These references are predominantly made by Iago. This seemsappropriate for Iago who exhibits the characteristics of poison; they beingfatal and deadly. There are several possible explanations to what motivatesIago: being overlooked for being the lieutenant, the belief that Othelloand Cassio had committed adultery with his wife, though this is neverreally proved; class differences present in the society that made him feelinferior and racial differences. This desire for revenge is so great it”doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw his inwards. ” Iago’s use oflanguage is a primary weapon in manipulating Othello.
By “pouring thispestilence into his ear”, Iago contaminates his thoughts. Once Othellostarts to doubt Desdemona’s fidelity, he is so incredibly driven byjealousy that it leads him to murder her, ironically with poison. Many references are made to animals in the play. Iago usesbeast imagery to express his contempt and to downgrade those he despises. Early in Act 1, he stirs Brabantio’s anger by using crude images of animalsfornicating to inform him that his “daughter and the Moor are now makingthe beast with two backs.
” Such a metaphor is designed to evoke a strongemotional response. In a soliloquy at the conclusion of Act One, Iago says”It is engendered. Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to theworld’s light. ” Shakespeare uses the image of a monster being born as ametaphor for the start of Iago’s evil scheming. It also becomes evidentthat Othello’s mind has been corrupted by Iago’s evil handiwork when he toostarts to use the same sort of animal imagery in his speech. In one scene,convinced of his wife’s infidelity, Othello loses all self-control cryingout “goats and monkeys,” animals traditionally considered lascivious.
There is also a wealth of heaven and hell imagery in Othello. Iago, who isMachiavellian in nature and revels in tormenting others, can be perceivedas the devil personified. Even he himself acknowledges this when he says”devils will the blackest sins put on. . .
suggest at first with heavenlyshows / As I do now. ” Iago’s manipulation of Othello causes him to seeDesdemona as ‘devilish’; therefore she must be brought to ‘justice’. Desdemona, though, is associated with images of light,heaven and purity, thus suggesting her innocence. Even in the last scene asOthello prepares to kill her, he uses a rose as a metaphor for Desdemona. This indicates that her beauty still has an influence over him as well ashis ever present feelings of affection for her.
When at last Iago isexposed as the true villain and just before committing suicide, Othello,using another metaphor, compares Desdemona to a pearl that he has thrownaway. This is one of many times where she is referred to as a pricelessjewel. Throughout the play, the contrast between black and white isalso used as a metaphor for the difference between Othello and the Venetiansociety. Several references to Othello as “an old black ram” and “far morefair than black” indicate that even though he holds the distinguishedposition of a general, the fact that he is black still makes him the’outsider’.
Through the use of imagery and metaphors, Shakespeare is ableto generate a considerable impact on the audience positioning them torecognize the full extent of the tragic outcome as a result of Iago’streachery. The use of these images and comparisons effectively defines thenature of each character and explores central themes such as deception,race and jealousy.