I read Othello for AP Language and these are just a few observations:
- I am of the camp – because there are such literary camps that all your English teachers will deny being a part of, while averting their eyes – that feels pity for ‘the bad guy.’ I am that kid who raises one hand slowly as the other hand half covers her eyes to fend off the scowls when she slowly says, “I bet [the evil villainous person] had a rough childhood – surely no one loved him – how else could he be so mean?”
- It is possible to feel pity for such a villain, while also wanting – just a little itty bit – to inflict massive damage on him/her.
- It is also possible, combined with 1 & 2, to blame someone else besides the aforementioned villain for the impending doom and the overall destruction of the ending.
Therefore, keeping in mind the previous observations, it is with much trepidation that I assign blame. However, in Othello, it is inevitable. Iago, a villain from the get-go, weaves a spidery web — like a well-connected politician, he rises in the ranks of ‘Trusted’ very quickly. He sets his traps carefully, hidden in the dark so the poor creatures below step unknowingly into them. With his advice, they close the trap on themselves – surprised, when the cuffs rattle at their feet. That’s how, in the end, Othello has killed his own wife; Roderigo has been quite literally stabbed in the back; and Emilia has been punished for being kind.
Our instinct is to blame Iago. We must, however, consider the other possibility.
Not to get too up-close-and-personal, we will always, as human beings residing on Earth, face foes. These foes are out there to get you. They go by different names – greed, pride, jealousy. Their one job is to ensnare you. Therefore, when Greed comes knocking on your unlocked door, you must tell him, “No, I do not need that – I do not need you.” When Pride shoves you into a corner and says, “You are better, smarter, cooler, bigger than them,” you must stare back at Pride with humility in your eyes, only to disagree. And as it is applicable in Othello, Jealousy will sneak up to you, kick you to your knees, and say, “O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” When Jealousy does this, you should not say, “Oh yes, jealousy; I will fix this jealousy by killing people!” No, you calmly look Jealousy in the eye and say, “I will go fix this problem by discovering the truth.”
All personification aside, I do believe that the unhappily-ever-after of Othello is largely on the shoulders of Othello. He falls victim to a falseness that is in his power to fix. However evil the foe is, truth will win out – if you find the truth before you kill someone, that is.