Love and Duty in Shakespeare’s Othello College

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello is presented as a man of stature and distinction, so much so that others oft precede his name with the word “valiant” (1.3.50). He is someone who, despite prejudices attached to his skin, is found worthy of love from the fair Desdemona due to the merit of his service to the Venetian government. He himself reiterates this in his defense of his marriage, saying, “I must be found. /My parts, my title, and my perfect soul/ shall manifest me rightly (1.2.30-32),” and he is ultimately accepted by the authority of Desdemona’s father and the Duke of Venice. From the beginning, Shakespeare establishes the importance that duty plays in Othello’s world. His devotion to the Venetian state is rewarded with the devotion of his wife and those that serve him. However, by the end of the play, Othello finds his life and reputation destroyed as a result of the skillful calculations of his duplicitous officer, Iago. The unfolding of Iago’s plan arouses confusion and conflict within all the characters, forcing them to mitigate between what they feel and their sense of duty in their respective roles and showing the consequences of deception—whether veiled or perceived. In Othello duty and love are invariably...

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