ii scene iii
In this scene, Iago sets his plan into motion. His primary goal is to convince Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. Iago begins by tricking Cassio into getting drunk so that he can easily manipulate him. He then gets Roderigo to insult Cassio, and this makes Cassio so mad that he chases Roderigo around the streets. Othello’s reaction to this disorderly conduct is to demote Cassio as his lieutenant and instead appoint Iago as his lieutenant. Despite all that Iago has done, he tells Cassio to approach Desdemona so that she can speak to Othello to reinstate him as the lieutenant.
Dramatic irony in Act ii Scene iii ” Honest Iago”
Dramatic irony in this scene is shown when, at the beginning of the play, Othello says that Iago is ‘most honest’. The audience later comes to discover that Othello’s reference to Iago as ‘honest Iago’ is not true.
With this scene, we see Iago lie his way to becoming a lieutenant for Othello. The dramatic irony in this scene makes Shakespeare’s play have suspense since the audience understands Othello has made a mistake in trusting Iago.
Quote Two: Page 54 Line 210
The second instance of dramatic irony is Othello is shown when Iago tells Othello what transpired that Cassio became drunk. Iago states ” I had rather cut this tongue from my mouth/Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio”.
The dramatic irony in this scene is that the audience understands Iago’s plans to get his position as lieutenant. Yet, Iago is claiming to wish Cassio the best while trying to defame him to Othello.
Quote Three: Page 58 line 336
Iago quotes ” How am I the Villain…”.
In this scene, dramatic irony appears when Iago tries to justify his actions by his predictions of what the future might hold. The audience knows Iago is the villain for his cunning and deceitful behavior towards the other characters.
Situational irony in Othello
This kind of irony occurs when incompatibility appears between a person’s expectations of something to happen and what happens instead. It is a type of irony where a situation does not happen according to the expectation of the audience. The outcome of the situation contradicts what was supposed to happen.
Examples of situational irony in Othello are;
Quote One: Page 59 Line 359
Iago states ” Thou know’st we work by wit and not by witchcraft…”.
The context of this quote is when Iago is speaking to Roderigo, who is playing along with Iago’s plans without knowing. Cassio had been stripped of his title and Iago advised him to speak to Desdemona for help.
Situational irony in this scene is showed by the fact that Iago is playing the strings on Roderigo to get him to do Iago’s dirty work. Iago manipulates Roderigo by giving him false information, which makes him follow his every command. The purpose of using the word witchcraft in this scene is to show that Iago’s plans are to manipulate people to do his dirty work, like the way witches use charms to control their characters.
Verbal Irony on Othello
Verbal irony can be described as one where someone says one thing and means another. The person uses words to convey a message but means the opposite of what he says.
Some examples of verbal irony in Othello are;
Quote One: Page 55 Line 255
Iago states, ” As I am an honest man, I had thought you had received some bodily wound.”
In this scene, Iago reassures Cassio that there is more to a man than their reputation.
Verbal Irony in this scene
Iago wants to convince Cassio that a man’s reputation is not important as bodily his well-being, which the audience knows is not true. The audience knows that Iago’s plan from the beginning was evil.
Quote Two: Page 52 Line 168-176
Iago states, ” I do not know: friends all but now, even now, in quarter, and in terms like bride and groom….And would in action glorious I had lost, Those legs that brought me to be a part of it!”
In this scene, Cassio and Roderigo are fighting drunk. Montano tries to interfere but gets hurt by Cassio. Roderigo runs away when Othello comes to end the fight and asks Iago to explain the fight.
Verbal irony is shown in this context when Iago tells Othello that he does not know the cause of the fight when in reality he is the one who caused it. He goes further to describe how horrific it was and wished he had never come across it.
Conclusion to the Dramatic Irony in Othello
The Dramatic irony in Othello has a significant influence in describing the tragedy Of Othello in the play. Iago hates Othello, and this makes him the villain in Othello’s Story. Iago plans to use Desdemona and Cassio as his pawns for revenge against Othello.
He ruins Othello’s life with his devious plan to implicate Cassio and Desdemona in a love affair that leaves Othello a jealous man. Othello kills his wife because of jealousy and is overtaken by grief. Othello begins to suspect that Iago has not been honest with him when Emilia confesses to Othello about Iago’s evil plot against his wife.
Several uses of irony have been shown to play a significant part in this play. Dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony have been used severally throughout the plot of the play. Other Shakespeare’s plays, like Romeo and Juliet, have borrowed from Othello since the plot and irony used in both plays are almost similar.
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