In Othello, Shakespeare is able to show what a man in power can truly be and how society molds him. Status, war, love, religion, and race all molds the self-titled protagonist to his inevitable downfall. Through choosing his profession over love, and by succumbing to jealousy through his own insecurities, Shakespeare aims to show that Othello is truly man, and that though he is from a noble and humble background, one can grow to doubt themselves and the world around him, and to make decisions that can not be reclaimed. Othello begins with our protagonist recounting his feat in stealing the heart of his love with whom he has eloped with, Desdemona. Testifying to the duke, it’s evident to him that the stories that he has told from his military endeavours branded heroism on her so strong that she could not help but fall for him. The duke, only hearing about Othello telling these stories, is even swayed.
as such, Othello being deemed an outsider from venice and referred to as a “moor” due to his muslim heritage, hides his nobility from that of the venetians of high status as a means for him to pull himself up through his own boot straps. A prestigious sword for hire, Othello’s militarial conquests alone boasts his status and allows him to find a place in Venetian society, yet he still views his previous noble stature as lesser than others. Because of his elopement with Desdemona, he views himself as lower than her status, being the daughter of a congressman, partly because he knows that he will not earn the consent of her father from his heritage, and also that of him being of lower stature; the political sphere having influence over military, military over men, and men over women.
This lack of clarity between Othello’s status as an important Militarial figure and as a husband to Desdemona only adds further conflict when the two move to Cyprus. With the war seemingly over, not due to Othello’s strong might and courageousness but a mere storm at the hands of nature, Othello is left in Cyprus seemingly to enjoy the newlywed life and to remain as on call whenever needed by the military. However, due to Iago’s meddling, Othello begins to doubt his own masculinity, and questions his wife’s fidelity. Desdemona, having her heart been won over by Othello’s tales of his life as a mercenary, creates discontent within Othello, as the lack of ongoing conflict reduces himself of a purpose. When Iago plants the seeds of thought that Desdemona has been having an affair with Michael Cassio, that is enough for Othello’s neurosis to question his masculinity, and whether he can satisfy his wife. Through this, Othello is quick to jump to conclusions, fixated on an idea given to him by a man he thinks to trust; never bothering to allow himself to set his status aside and seek the account of his wife, Cassio, or even of himself. Othello’s self inquiry is impeded as Iago’s grasp has succeeded in causing self doubt.
Having won her hand in marriage by recounting the many tales of his youth that energized her heart, he now doubts his vernacular amongst the many studly venetians, and sees his growing age in comparison to the many suitors as a detriment to their marriage over time.”Haply for I am black, And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberers have; or for I am declined Into the vale of years—yet that’s not much— She’s gone. I am abused, and my relief Must be to loathe her.” (III.iii.263-268) This disposition of self doubt is what eventually leads to his downfall, as he is too afraid to listen to the demands of his wife to ask for Cassio’s job back, to confront Cassio himself; and not performing his duty as General to Venice, and that of a husband to Desdemona that leads to scheme concocted by him and Iago to murder his wife Desdemona, and Michael Cassio.
Othello’s self doubt is stemmed from the increasing pressure Iago puts on him, through using Desdemona’s own persuasion for their union against him, the seed has been planted. Othello, having reached the threshold of doubt, admits he is at a path of no return. Through Desdemona’s losing of the handkerchief, and the preceding argument by her pressuring of the rehire of Cassio, Othello has succumbed to Iago’s neurosis, while Desdemona has lost the vision of her husband’s humanity, her own persuader feeding ideas of her significant other via Emilia, stating: ‘Tis not a year or two shows a man.
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food; They eat us hungerly, and when they are full, They belch us. What becomes of Othello’s ultimate downfall, and the conduit for action, however, is when he is overridden with so much stress that he falls into epileptic shock. In a debilitating and powerless state, Othello is left on a vision quest in which his anxieties manifest. During this, Iago, who Othello has been led to trust, watches over and “cares” for him.
As Cassio enters, he uses this as fuel for the fire, having him seen Othello in this weakened state, as Iago later states to him, “Whilst you were here, o’erwhelmed with your grief–A passion most unsuiting such a man– Cassio came hither, I shifted him awayAnd laid good ‘scuse upon your ecstasy;” (IV.i.78-80) This, along with Cassio’s finding of the planted handkerchief, is what causes Othello to set his resolution on the disposal of his wife and assumed interloper. After the murder of his wife, and Iago’s plan has come to light; Othello has been detained, and is about to be stripped of his service and put on trial. In protest, Othello would rather die than to be dishonorably discharged, his warrior heritage his only saving grace in the alien venetian world, as his faith in christ is ambiguous at best.