Frenemies in Othello by William Shakespeare

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“Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears.” This line is said by Mark Antony to garner the attention of his countrymen in arguably one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays, Julius Caesar. The iconic line is one of Shakespeare’s better known addresses. In his plays repetition functions as an indicator of something to which the audience should pay particular attention. Specifically, in the play Othello, the repetition of the word “friend” is relevant and draws the audience’s attention to relationships of a superficial or forced nature, as the relationship between Othello and Iago, Cassio and Bianca, and as a rhetorical device. Through close reading of the play, one sees that “friend” functions as a versatile device used for manipulation. In…show more content…
Like Cassio, Emilia uses “friend” as a rhetorical device. After Othello tells Desdemona that she has been unfaithful, Desdemona is (understandably) moved and upset. Explaining the situation to Iago, Emilia defends Desdemona’s emotional reaction by saying, “Hath she forsook so many noble matches/ Her father and her country and her friends/ To be called a whore? Would it not make one weep?” (Shakespeare 4.2.129-131). Desdemona is bewildered and Emilia is being a true friend by defending her. Earlier mentioned in this paper, Brabanzio brings accompaniment to make his point about Othello enchanting Desdemona. Likewise, Emilia builds Desdemona’s case by bringing in the word “friends.” There is textual evidence from Brabanzio that Desdemona turned down many Venetian suitors. Quite obviously, Brabanzio is Desdemona’s father who was forsaken, and the country Desdemona forsakes is Italy because she married a moor. Though Othello’s origins are unclear yet he is a dedicated servant of Venice, one thing the play makes abundantly clear is that Desdemona is betraying her country by not marrying one of its natives. What is unclear is the use of “friends” since the audience is given the impression that Desdemona is very shy. Brabanzio even says his daughter is, “of spirit so still and quiet that her motion/Blushed at herself” (Shakespeare 1.3.95-96). She is of such a quiet nature that the smallest thing makes her blush,

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