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The Purpose Of Soliloquies In Othello English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1391 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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To understand why soliloquies are used by Shakespeare we must first understand the purpose of soliloquies. In simple terms a soliloquy is solitary thoughts that are expressed verbally by the character, so the audience knows what is going on in that characters head. In essence this means that the audience are able to learn about key plots, but other characters stay naïve to the thoughts in that character’s head.

The word soliloquy comes from the Latin soliloquium – Solus (alone) and Loqui (to speak). i.e. the act of speaking to ones self.

If we looked at what would be classified as drama in today’s society we could possibly use soaps as an example. Many people who study Shakespeare wonder why and how he used soliloquies in his plays. This is very easy to understand when comparing it to modern drama. In a modern day soap, the actors tend to portray their feelings in a very open and expressive way, but humans as we truly know them will keep these emotions to themselves, we do not express them in words but feel them in our thoughts.

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This is the main reason why Shakespeare used soliloquies in his plays, we are able to learn the character’s true thoughts with out the distortion of what they say to other characters. We then learn a lot more about the plot and intentions with less time consumption and no need for lengthy explanations for us to understand the characters true feelings. Therefore soliloquies have a rather large dramatic significance and impact on us as viewers.

In this assignment I am going to be using two soliloquies to give my opinion of there dramatic significance in Othello.

The first soliloquy I will be using for my analysis appears in Act 1 Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play; Othello and is a product of Iago’s thoughts.

This soliloquy is the first we encounter from Iago in the play so I believe it is the first instance of dramatic significance we get to learn about as viewers.

So far in the play we have leant that Othello has caused great bitterness towards Iago by promoting Casio as his lieutenant. Iago feels that this is unjust as Casio is nothing more then “a great arithmetician” (a man who knows about things only in theory) where as himself, Iago, has wide military experience, something he indicates by saying “I -of whom his eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds”. He surely believes that he is more applicable for the lieutenants position, and has had an injustice done to him by the moor (Othello).

At this point in the play, we have learnt that Iago is very manipulative, this is shown in one instance, when he gets Roderigo to convince Brabantio to confront Othello about his marriage to Desdemona. As we go to read on we realise that Iago’s plan does not work and the Act finishes with the soliloquy in question, Iago scheming to himself.

The first line of the soliloquy allows the audience to understand one major factor about Iago, he is very money orientated and motivated. As he says “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse”. We learn by this line that he is accustomed to manipulating people when there is the gain of money involved. We then can assume that everything Iago has told Rodrigo about winning Desdemona’s heart back is just a way to fleece him of more gold.

It surely is dramatic irony, the fact that Rodrigo believes that Iago is there to help him, yet we as an audience know differently, as he says “For I mine own knowledge should profane if I would expend with such a snipe but for my sport and profit”. This backs up the fact that he wouldn’t be wasting his time on such a fool unless there was something he could get out of it.

This we learn is his first motive, to “to get his place (Cassio) and to plume up my will in double knavery”.

Although there is indication in the first act that Iago is grievously upset with Othello, in this soliloquy it is enforced by the quote “I hate the moor”. At this, the audience beguine to learn of his second motive. Iago believes that Othello has had an affair with his wife, he has no proof but he feels the suspicion is enough for him to believe it. We know this because he says “It is thought that abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office. I know not if it be true, But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety”. This make that audience believe that although Iago has no proof of this, he will surely plot some kind of revenge, which we later find out to be the happenings of his thoughts and planning.

We learn that Iago plans to make Othello mistrust Cassio. In order for Iago to get the position of lieutenant, he plans to spread a rumour of Cassio being “to be familiar with his (Othello’s) wife”. Because Othello “is of a free and open nature”, Iago believes that Othello will be easy to manipulate.

Due to the audience knowing all this information, they beguine to question the other characters naivety. This builds tension and excitement as the plot thickens, and the character’s rolls develop.

There are a couple things in this soliloquy that should be noted when discussing the soliloquies dramatic significance. For me this is the Imagery produced by similes and metaphors.

Although a writer uses Imagery to enrich description and convey feelings, it is also used to reveal the attitude of the character and to embody themes within the play in ways which engage the audiences imagination. In this soliloquy the audience pick out two clear uses of imagery, one of them being “And will as tenderly be led by th’nose as asses are” and the other being “I have’t. It is engendered. Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to world’s light.

Although both quotes above are similes, “It is engendered” is a metaphor and is another way of saying the plan has been conceived as if it were a baby.

All in all from this soliloquy, we can see that Iago as a character has been a very apt plot maker, we as an audience now know this and are aware of the plays major plot; Iago’s revenge. This is why this soliloquy had major dramatic significance to this first part of the play.

The next and last soliloquy I am going to analyse for it’s dramatic significance to the play comes from Act 3 Scene 3 and is spoken by Othello.

By the time we reach this part of the play, the first soliloquy, by Iago, has had a big part to play in the continuing evolving of the plot. The seed for Othello’s jealousy has been planted and things are getting worse. Iago has been very careful to keep himself unattached from the problems but had allowed others to do his bidding. He uses Roderigo to discredit Cassio by getting him involved in a street brawl, and Iago himself puts it to Othello to watch Desdemona with Cassio.

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At the start of Othello’s soliloquy, the audience can see that Iago’s plan is working. Othello believes that “This fellow’s of exceeding honesty and know all quantities, with a learned spirit of human dealings”. Obviously this was Iago’s intent, to make Othello trust him, as he had said Othello would do. The audience must find this dramatic because they know that Othello is slowly but surely falling into the trap that Iago set in Act 1. Of coarse this is foreboding because they know Iago’s plan is only going to get worse.

Reading through the soliloquy we can tell that Othello is mainly upset, and that is what it is about. He is sharing with the audience, the emotions he is feeling, something he may not be able to convey through mere words to the different characters but rather tell his heart ache to himself and allow us an insight. He uses lines such as “If I do prove her a haggard, though her jesses were my dear heartstrings, I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind to prey at fortune”.This indicates to us that he is a proud man and if he finds it to be true, he would rather suffer a broken heart then allow himself to be dishonoured with her further company.


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