Music in Othello

1633 Words Nov 11th, 2011 7 Pages
Music in Othello
In Cyprus, observing the joyous reunion of Othello and Desdemona, Iago says to himself that he will wreck the lovers' harmony: "O, you are well tuned now! / But I'll set down the pegs that make this music, / As honest as I am" (2.1.199-201). The "pegs" to which he refers are the tuning pegs on a stringed instrument. Their love is the instrument on which Iago is planning to loosen ("set down") the pegs until the harmony is turned into discord. [Scene Summary]

Because no one like to be a party-pooper, Iago sings drinking songs in order to encourage Cassio to get drunk. Drinking songs tend to be rollicking, jolly justifications of drinking. Iago's first song delivers the message that life is short, so you might as well
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Othello's occupation's gone! (3.3.345-357)
The music of war, including the thunder of the cannon, makes Othello feel alive, fully himself, but without Desdemona's love he feels that he's nothing. [Scene Summary]

Shortly after Othello has berated Desdemona about the handkerchief, Cassio appears to once again ask Desdemona to intervene on his behalf. She tells him that "My advocation is not now in tune; / My lord is not my lord; nor should I know him, / Were he in favour [appearance] as in humour [attitude] alter'd" (3.4.123-125). In other words, now is not a good time to talk to Othello; he's not himself, and if his appearance had changed as much as his attitude, she wouldn't recognize him. The phrase "in tune" is so common (in Shakespeare's time as well as ours) that it may be a stretch to call it a musical image. [Scene Summary]

At a moment when Iago is trying to build Othello's jealousy into a murderous rage, Othello begins to think of what a beautiful, sweet woman Desdemona is. Iago tells him that he needs to put such thoughts out of his mind, and Othello says, "Hang her! I do but say what she is. So delicate with her needle. An admirable musician! O, she will sing the savageness out of a bear" (4.1.187-189). However, it's not Desdemona's music, but Iago's words that win the battle for Othello's soul. Othello's mood becomes ever more savage, and he plans the time, place, and manner of
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