Virtue And Self Respect In Othello

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Virtue and Self Respect in Othello

Between William Shakespeare's philosophical and most expansive tragedies—King Lear and Hamlet —is Othello, his tense and heartbreaking play. Othello is a train ruin that the audience shockingly witnesses, helpless to look away or prevent. This paper discusses the themes of virtue and self respect in Othello.

The sharpest contrarieties are united in this piece: the most high-minded openness and honesty of sentiment, the most confiding respect and innocence, fall a sacrifice to the meanest artifice and depravity; magnanimity and strength of mind, noble manliness, and achievements, whose appropriate place is in the history of the humanity, are through blind zeal “enmeshed” in the slight toils of a low ingenious and a vulgar desire of revenge, associated with a devilish, and, in its fatal consequences, fearful selfishness. Though of all who are involved in the miserable tragedy not one is totally blameless, yet the penalty of their faults appears harsh, not to say cruel:— Desdemona's demise alone fills us with horror. All this jarring dissonance does not, as in Romeo and Juliet, pass off at once into a soothing sweet rounding accord; but we should look to reflection, and a combined consideration of all the several constituents of the main idea, for solace and comfort. If this be the case, if my feelings have not deceived me, we should, on this account, ascribe to Othello a want of sad perfection and completeness, which, as compared with the other tragedies of Shakspeare, should throw into the background a drama which, on account of its undeniable outshine of construction and well-motived action, the English nation has ever regarded as the masterpiece of our poet. (Potter, 62)

Here it is not the bright morning tints of youthful respect, nor the virgin flame of the maiden's full dreaming heart; the sun has now reached his meridian altitude; it is wedded respect—respect of the mature man, who has been tried in the storms of life, and the heartfelt devotion of an accomplished woman, irresistibly attracted not by the false tinsel of youthful beauty and loveliness, but by the sterling gold of manly deeds and virtue. We may almost say, that marriage itself, so far as it has its principle and idea in such a respect, is the subject of the piece. Marriage, so far as it is the chief part and a leading motive in the social development of the human race, is the position of life from which the poet has surveyed the horizon of the miserable view of the humankind and providence. (Vaughan, 28)

In “Othello” respect stands in permanent and organic communion, both with conjugal fidelity and duty, and with self respect, that indispensable attribute of man's life and activity. So much zeal has been shewn upon religous and moral, as well as philosophical considerations, against the so-called phantom of self respect, that we may almost suppose that the spectre had long since vanished before such earnest conjurations, Nevertheless, the traces of its unhealthy influence are daily discernible. This can ...