Honor is of Essence
As far as last words of tragic heroes go, Shakespeare’s Othello’s are distinctly honorable. He says to Lodovico, nobleman who is returning to Venice:
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak…
Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme… (V, ii: 342-346)
Othello pleads Lodovico to relate the “unlucky deeds” truthfully, without mitigating or exaggerating his crimes. This truthful narration will presumably assure Othello’s honor in the future, for it will capture him “as [he] is”: a victim of guile who was “Perplexed in the extreme,” and therefore an “honorable murderer, if you will” (V, ii: 295). What a Moor indeed—so honorable that he worries of his reputation in a world where he will be dead!
The sensitive reader might perceive a subtle strangeness about these final words of Othello: is it not odd that Othello’s final utterances address only his future reputation? Are those words to expect from a man about to commit suicide? Perhaps it is Othello’s obsession with honor that strikes a funny chord: like a miser who carries his money to the grave, Othello embraces his respectable name to the death. Why should a...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 753 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4769 literature essays, 1493 sample college application essays, 189 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in