Home Research PapersEmerging Desdemona and Brabantio. From this we can deduce

Emerging Desdemona and Brabantio. From this we can deduce

Emerging from the ruins of Ancient Greece, the genre of tragedy made its way into the Renaissance and inspired the Italian Giovanni Battista Giraldi into writing the 1565 novel of Cinzio. About 40 years later, this novel was the foundation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works: The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Therefore Othello follows the conventions of the structure of a traditional Greek Tragedy.The structure of Othello is comparable to that of a Greek tragedy. The typical Greek tragedy starts off with  a prologue which usually consists some dialogue which introduces the topic of the play to come, as well as the location and further characters. This prologue can be found in Othello. The first act begins with Roderigo and Iago entering the play. Their dialogue explains where the play takes place, namely Venice, as does it show the conflict which will be present in the story. Iago does this by informing the audience that “I do hate him” (Act 1, Scene 1) where Iago is “I’ and “Him” is Othello. This hatred for Othello is explained as Iago says: “But Cassio’s been chosen over me. My career is cut short by some bookkeeper, even though the general saw my fighting skills first-hand in Rhodes and Cyprus.” This quote also introduces the character of Cassio as is in line with the purpose of a Greek prologue. Furthermore, the conflict between Iago and Othello regarding Desdemona and between Desdemona and Brabantio. From this we can deduce that the first part of Othello does conform to the characteristics of a Greek tragedy since the prologue has the same characteristics as a Greek tragedy. This is a typical start of a play which would be a reason for Shakespeare to copy this style of beginning as it would be familiar for the audience.  The prologue is followed up by the rising action which has the role of further developing the conflict(s) that is/are introduced in the prologue as well as introducing minor characters which have a supporting role. In Othello this would correspond with the second and third act. In Othello, this can be found in the action of Othello leaving to Cyprus, to help and defend against the Turkish invaders. This means that the place of the play shifts, which ensures the development of the story, which is crucial in a Greek tragedy. The location of Cyprus gives the possibility to include new characters or events that can influence the play. For example, Desdemona and Emilia bond together while traveling to Cyprus. Which is shown by: “IAGO: (…) you’d be sick of her by now. DESDEMONA: On the contrary, she’s a soft-spoken woman.” (Act 2, Scene 1). Desdemona protects Emilia from the vile words of Iago and helps her. The fact that Desdemona and Emilia bond ensures that Emilia is close enough to help Cassio and Desdemona talk to each other (Act 3, scene 1) as well as steal Desdemona’s handkerchief (Act 3, Scene 3). These are key events which ultimately lead to Desdemona’s death. The new location of Cyprus ensures the possibility for new events which lead to the climax, this is crucial for the rising action.   There is a slight difference, though. In a Greek tragedy, there is a tragic hero which has to endure the events of the play. In Othello there seems to be an absence of a tragic hero. Of course, Othello seems to be the hero and he does possess two tragic flaws: his jealousy in regards to Desdemona and his naivety. He is however, not of noble status or greatness. Although, he is seen as such, it does not correspond completely with the characteristics of a Greek tragedy. A possible explanation for this could be Shakespeare’s urge to experiment, as is also demonstrated by his amount of invented words. For example, the word “Addiction” which can be found in Act II, Scene II of Othello. To conclude, even though Othello has some slight experimental sides it does go with the traditional Greek rising action. The final acts of Othello follow the structure of a Greek tragedy. The end of a Greek tragedy consists of two parts, the climax and the denouement. The climax is the crown of the rising action as all the build-up tension and conflict explodes in a single moment which is the most memorable event of the play. For Othello, this would be Othello whose tragic flaw has been exploited by Iago, which eventually leads to Othello killing his beloved wife Desdemona. This is also an example of dramatic irony, as Iago wanted Desdemona for himself but essentially causing her death by trying to make sure she is “available”. The killing of Desdemona is preceded by a heated discussion where Othello calls Desdemona a “whore”, “as faithful as flies in rotten meat” and “brazen whore” (all in Act 4, Scene 1). The events following the climax are the denouement. In this phase, Iago kills Emilia, Othello takes his own life and the audience is left with some time to process the climax. This is the end of the play and the audience has just witnessed the key events. In this regard, Othello has the exact conventions as the Greek tragedy. These conventions are a proven concept and seem to work almost always. The author used these characteristics since they were a proven concept and satisfy the audience.  To conclude, the prologue of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice has the same conventions as the Greek tragedy prologue. This was done by the author since it is typical to do and give the audience a feeling of structure. The parode has however, more room for experimentation and freedom for the author. Shakespeare utilises this room to keep the audience entertained and surprise them. The end of the play follows the guidelines of a Greek tragedy again, providing a clear structure for the audience and completing the play in a traditionally proven way.


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