The Power of Language in Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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The Power of Language in Othello

In Othello, Shakespeare explores the relationship between words and events. Spoken thought, in the play, has all the power of action; speaking about an event will make that event become reality for those who hear - it will affect reality as if that event had taken place. Shakespeare demonstrates the power of words poignantly through Othello's monologues. Othello struggles with the reality that Iago creates for him. When Othello speaks, he reveals that he is unable to stop himself from carrying out acts that Iago's and his own words have prophesied and initiated. Othello's monologues further demonstrate that even the knowledge of the power of words cannot protect the characters from the
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Whatever the case, it was spoken, and the second part of the line "and then put out the light!" turns the simple statement into a chronological phenomenon with a specific message about thought and action. First an event is described and then it becomes reality by action. The brevity of the line emphasizes the straightforward and unbreakable relationship of words and action.

Throughout the play there are numerous examples of words which become self-fulfilling prophecies for those who hear them. Barbantio's words in the first Act, "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: / She has deceived her father, and may thee." (Othello, 1.3.293-294, p.154) become essential reality for Othello. The prophesy of the old Egyptian woman to Othello's mother in regards to the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona also becomes Othello's reality, even though Desdemona did not actually give it away. (Othello, 3.4.56-65, p.244) Finally Iago fulfills the prophecy of his own words, "I have't, it is engendered! Hell and night / Will bring this monstrous birth to the world's light." (Othello, 2.1.402-403, p.161) All of these instances fall into the pattern of words becoming essential realities as understood through "Put out the light, and the put out the light!"

Even though there is a such a powerful statement about the
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