As William Shakespeare’s only truly Aristotelian tragedy, Othello has no subplot or comic relief, and, when initially carried out, had little phenomenon in the way of the set or action. The lack of these distractions leave the themes of the play defined and apparent. The story of Othello’s fall from grace can show the audience three essences, how jealousy has dreadful repercussions, how innocence is little protection against these consequences, and how revenge can damage those who seek it. These styles are revealed through the characterization and action.
Othello reveals the audience the harmful results of jealousy through the actions of Othello himself. He is jealous of his lieutenant, Cassio, because Othello has been led to think that his spouse, Desdemona, is having an affair with Cassio, therefore making him extremely jealous. This jealousy produces a breach of trust in between Othello and his once devoted lieutenant. Othello wishes to kill Cassio and uses devious techniques in order to gain info from Cassio. In Act 4 Scene 1, Othello conceals while Iago pretends to talk with Cassio about Desdemona and then the 2 plot Cassio’s murder. However, damage of commitment is just one of the horrid outcomes of envy, as Shakespeare shows his audience. Othello’s raging jealousy eventually prevents his clear thinking. Through his manipulation, Iago causes Othello’s unmanageable feelings, and therefore rules Othello’s actions. At one point, he becomes so consumed with his feelings that he goes into a seizure. It is almost Othello’s own fault that Iago has such a simple time manipulating him, since Othello never looks for another character’s story or opinion on Iago’s details. Iago states, “I told him what I thought, and informed no greater than what he found himself was apt and true,” (Act 5, Scene2). Othello gets all his details and proof from Iago’s suggestions and even goes so far as to dub him “sincere Iago,” an irony and outright misplacement of trust that eventually costs Othello his life and the life of his wife. He eliminates Desdemona without ever hearing her side of the story. This reveals that Othello’s jealousy produced wonder about and loss of logical thinking, which caused murder.
Throughout the play, Desdemona evolves as the unsuspecting ingénue, the ultimate victim who is unjustly punished. Through her, Shakespeare shows his audience that innocence in no protection against evil. Even in his anger with her, Othello calls Desdemona “a fine female, a reasonable woman, a sweet female!” (Act 4, Scene 1). She is frequently associated with the color white, in contrast to Othello’s association with black, as Iago announces to Desdemona’s daddy, “? an old, black ram is tupping your white ewe,” (Act 1, Scene 1). Purity and innocence are frequently signified through the color white. She is innocent of Othello and Iago’s allegations, as Emilia told Othello, “O, she was heavenly real!” (Act 5, Scene 2). For that reason, Desdemona is depicted as pure and innocent. However, in spite of her righteousness, she is still killed by Othello in the end for the criminal offenses that she did not do, as Emilia reveals Othello, “? thou hast eliminated the sweetest innocent that e’er did raise eye,” (Act 5, Scene 2). Even as she dies, she attempts to get rid of Othello from the blame, for when asked who has injured her, she replies, “Nobody. I myself. Goodbye,” (Act 5, Scene 2).
Both of the primary male characters in Othello look for vengeance for their “wrongs,” and, through their fate, Shakespeare demonstrates how vengeance bounces back to harm those who seek it. Iago, who feels he’s far better certified, is offended by Othello’s appointment of Cassio as his lieutenant instead of himself. Therefore, he seeks his revenge by manipulating Othello into thinking that Cassio is having a romantic relationship with Desdemona. Iago ultimately acquires the lieutenant status he had longed for, but the play does not stop there. Iago’s plan ends up being more complicated and starts to leave his control as other, unforeseen elements enter into play, such as the scarf and Othello’s murder plot for Cassio and Desdemona. Ironically, the lady Iago least anticipated and always ignored, his better half, Emilia, unveils his plot, “You have succeeded, that guys must lay their murders on your neck,” (Act 5 Scene 2). He is stabbed by Othello and loses everything for which he worked. Othello also seeks revenge on his wife for her supposed disloyalty. In doing so, he kills her. When Emilia reveals him his mistake, he stabs himself and dies next to his killed partner, “No chance however this, eliminating myself, to pass away upon a kiss,” (Act 5, Scene 2). Both Othello and Iago are punished for their vengeful plots in the end.
In sum, Shakespeare’s Othello has 3 major styles intertwined into the material of the play; jealousy has dreadful consequences, innocence is no defense versus evil, and revenge hurts those who seek it. These themes are taught through Othello’s character flaw and his resulting failure.