Shakespeare’s Othello employs several literary devices that serve to emphasize the play’s central conflicts and themes. Allusion is one of these devices, and it is used to make reference to other literary works, such as when Othello compares Desdemona to someone who guards the gates of hell, drawing on biblical imagery. This allusion helps to underscore Othello’s anger and the growing distance between him and his wife, as he comes to believe that she is being unfaithful to him. In the end, Othello’s misplaced rage leads to his own tragic downfall, which is foreshadowed by the reference to hell.
Symbolism is another important device used in Othello, and the most significant symbol in the play is arguably Desdemona’s handkerchief. The handkerchief serves as a symbol of the couple’s love and marriage, and its white color represents the purity of their relationship at the outset of the play. However, when Desdemona loses the handkerchief, it represents the loss of trust between her and Othello, and the decay of their relationship. The handkerchief also takes on another symbolic meaning as a sign of fidelity, and when Othello sees it in Cassio’s possession, it becomes the object that solidifies his suspicions of his wife’s infidelity. Ultimately, the handkerchief serves as a powerful symbol of the couple’s lost love and trust, as well as a symbol of their violated marriage.
Dramatic irony is another literary device employed in Othello, and it is used to great effect throughout the play. Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows more about the characters and their situations than the characters themselves. In Othello, this is exemplified by the audience’s knowledge of Iago’s true intentions and actions, which are concealed from Othello and the other characters. This creates tension and suspense as the audience watches the characters unwittingly move towards their tragic fates. One example of this occurs when Othello expresses his trust in Iago’s honesty and kindness, not realizing that Iago is plotting against him. The audience knows the truth, creating a powerful ironic effect that underscores the tragedy of the play.
Finally, metaphor is another literary device used throughout Othello, which serves to underscore the play’s central themes. One of the most significant metaphors in the play occurs when Othello compares a man who has been cheated on to a monster or a beast. This metaphor highlights the central theme of jealousy and its destructive power, as Othello’s jealousy leads him to lose his humanity and become consumed by his own animalistic impulses. This metaphor serves to emphasize the tragic consequences of Othello’s jealousy and underscores the play’s warning about the dangers of jealousy and the importance of trust and communication in relationships.
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