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Honesty in Shakespeare's Othello

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jo enns

on 20 April 2011

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Transcript of Honesty in Shakespeare's Othello

Honesty –adjective
1. honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair: an honest person.
2. showing uprightness and fairness: honest dealings.
3. gained or obtained fairly: honest wealth.
4. sincere; frank: an honest face.
5. genuine or unadulterated: honest commodities.
6. respectable; having a good reputation: an honest name.
7. truthful or creditable: honest weights.
8. humble, plain, or unadorned.
9. Archaic . chaste; virtuous. Honesty in Othello The word 'honesty,' is ironic and mostly untruthful when used in Othello. It works to make the reader aware of a character's true personality, not the personality that the other characters see in the play. For Example: Iago OTHELLO:
My life upon her faith! Honest Iago,
My Desdemona must I leave to thee:
I prithee, let thy wife attend on her:
And bring them after in the best advantage. IAGO:
[Aside] O, you are well tuned now!
But I'll set down the pegs that make this music,
As honest as I am.
Act 2, scene 1 Act 1, scene 3 IAGO:
To be direct and honest is not safe Act 3, scene 3 OTHELLO:
Iago is most honest.
Michael, good night: to-morrow with your earliest
Let me have speech with you. Act 2, scene 3 OTHELLO (while talking to Iago):
I think thou dost;
And, for I know thou'rt full of love and honesty,
And weigh'st thy words before thou givest them breath, Act 3, scene 3 The most common usage of the words honest and honesty throughout the play are in regards to Iago. Every character describes him as truthful, trustworthy, honest, and full of love. However, Shakespeare uses this as dramatic irony within the play. We, the readers, know that Iago is in fact the villian. Soon, we become frustrated with the ignorance of the character's knowledge of Iago and the frequent use of the word. Honesty/Honest is used twenty times in the play in description of Iago. Iago's dominance of honesty deconstructs the word. The reader becomes suspicious of honesty and we are unable to trust it as it is most often used as a lie - even when the word ends up being truth. Othello Although honesty is never blatantly used in regards to Othello, he is known and respected as an honourable and truthful man that the whole state of Venice trusts. This is again a use of irony within the play because, in Elizabethean England, people of darker skin were looked down upon and thought of as strangers and exotic beasts. At the end of the play, Othello's calm, trustworthy personality is thrown away. This deconstructs the reader's understanding of honesty further because what we thought was honourable and trustworthy is now villianous. Cassio Cassio is actually honest and decent and remains so throughout the course of the play. The reader is always aware of Cassio's good reputation, but the characters in the play completely throw this truth away for their own passions, whims, and beliefs. The only two people who remain aware of Cassio's true honesty and trustworthiness are Desdemona and Emilia. This is shocking because, in Elizabethean England, women were seen as lower and less intelligent than men. Desdemona As a woman from Venice, viewers (in Shakespeare's time) instinctively stereotype Desdemona as someone who sleeps around. On top of this, she marries a Moor and is disowned by her father for doing so. In this way, Desdemona starts the play as someone who you think you can't trust, but as the play continues she deconstructs this image. Othello and Iago are constantly bringing down Desdemona by claiming that she has no virtue and honesty when in reality she in one of the only characters who is. Again, the useage of honesty in the play proves ironic. Only at the end of the play is honesty finally set straight. When Emilia shows everyone how dishonest Iago actually is, she is showing them the truth that they haven't been able to see. The word honesty works hand in hand with irony in the play "Othello." Whenever someone is virtuous and true, they are slandered and whenever someone is dishonest, they are thought highly of. Desdemona:
I saw Othello's visage in his mind,
And to his honours and his valiant parts
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. Act 1, scene 3 Othello:
My parts, my title, and my perfect soul
Shall manifest me rightly... Act 1, scene 2
Here comes Brabantio and the valiant Moor
Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman Act 1, scene 3
If virtue no beauty lack,
Your son-in-law is far more fair than black Act 1, scene 3 Desdemona:
Be though assured, good Cassio, I will do
All my abilities in thy behalf Act 3, scene 3 Iago:
For Michael Cassio,
I dare be sworn I think that he is honest.
I think so too. Iago:
Why then, I think Cassio's an honest man. Act 3, scene 3 Act 3, scene 3 Act 3, scene 1 Cassio:
To send in your wife: my suit to her
Is that she will to virtuous Desdemona
procure me some access. Emilia:
I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest,
lay down my soul at stake. If you think other,
Remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom
Act 4, scene 2
I do think that Desdemona's honest Act 3, scene 3 We start off thinking Othello is honourable and honest, but after he is riddled with passion and jealousy he becomes the beast that he is described as by Roderigo, Iago, and Desdemona's father at the beginning of the play. Emilia and Desdemona's knowledge of the true character of Cassio (and later Emilia's knowledge of the true character of Iago) is another deconstruction within the play. Desdemona and Cassio, who are honest, are the characters Othello chooses not to believe, while Iago, who is extremely dishonest is the character everyone believes. Finally, Desdemona and Cassio take their rightful honest reputations while Iago and Othello, the dishonest and his puppet, are thought of as the villains. The word honesty works to deconstruct the play.
By most often being used as a lie, we begin to distrust honesty. When it is used in truth, other characters in the play choose not to believe it.

The irony is that no one can trust something that is supposed to be, by very definition, trustworthy.
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