Psychoanalytic Reading of Othello

Psychoanalytic Reading of Othello


The story of Othello weaves a catastrophic tale of jealousy and revenge. A psychoanalytic reading of the first three acts of the play gives us a clear understanding of the text. Shakespeare explores the human experience through Iago’s jealous actions and sets us up for an inevitable tragedy. This is demonstrated through various dramatic techniques.

The first three acts of the play are mostly concerning Iago’s plans to sabotage Othello, a highly esteemed general in the service of Venice. He is driven to this insane jealousy after Othello promotes Michael Cassio to the position of personal lieutenant. Iago first confesses his jealousy during Act I, Scene 1, when asserting his opinion that Cassio is of less experience than him, he uses phrases such as, “mere prattle without practice.” With the aggressive alliteration of ‘p’, we can almost imagine Iago spitting the words out with frustration. This gives us an insight to Iago’s anger for not being prompted; as he served by Othello’s side and “his eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes,” Iago believes he is deserving thus driving him to sabotage.

Iago is also determined to incapacitate Othello as he is convinced he is sleeping with his wife, Emilia. He begins his plan by spoiling Othello’s pleasure and rousing Desdemona’s father against him by vulgarly telling Brabantio, his daughter and Othello are “making the beast with two backs”. In other terms, having sex. Iago portrays Othello to Brabantio as a barbarious and threatening moor via a series of racist undertones such as, “even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe…” It is clear that Iago’s jealousy drives him to use a black man’s inferior reputation in Shakespearean times to motivate Brabantio’s protests against Othello.

From the beginning, Iago is constantly indicating his intentions, so that we gradually learn of the unfolding of his plan through soliloquies. For example, “Let us be conjunctive in our revenge… There are...

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