Describe how Shakespeare begins to builds suspense in Act I through foreshadowing to suggest that Desdemona's and Othello's marriage might be undermined.


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In Act I/ Scene I, Iago begins to bait the other characters. Iago yells to Brabantio from the street "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe,"(88-9). The use of animal imagery is used in many places in the play to convey immorality, almost bestial desire, and illicit passion, as it does in this instance. Iago also compares Othello to a "Barbary horse" coupling with Desdemona, and uses animal imagery to reinforce a lustful picture of Othello, before this scene is through. Iago's statement is doubly potent, since it not only condemns Othello for his alleged lust, but also plays on Brabantio's misgivings about Othello's color, and outsider status. The juxtaposition of black and white, in connection with the animal imagery, is meant to make this image very repellent, and to inflame Brabantio to anger and action.

Iago especially mentions the devil many times in the text, the first time here in the first scene. He means to make Othello sound like a devil, with his lust, indiscretion, and strangeness to Venice; the irony is that Iago is so quick to make others out to be evil, when it is he who is the center of blackness and foul deeds in the play. The devil often takes disguises, just as Iago does; he is as close to a devil as there is in this play, though, again embodying the theme of appearance vs. reality, he is the one who looks least guilty.

Important to this scene is the fact that it is held in darkness; like the beginning of Hamlet, things are unsteady and eerie, and a certain disorder rules over the proceedings. With Brabantio's call for light, there is a corresponding call for some kind of order; darkness vs. light and order vs. disorder are important juxtapositions within the play, and as themes they highlight the status of situations like this one. This theme will appear again at the end, as the play returns to darkness, and also to chaos; the two seem inextricably linked in the body of the play, and always battle with one another.