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12. The struggle between good and evil takes on dramatic form primarily in
Act III, Scene iii, often called the "temptation scene" because
Othello must decide between the forces of good (represented by Desdemona)
and the forces of evil (represented by Iago). References to Hell, and
Satan, and the demonic throughout the play allign Iago with evil-figuratively,
if not literally. And Desdemona's innocence and purity stand for all that
is good. Othello is torn because he can't figure out which is the real
good, and which is evil masking as good: Is Iago a villain pretending
to be honest, or is Desdemona a faithless wife wearing the face of purity?
For a time, evil has all the advantages on its side: Iago knows how to
infect Othello with suspicions that enrage him, while the forces of good
(Desdemona) don't know that the struggle is going on. In the end, however,
after Othello sacrifices himself to the powers of evil by killing Desdemona,
he is redeemed by his recognition of his flaws and his dignified acceptance
of his punishment.
13. Three of the ways loyalty is explored in Othello are 1) loyalty to friends 2) loyalty to spouse and 3) loyalty to duty. The first is represented negatively by Iago; despite a show of devotion to Othello, he is loyal only to himself. On the positive side, Desdemona demonstrates her loyalty to Cassio by pledging her support to him, and Emilia her loyalty to Desdemona by sacrificing her life. Loyalty to spouse is shown by Desdemona's heartfelt defense of Othello, no matter how he treats her. Its opposite is shown by Emilia, who admits that there is a price that she would accept for giving up her loyalty to her husband. Loyalty to duty is embodied both by Othello, who is quick to give up his honeymoon to serve the state of Venice, and by Cassio, who allows drunkenness to make him momentarily disloyal, but who fights mightily to regain his reputation as Othello's trustworthy lieutenant.
14. Here are some of the approaches you might take to answering this
• Discuss Iago's downfall at the hands of Emilia, the last person he would suspect.
• Discuss the disintegration of the powerful Othello at the hands of his ensign, Iago.
• Look at the way Desdemona's "white lie" about her handkerchief contributes to her death.
• Discuss the way that certain acts, done out of kindness, result in misfortune. For example, Cassio's kindness in having a drink with the Cypriots leads to his being fired; Desdemona's generosity to Cassio in pleading with Othello for Cassio's job results in Othello's suspicions.
15. A tragic figure, according to the classic definition, is a person of noble birth whose character is flawed by a weakness that causes his downfall. Othello, while not a prince or king, is descended from royalty, and proves himself worthy as a powerful soldier and a gentle, poetic man. Some think that his flaw is his jealous nature, others feel Othello proves that he is not prone to jealousy. Perhaps Othello's flaw is a passion he cannot control; he is slow to anger, but once he is angered, his passion overwhelms his good sense. Once Iago persuades him that Desdemona is unfaithful, Othello is on a collision course to his doom; he is so overcome with jealous rage that he allows nothing to stand in his way to revenge. He kills his wife as a result of his passion, and eventually himself. The waste of his life, full of promise and noble intentions, represents the tragedy of the play.