I believe that the views of both these opinions are supported in my study of the play Othello. But it is also very important to firstly reflect upon the time in which the play was written. The play was written in Elizabethan times. The reason why it is important to reflect upon when the play was first written is because the audiences of Elizabethan times and a modern day audiences are brought up and used to different theatrical techniques. A modern day audience is used to watching films that are action packed.
The motto of modern day audiences would be “A little less conversation and a little more action”. To a modern day audience visualization action effects are more appealing to the senses than words. This is due to the fact that listening to a soliloquy would require a lot of concentration for most people and action is easier to follow. Subsequently in Elizabethan times theatre was for the general public. Today however theatre audiences are less broad in terms of social class then they were in Elizabethan times.
Today it seems the audiences who visit the theatre are those who are intellectually more capable than the average person and educational establishments which provide pupils with learning experiences. To a modern audience a soliloquy seems to interrupt the narrative and the play. This in turn forces the audience to recognize it as a drama rather than a new world we are entering. In a modern audience we strive to be submerged in a world of realism. Therefore a soliloquy is not a realistic device; it forces us out of seeing it as real.
In modern day we are used to seeing special effects such as a close up on the character, a change in the music to reflect the characters mood. One major difference is that today if a character has to utter thoughts he does so to himself, this in turn provides much more realism, then a soliloquy, due to the fact it keeps you in either a first or third person perspective, a soliloquy takes that realism away as it seems out of sync from the rest of the play.
Also a soliloquy makes the audience more complicit with a character like Iago. For instance in a soliloquy he could come to an audience member and be in there face and say “I hate the moor” or “wife for wife”. This would put a lot of modern day audience members into some discomfort as they would then be the centre of attention with everybody focused on them as well as Iago. This also then makes the rest of the audience uncomfortable because they will have to prepare themselves incase they are put on the spot.
This in turn then distracts them from the actual play and therefore most definitely takes away all form of realism. As one can see from the points expressed above, there seems to be a convincing argument for soliloquy’s being outdated and embarrassing for modern day audiences, due in no small part to the fact we are a society of ‘A little less conversation and a little more action’ However there is another side to the soliloquy which has to be explored, because it seems a soliloquy is the means by which the actor gains a stronghold on the audience.
Nevertheless it also became a custom in the Elizabethan era for there to be soliloquy’s in plays because it was such an effective device. The major role of all soliloquy’s are to create intimacy with the characters. Once this has been established the audience is more involved in the play because they feel part of the mind frame of the person speaking their soliloquy’s. So in Othello the audience are part of Iago’s plotting and his evilness, this in turn also makes us more aware of Iago’s heinous acts and therefore creates more dramatic tension.
Or as is in the case of Othello and his soliloquy’s we feel his loss, pain and because of the intimacy established through the soliloquy’s we feel sympathetic for Othello. Soliloquy’s also are informative to the audience, they inform us about the plot, because we know what is going to happen, we as the audience then anticipate the events that will follow, this in turn arouses tension within the audience.
This then results in soliloquy’s moving the plot along as is in the case of Othello we see Iago’s power grow after every one of his soliloquy and then Othello’s soliloquy’s are the confirmation of the power shift, which the audience has been following throughout the play. Once again back to the first important point that soliloquy’s create intimacy between characters, this results then in us as the audience being able to explore the characters motives.
Due to us as the audience being able to explore characters motives, in the case of Iago we realize his motives for his evil are “he needs no motives, he does because he can” or “his motives are of no real substance. This makes his crimes seem even more evil then they are and Shakespeare has achieved this through the use of soliloquy’s without them Shakespeare’s Iago would not seem as evil and menacing as he is. Soliloquy’s also create dramatic tension as the audience are always wondering whether Iago’s plan will work.
However ironically it seems Shakespeare’s Iago is at his most honest within his soliloquy’s “I am not what I am” This in turn lets us the audience know that we are in his actual mind frame, as no person can deceive themselves. However what is most powerful about Iago’s soliloquy’s are that through them we explore the evil that is in all of us. This self reflection is ultimately the most powerful of any device, because anything that makes us explore ourselves and indeed change our views has to be effective beyond belief, which is how Elizabethan people used soliloquy’s to change people views about subjective matters.