Passage 1 paraphrase:

Father,

I’m stuck between two sides on this decision:

You provided me my life and education

Which means I must respect you,

Since I am your daughter and you are my master.

But here’s my husband, so I owe him more respect.

And even my mother showed duty to you before her own father.

This is hard for me, but

I feel that I should be more loyal to the Moor.

(1.3.208-218)

Analysis:

This passage occurs in a conversation between Othello, Desdemona, Brabantio, and the Duke. Othello has married Brabantio, and Brabantio is not happy about it, so he takes the case to the Duke. The Duke rules in favor of Othello, but Brabantio still isn’t happy, so he asks Desdemona where she most owes respect. She answers that she is torn between her father and husband, but she decides she is loyal to her husband first, just like her mother. In this passage, the word “bound” (1.3.210) is being used figuratively, since it is not being used in its literal meaning.

Passage 2 paraphrase:

I will put this napkin in Cassio’s house

And let him find it. Very unimportant things

To jealous people are as strong as

Full proof. This may do something for me.

Othello is already changing because of my poisonous ideas

Dangerous ideas are inherently poisonous

At first, they don’t taste bad

But a little later they get into your blood.

And they burn with unquenchable fire.

Look, here he comes!

(3.3.369-379)

Analysis:

Iago says this monologue as he is crafting his plot. Iago has just had Emilia, his wife, steal Othello’s napkin, which Iago puts in Cassio’s house as false proof of an affair between Cassio and Desdemona (Othello’s wife). Iago does this to try to get revenge on Othello, Cassio, and several other characters. In this passage, Shakespeare uses several metaphors. One of these phrases is the comparison between “trifles light as air” to “proofs of holy writ” (3.3.370-372). He is saying that when a jealous person hears things, even if they are completely not relevant, he will take them as seriously as if God had said them. Another metaphor compares dangerous ideas to poison. At first it doesn’t taste that bad, but once it’s inside the body, it attacks. The pain of death by poison is also compared to “the mines of sulfur” (3.3.378), which refers to an unquenchable fire.

 

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Othello Close Reading Analysis by Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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