English Speech: The Power of Language in Othello
Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist, once said:
“Words, so innocent and powerless…when standing in a dictionary, how potent for good or evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
This quote can be directly related to the play Othello, in which Shakespeare uses language to inform, persuade, manipulate and romance both the characters and the audience throughout the play.
Shakespeare uses soliloquies, asides and diction to inform the audience. The language used in Iago’s soliloquies and asides informs the audience of Iago’s true feelings and plans. Consequently, the audience begins to feel involved ...view middle of the document...
” This creates two effects: it presents Othello as honest and believable while accounting for possible mistakes. Othello also uses repetition of the words “little” and “true” which adds eloquence to his speech whilst continuing to re-enforce the main arguments. In addition, Othello uses rhetorical questions to engage with the government, forcing them to consider his point and resulting in successful persuasion. Another example of language of persuasion is in the final scene where Emilia persuades Othello of Desdemona’s innocence. She says “that handkerchief thou speak’st of I found by fortune and did give my husband.” In this way Emilia is using evidence to persuade Othello.
Moreover, Shakespeare uses language to manipulate which is a major component of the play Othello. It is through this language that the plot is developed and themes of chaos, jealousy and appearance vs. reality become apparent, especially through Iago. In the play, manipulation and persuasion are closely related. However, through the use of soliloquies the audience is aware that Iago is using language to manipulate rather than persuade. The play revolves around Iago’s ability to use language to manipulate Roderigo, Cassio and Othello. To do this Iago maintains a “good name”, an “honest” appearance and the “love and duty” of Othello. Iago also uses words of low modality such as “think” which forces Othello to make his own conclusions, resulting in a belief that the allegations are true. In Act 5, Scene 2 Iago makes reference to this technique by saying: “I told him what I thought, and told him no more than what he found himself was apt and true.” Iago...