Essay about Othello’s Copious Imagery

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Othello’s Copious Imagery

Let’s look into Shakespeare’s drama Othello and admire the proliferation of imagery with which the playwright has decorated the play.

In the Introduction to Shakespeare’s Othello: The Harbrace Theatre Edition, John Russell Brown describes some “splendid images” in the play:

The elaborate soliloquy spoken by Othello as he approaches his sleeping wife (V.ii.1-22) contains some splendid images, such as “chaste stars,” “monumental alabaster,” “flaming minister,” and “Promethean heat,” but its key words are simple and used repeatedly: cause, soul, blood, die, light, love, and weep. In his last sustained speech (V.ii.338-56), the images are fewer and approached through the simplest
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Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” describes the types of imagery used by the antagonist when he “slips his mask aside” while awakening Brabantio:

Iago is letting loose the wicked passion inside him, as he does from time to time throughout the play, when he slips his mask aside. At such moments he always resorts to this imagery of money-bags, treachery, and animal lust and violence. So he expresses his own faithless, envious spirit, and, by the same token, his vision of the populous city of Venice – Iago’s “world,” as it has been called. . . .(132)

After Brabantio and his search party have reached the Moor, he quiets their passions with imagery from nature: “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.” The senator, thinking that his daughter has been “enchanted” by the Moor, employs related imagery in his confrontation with the general: “If she in chains of magic were not bound,” “foul charms,” “drugs or minerals / That weaken motion,” “practiser of arts inhibited,” “prison,” “bond-slaves and pagans.” In the essay “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello” Robert B. Heilman comments that “the pervasiveness of images of injury, pain, and torture in

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