Dramatic Irony in Othello

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Dramatic irony is among William Shakespeare’s best-loved and widely used literary devises. This play relies heavily on irony as means of helping its readers to grasp all hidden nuances. With its help, readers get involved in the story. They are the only ones aware of what is going to happen further in the narrative. In the meantime, main characters are wandering in darkness due to the lack of knowledge about the real world. It’s precisely what happens with the main character. Being a victim of a treacherous plot, Othello is sure that his loyal wife Desdemona is involved in adultery with Cassio, one of his soldiers. The man responsible for this scheme, Iago, is turning Othello against his wife using various tricky maneuvers. He tricks Othello into thinking that Cassio has Desdemona’s handkerchief or that he is boasting of his cunning affair. 

Audience or the readers know this is a blatant lie as Iago reveals his plan to destroy Othello’s life out of envy in the very beginning. And it’s clear that this man isn’t going to stoop to anything trying to achieve that aim. Ironically, Othello’s gullibility makes him trusts every deceitful word that comes from Iago’s mouth. Iago says “My Lord, you know I love you” and he is sincerely convinced by his false loyalty. Othello even calls his servant “Honest Iago” – a tremendous ignorance of his true intentions makes the audience sympathize the general. Powerless to help anyone or change anything, the readers can only anticipate when he will finally find out the truth. As a typical tragic hero, he finds out after the worse already happens. A certain amount of irony can be easily traced in naiveté of other heroes who consider Iago to have the most honest intentions and helping him without seeing the whole picture. They become obedient puppets of a smart manipulator. 

In addition, Shakespeare implements irony to demonstrate a striking gap between the external and internal features of the heroes. In most cases, their inner personalities differ greatly from their “façade”. Looking like a ruthless savage, Othello suffers from much vulnerability connected with his origin and social position. On the contrary, Iago is a perfect model of a decent man who appears to be very good at hiding his crooked nature. And he emphasizes that “I am not what I am” in the play with a particular reason in mind. His skills of manipulation and knowledge of the human nature cause confusion that leads to a false assumption that Desdemona is indeed disloyal. Iago spins his web around the girl diminishing her genuine affection and turning her innocence into a fatal weakness.  

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