Thursday, March 28, 2013

S6: Othello Task

Here's the Critical Essay task we have been looking at:

Choose a play in which a character shows signs of instability at one or more than one key point in the play.
Explain the reason(s) for the character’s instability and discuss how this feature adds to your understanding of the central concern(s) of the play. (from the 2012 Higher)

Example Introduction
Othello, the title character of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, is a noble general who fractures as a result of the perfidious actions of Iago, his trusted adviser. As the play progresses, we see Othello doubt the fidelity of his wife, Desdemona, and, ultimately, murder her in her wedding bed. As Othello becomes increasingly unstable, Shakespeare shows us the strength of his love as well as the poisonous influence of jealousy.

Example PEAR Paragraph
By the final scene of the third act, Othello demonstrates his instability when he demands Desdemona produce the strawberry-spotted handkerchief. Having been convinced by Iago that his wife has been unfaithful, Othello accepts the circumstantial “proof” of the absence of her handkerchief (a gift from Othello) as an indication of Desdemona’s infidelity. Confronting Desdemona, and certain that she does not have the handkerchief, he asks her to show it to him. Shakespeare’s characterisation of Othello is striking because his aggressive, bullying behaviour contrasts with the noble, articulate character established during the opening act of the play. During the first act, Othello spoke eloquently, telling of his devotion to Desdemona and giving her a place to speak in the Venetian court. Here, however, he badgers his wife, pressing his attack and, essentially, emotionally torturing her – he knows that she cannot produce the handkerchief. This dramatic shift in character is due to the perfidious actions of Iago: by convincing Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful, Iago is able to exact his revenge upon him. This helps us to understand the destructive power of jealousy: the “green-eyed monster” has transformed the personality of Othello and threatens to destroy his marriage. Even the most solid of relationships, Shakespeare suggests, can be torn asunder by the very suggestion of betrayal.

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