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Plants and Gardens in Othello

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Emily Hill

on 20 June 2016

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Transcript of Plants and Gardens in Othello

Act 4
Act 1
Iago Scene 1:
"And though he in a fertile climate dwell, Plague him with flies."
Fertile climate of Venice/the Venetian home in contrast with with dry and barren plains of Africa where Othello is from
Accentuates the contrast between Brabantio and Othello, pointing out the unnatural nature of Desdemona and Othello's marriage
Iago Scene 3:
"Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are the gardeners. So that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme , supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness or manured in industry, why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. "
This quote shows how Iago manipulates people while still convincing them they have autonomy
Act 2
Iago Scene 1:
"The wine she drinks is made of grapes"
Desdemona is the same as all mankind - not perfectly innocent
Biblical reference - she drinks from the same cup as everyone else not the cup of judgement meaning she is not blameless

Iago Scene 3:
"Though other things grow fair against the sun, yet fruits that blossom first will first be ripe."
Telling Rodrigo to be patient, he has already planted the seeds of his plan
Act 3
Iago Scene 3:
"Not poppy nor mandragora, nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep which thou owed'st yesterday"
Reveals more of Iago plan - jealousy will destroy Othello

Iago Scene 3:
Cry “O sweet creature!” and then kiss me hard, As if he plucked up kisses by the roots, That grew upon my lips,"
Uses graphic detail to enforce a lie
Suggests unnatural nature of Cassio and Desdemona's affair and Desdemona being pulled away from her strongest bond (her marriage)

Iago Scene 3:
"Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief spotted with strawberries in your wife's hand?"
Strawberrries represent Desdemona's virginity and holiness
Desdemona Scene 3:
The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
 Sing all a green willow.
 Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
 Sing willow, willow, willow.
 The fresh streams ran by her, and murmured her moans,
 Sing willow, willow, willow.
 Her salt tears fell from her, and softened the stones
Lay by these—
    Sing willow, willow, willow—
 Prithee, hie thee, he’ll come anon—
 Sing all a green willow must be my garland.
 Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve—

Foreshadows death
Weeping willow - sad
Representative of Desdemona
Act 5 - Emilia
Character Analysis
When Iago speaks using the plant motif it is about manipulation and his plan
When Desdemona speaks using the plant motif it is about sadness and her imminent death
When Othello speaks using the plant motif it is about killing Desdemona
When Emilia speaks using the plant motif it is insulting Othello after Desdemona's death or dying herself
All of these characters speak about plants in unhappy circumstances suggesting that having accustomed to a civilised city life, they reject the idea of plants and gardens and weeds and associate with more uncivilised, undeveloped societies.

Thank you
Iago Infection?
This analysis supports the idea of Iago infection as Iago is the only character to use plant imagery in the first 3 acts however in the last two more and more character use plant imagery to express their (generally sinister) ideas.

Plants and Gardens in Othello
Act 5 - Othello
Othello Scene 2:
"When I have plucked thy rose, I cannot give it vital growth again"
He is talking about killing her, once he has killed her he cannot give her life again
OR He could be talking about her virginity, once it has been "plucked", it cannot be returned

Othello Scene 2:
"Drops tears as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinable gum"
He is the Arabian tree - othering himself
He describes his tears as "medicinable gum"
His tears were healing/good for him

Emilia Scene 2:
"As ignorant as dirt"
1. He is black and she calls him dirt not only referencing his race but also likening him to ground, 2. She is also calling him ignorant, telling him he is conforming to the racial stereotypes he tried so hard to avoid.

Emilia Scene 2:
"I will play the swan and die in music: [Sings] 'Willow, willow, willow'"
Likens herself with Desdemona - victimised and betrayed
Worshiping Desdemona

Full transcript