Othello is a play of violent contrast
Knight comments that ‘in Othello we are faced with the vividly particular rather than the vague and universal1. ‘ Here, he immediately sets up Othello as being a play that, instead of focusing on a broad and more general level, all of the various themes and motifs that it contains converge on this ‘particular’ focal point – a centre that, particularly in the initial act, breathes with so much literal and symbolic contrast that not only exists between characters, their language and mood, but too within every character, within the mood that the playwright paints.
Right from the onset, Shakespeare creates opposition between the characters; he creates such ‘unkind’ emotion. Roderigo fears that his ‘purse’ has been taken by Iago, ‘as if the strings were thine’ – Iago’s role as a manipulator, an overriding force whom himself claims to be ‘not what’ he is, enforcing this concept of negativity, of disillusionment at the heart of the play that, in turn, forebodes the dramatic conflict that is to tear its way into the lives of all.
Iago declares that ‘our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners,’ powerfully embodying this emblematic representation of him being a ‘gardener’, one who is in charge of his own fate, which he parallels with the shaped wilderness of a ‘garden’ – something with the ability to both change and still flourish.
Structurally, Shakespeare contrasts the characters quite violently; when alone, Roderigo is, quite literally, dominated by Iago’s rhetoric, although in the presence of others, Iago ‘withdraws’ the weapons that are his words – h e withdraws from all of the contrast and antitheses that he himself sets up, speaking little – if at all. ‘Tush,’ is the first word in Othello spoken by Rodrigo. This immediately introduces the idea of deception as it is a word which represents silence and secrets.
The play immediately starts of with Iago showing his frustration and angry in not being named ‘officer,’ but given to ‘one Michael Cassio a Florentine,’ this starts to intense the theme of deception and conflict with Iago stating his angry of not being given his rightful role as ‘officer. ‘ The fact that Shakespeare has set his play in a militaristic society where conflict is norm makes the reader descent into a world where deception is common.
Shakespeare has purposely chosen a society where blacks are loathed and placed the Moor in a high ranking position, thus creating an atmosphere for conflict to develop. Shakespeare shows Iago as a deceitful and cunning villain. Iago’s hatred for Othello is stated throughout Act 1, ‘He has done my office. ‘ None of these claims seems to adequately explain Iago’s deep hatred of Othello and Iago’s lack of motivation-or his inability or unwillingness to express his true motivation-makes his actions all the more terrifying.