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Topic : Othello. Choose a play in which there is a scene which provides a clear turning point in the drama. Explain why it is a turning point and go on to discuss the importance of the scene to your appreciation of the play as a who.

Description :
Act 2. scene 1 lines 138-199
Why this scene is a turning point
1. it shows the characters true qualities: Othello--heroic, Desdemona--loyal and loving, Iago--evil, Cassio--noble. dramatic irony--the audience recognises Iago's evil manipulation but the characters do not. The characters are neve as posotive again as iago begins his manipulation.
2. Location--a war zone--isolated-away from home. Move from outside threat--Turkish fleet. Internal threat--Iago -builds tension--iago makes us nervous 3. Relationship between othello and Desdemona is at its height--they are in love--it deteriorates after this scene.
4. It shows the extent of Iago's evil. he is mysogymist. The other characters think he is joking but he is clearly not as far as the audience is concerned. Conclusion--sum up each of the 4 points to explain why this is a turning point.

Running Head: Othello





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We find Othello the most "masterly" of Shakespeare's tragedies in its construction. There are virtually no delaying tactics to slow down the action, as in Hamlet where the hero defers revenge, and no subplot to ramify the complications, as happens in King Lear. Acts 2-5, set in Cyprus, form a continuous sequence. While there are some variations in pace -- the slower tempo of the willow scene (4. 3), where Desdemona and Emilia take stock of the situation, balances the low-key sequence in Act 2, scene 1, where Iago exercises his wit before the climactic arrival of Othello in Cyprus -- the momentum in these four acts develops steadily to fulfill Iago's adage "Dull not device by coldness and delay" (2. 3. 388).

Although Othello's dramatic narrative builds convincingly, critics have noted certain inconsistencies in the play's time sequence. John Wilson, writing in Blackwood's Magazine ( 1849-1850) under the pseudonym Christopher North, was the first to develop a theory of double time to account for these apparent contradictions: a "short" time in which Desdemona is murdered on her second night in Cyprus, and a "long" time scheme in which weeks or even months might have passed on the island before the murder takes place. (Kenneth Burke 1951) The first two acts pose no problem. The duration of events in Act 1 is close to stage time, with the rousing of Brabantio, his confrontation with Othello in the street, and Othello's defense in the council chamber all happening in quick succession. Othello and his entourage leave for Cyprus that "very night." Act 2 covers the second half of a single day: following the Venetians' arrival, the Herald announces, at five o'clock in the afternoon, that the populace is free to celebrate the demise of the Turks and Othello's "nuptial" (2. 2. 7); then the scene where Cassio is cashiered begins late in the evening ( Iago informs us "'tis not yet ten o'th'clock" [2. 3. 13-14]) and takes the audience through most of that night.

Enhancing the tragic irony is another key feature: the play's structural inversion of romantic comedy. The conclusion of Act 1 seems to promise a resolution to family difficulties the lovers have encountered; Brabantio, the blocking father, cannot stop their marriage, and the only impediment to social and domestic happiness is the Turkish fleet bearing down on Cyprus. (Robert Heilman 1956) Once the storm has destroyed this fleet and Othello's ship comes safe to harbor (2. 1), it might seem that the "heavens," or comic providence, will allow the "loves and comforts" of Desdemona and Othello to "increase" in a successful union (191-92). But Othello's welcoming speech to his wife marks the high point of his "absolute" contentment.


Iago counterpoints the couple's kiss with his resolve to "set down the pegs that make this music" (198), modulating the action into a tragic key with his malicious resolve to humiliate his master and bring him out of tune. From this point in Act 2, Shakespeare explores the fatal consequences of a possessive passion, not the comic values of forgiveness and tolerance. Whereas the action in A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It moves from the inflexible court to the energizing "green world:" Othello shifts from the civil world of Venice to "warlike" Cyprus, where Iago can work his destructive mischief.

As well as exemplifying this morality play pattern, the three can be seen locked in what Kenneth Burke calls a "tragic trinity of ownership," representing the "principles of possession, possessor and estrangement," as Othello futilely tries to take absolute possession of another human being. We apprehend their triangle as part of an abstract design, the play of ideas in Othello. For although Iago, Othello, and Desdemona appear together as part of a larger ensemble in five scenes (1. 3, 2. 1, 2. 3, 3. 3, and 4. 1), they never interact together physically as a threesome onstage. In Act 1, scene 3, for instance, Iago brings Desdemona into the Senate meeting but remains a spectator while she publicly offers a defense of her marriage to match Othello's. In fact, it is Iago and Othello, not Desdemona and Othello, who communicate most in private, in the two long sequences of the temptation scene (3. 3) and in Act 4, scene 1. Ironically, Desdemona and Othello are truly alone together onstage only in the scene where he murders her (5. 2). Creating another threesome, Emilia accompanies them during their two conversations in Act 3, scene 3 and when Othello challenges his wife over the missing handkerchief in the very next scene.


And although Othello dismisses Emilia in Act 4, scene 2 to guard the door, she apparently overhears his conversation with Desdemona, since she tells Iago in the following sequence, "He called her whore" (119). Fittingly, it is Emilia who breaks up the twosome of the death scene when she insists on being admitted into the bedchamber immediately after Desdemona has been strangled. (Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 1951)

On two occasions, Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia are the characters who make up a trio onstage. Their grouping in Act 2, scene 1, centering on Iago's satiric banter against women as they wait at the quayside for news of Othello, chimes with that of the second part of Act 4, scene 2, where Emilia (no longer as silent) expresses outrage at Othello's verbal abuse of his wife, and Desdemona appeals to Iago to help her win back her lord. Although Desdemona chides Iago as "slanderer" for his antifeminist vignettes in Act 2, scene 1, she is fooled into thinking they belong to his persona as bluff soldier. What should have been a warning for her is not received as such; Desdemona naively turns to her archenemy for support in Act 4, scene 2.


The pattern is similar in Act 2, scene 1. After the high point of Othello's "wonder" at finding Desdemona already in Cyprus comes Iago's low-key prose conversation with Roderigo on how to pick a fight with Cassio (211-84). Iago also moves into prose in his advice to Cassio after the brawl (2. 3. 258-335) and when he reencounters Roderigo toward the end of Act 4, scene 2, this time to persuade him to kill Cassio (170-245). He draws Othello down to his own banal, prosy level after the eavesdropping sequence (4. 1. 171-214), although Othello's cadences -as in the chiasmic balance of "But yet the pity of it, Iago. O Iago, the pity of it" (197-98) -- often raise the level of the dialogue. Two exceptions are the opening scene (1. 1. 1-156), where Iago's self-revelations, like his soliloquies, are couched in blank verse, and his speech at the end of Act 2, scene 3, "How poor are they that have not patience!" (370-82).

Kenneth Burke, "Othello: An Essay to Illustrate a Method", HudR, 4 (Autumn 1951): 165-203
Robert Heilman, Magic in the Web: Language and Action in Othello ( Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1956), p. 212. 
Samuel Johnson, Johnson on Shakespeare, ed. Walter Raleigh ( London: Oxford University Press, 1908), p. 200. 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, chap. xiv, in Donald A. Stauffer (ed.), Selected Poetry and Prose of Coleridge ( New York: Random House, 1951), p. 269.


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