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How is the first scene of ‘Othello’ an effective opening to the play

I follow him to serve my turn upon him. The first scene is effective as it creates an atmosphere of mystery and secrecy; it introduces the main narrative hooks and characters; it uses dramatic irony to involve the audience in the play and to create tension and it clearly represents the views of the Venetian Court. The first scene is set in a street in Venice at night. This creates an atmosphere of mystery and secrecy as the dark setting has connotations of concealment and things not being as they appear.

The theme of deception is set up at the very beginning as Iago and Roderigo scheme in the darkness. The quotation I am not what I am describes this first scene perfectly as not everything is as it appears in the lights of both setting, due to the poor light quality expected at night, and the personalities of the characters. There are several main plotlines for the rest of the play which are created in this first scene. Firstly, there is the narrative of Roderigo being in love with Desdemona and paying Iago to help get them together.

I take it much unkindly that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this. This quotation shows when Roderigo realises Iago has been double crossing him as he knew of Desdemona and Othellos relationship but continued taking money from Roderigo. From this point, the audience knows the character Iagos personality flaws and alerts them to his potential to deceive. Secondly, there is the plotline of Iagos bitter feelings towards Othello which explain his desire for revenge.

Othello is Iagos superior in the army and he overlooked Iago for a promotion. Iago has severely sour feelings about this saying One Michael Cassio Mere prattle without practice in all his soldiership. But he had th election, and therefore, having the character traits he does, Iago plans his revenge. Iago claims that in following him, I follow but myself which shows that his revenge will only be achieved by becoming closer to Othello. The deceit will, when Iagos plan is executed, be another harsh blow for Othello.

The third and final narrative introduced in the first scene is that Desdemona has secretly married Othello. This insults her father, Brabantio, as in Venetian society a girl is her fathers possession until she is given over to her husband and Othello has not been given permission to have Desdemona. Iago tells Brabantio of the marriage in a very crude way claiming that even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. This is said so explicitly to shock and manipulate Brabantio into doing what Iago wants him to do.

The word black refers not only to the colour of Othellos skin but also connotates being evil and dirty whereas white symbolises innocence and purity. Othello and Desdemonas secret marriage will have shocked the audience at the time when it was first performed as not only were mixed race marriage viewed unkindly, but also Desdemona did not conform to the social norm when she married without her fathers consent at a time when women were supposed to be submissive and obey their superior males.

Shakespeare uses dramatic irony at each entrance and exit in the first scene to create tension for the audience and to involve them in the conspacy. Before Brabantio first enters the stage in line 82, Iago and Roderigo are planning how they intend to poison (Othellos) delight about his marriage and ruin his and Desdemonas first night together by telling Brabantio of their matrimony with like timorous accent and dire yell so as to show the urgency of the situation. The audience knows of this vengeful scheme against Othello but Brabantio assumes that he is told out of concern for Desdemonas welfare.

As Brabantio exits the stage at line 144, Iago leaves Roderigo to find the newlyweds and face Othellos wrath alone saying it seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place, to be produced against the Moor which would not only get Iago in trouble but would also spoil his personal plan of revenge against Othello. Roderigo ends up being the one who is blamed for passing on the news of the marriage to Brabantio, even though it was Iago that initially directed him to do so. At this point, only Roderigo and the audience know of Iagos involvement in the scheme which forces the audience to keep his secret and become his ally.

When Brabantio re-enters the stage in line 159, Roderigo carries on with the plan therefore setting himself up for trouble with Othello but also, as Brabantio says Ill deserve you for your pains, gaining himself a reward and respect in the eyes of Brabantio which is proved when he says O would you had had her!. The first scene presents very clear introductions to the characters of Iago, Brabantio and Othello. Iago has four main character traits. Firstly, by befriending Othello when he has an ulterior motive to avenge himself, he proves himself to be duplicitous.

Secondly, he shows his selfishness when he says he admires people who keep yet their hearts attending on themselves. Penultimately, he shows how controlling and manipulative he is with the way he commands people: for example he says to Roderigo Rouse himMake after himProclaim him in the streets just as a director would instruct his cast of actors. Finally, Iago proves himself to have a twisted logic with a moral system that is a complete reversal to that of a good Christian. Iago talks about dutiful servants and says whip me such honest knaves which clearly criticises honesty.

Brabantio is presented as highly influential as he may command at most (houses in Venice). He is very traditional in his morals. In response to Iagos comment that Othello and Desdemona are now making the beast with the two backs, Brabantio says thou art a villain which suggests he does not believe his daughter capable of such an act and even if he did, he disapproves of the insensitive way in which he is told.

Also, he is incredulous to what he is told about Desdemona, What, have you lost your wits? owever, on questioning Roderigo and the mystery man, he is propelled into action, Give me a taper!. Even though Othello does not appear in this first scene, we learn about his personality through what other characters say about him. Iago describes Othello as an arrogant and unjust man. Iago is unhappy as Othello denied his supporters requests, possibly because he knew of Iagos immoral ways and wanted to make a fair judgement, so portrays him as loving his own pride and purposes and providing bombast circumstance with epithets of war to promote Michael Cassio and not Iago.

Brabantio represents Othello as a stereotypical exotic black man who practises black magic. After learning of Desdemonas deceit in marrying Othello, he says is there not charms by which the property of youth and maidhood may be abused? suggesting he believes Othello must have tricked Desdemona into marrying him. However, as both of these character references are made by people who do not particularly like Othello, and in Iagos case despise him, they present some bias and do not give a clear insight into his persona.

Two main social and cultural values of the Venetian court are presented in this first scene: attitudes towards gender and race. Many racial terms are used throughout the scene to refer to Othello including the Moor and thick-lips. It is not surprising that Iago uses derogatory terms when speaking of Othello as his hatred is deeply rooted and intense, however, when Iago talks to Brabantio, he says your daughter and the Moor and Brabantio knows who is being referred to which suggests that this would have been a common term used for black people.

The original audience watching this play would have been unused to a multi-cultural society and would have seen black people as inferior to them so the terminology used is typical of the time but Othello is very non conformist to the limitations of his race for example, he is an officer in the army. It would have been very abnormal for black people to have such a high status so Shakespeare was being very unconventional when he did this. Desdemona is the other character unusual for her time. Women were supposed to be meek and timid and to obey orders.

They were the property of their fathers until passed on to a suitable husband. Daughters were only allowed to marry inside their social class and for money; marrying for love was not an option other than for the working class. The purpose of women was to be the decoration for a man whether it is her father or her husband. Desdemona is atypical as she goes behind her fathers back and secretly marries a black man. Although she is not directly disobeying her father, the fact she is being secretive and humiliating towards him as he has to find out about the marriage from a stranger means she brings shame upon him.

Desdemona also breaks a fundamental rule of being a traditional woman when she thinks for herself. To have planned her marriage without assistance would have been very surprising to the plays first audience. It can be seen, therefore, that the first scene is very effective as an opening to the play as it creates a dark and deceitful atmosphere for the play, it sets up the main narrative hooks for the play, it uses dramatic irony to involve the audience, it introduces the main male characters and their personalities and it explores the values of the Venetian court towards both gender and race.

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