The repeated references to animals convey the wildness of nature as well as how primitive the laws of nature are compared to those of society. The suggestion that laws of nature are the primary forces governing the characters in this play. When animal references are used with regard to Othello, they often reflect the racism both of characters in the play and of Shakespeare’s audience. Many of the sexual and emotional connotations from this play also derive from the symbols given by animals. The topic of animal lust is ever present as well, building the contrast against ideas of love.
“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Iago; Act 1, Scene 1, Line 97
This is one of the very first uses and appearances of animal motifs in this play. Though the book has just begun and the characters have not actually been introduced, this use of animal imagery invokes a lot of striking connotations. “Black” and “white” both have strong notions of good and evil as well as racial difference. “Tupping” is a farming term and implies that sex is something a male does to a female in lust, not love. The idea of an “old” ram also adds to the grotesqueness of the image.
“… She is sport for Jove… And, I'll warrant her, full of game.” Iago; Act 2, Scene 3, Line 19
In this passage is it interesting to note how differently Cassio and Iago speaks of Desdemona. Cassio describes her as a “most exquisite lady” and a “fresh and delicate creature”, while Iago refers to her as a “sport of Jove” and “full of game”. In mythology, Jove was depicted as taking forms of various animals in order to seduce beautiful women. Iago’s idea of a woman being a sport or game has very little to do with love and much to do with male fantasy and lust.
“Thou hadst better to have been born a dog, than answer my waked wrath" Othello; Act 3, Scene 3, Line 414
After Iago hints of Desdemonda’s dishonesty, Othello rages at Iago for having no proof. Othello tells Iago that his...