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There is also perhaps something if not admirable then at least mesmerising in his declaration of love and his story of how he wooed her: She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them.However, when Shakespeare shifts the scene to Cyprus and the influence of the Venetian state diminishes, Iago, the tragic villain, is able to work his poison on Othello and expose his weaknesses, those aspects of his character that are far from virtuous.
By Act 3, however, there is little in him to admire: his valour belongs to a seemingly different world and there is nothing virtuous about a husband who colludes in a plot to destroy his wife.
Although Iago is used by Shakespeare at the start of the play to cast doubt on the magnificence of Othello and to test his virtue, when Othello appears he is impressive.
His measured language is a sign of his confidence, self-discipline and virtue.
When Othello appears before the Duke he is equally impressive.
There is dramatic contrast too in the different ways Othello speaks.
Othello's earlier speeches which contain so much gravitas are now worn down.His humiliation and public striking of Desemona and his cruel murder of her are all too terrible to forget in the final judgement of him.It is true that when he strikes her there are reminders of his valour and virtue in Lodovico's surprise that he could have misjudged Othello's character so greatly in thinking him good, but these reminders simply intensify the repugnance felt at Othello's actions.Though he reminds his stage audience that he has done the state some service, he quickly says 'no more of that'.However, it is clear that as the speech goes on, his assessment of himself is ultimately coloured by his pride and his highly developed sense of self worth and, although he has some dignity, there is not ultimately much honour.Below you will find an exemplar student response to a Section B question in the specimen assessment materials, followed by an examiner commentary on the response.'Othello's virtue and valour ultimately make him admirable.'To what extent do you agree with this view?Remember to include in your answer relevant comment on Shakespeare's dramatic methods.It is also impossible to admire the man who strangles his wife believing that he is an honourable murderer.His pride at enacting the hand of Justice makes him detestable – at a point when he hesitiates, he blames her balmy breath for almost persuading Justice to break its sword.Shakespeare uses the senators to counteract Iago's attempts to defame Othello, by having them refer to the general as 'valiant' (reminding us of his exploits in the field) and the Duke anyway has more interest to employ Othello against the general enemy Ottoman than listen to Brabantio's claims of sorcery.Even so, Othello's virtuous defence of himself and his love for Desdemona is all the more admirable (and certainly from a feminist perspective) because he asks that Desdemona be called to speak for herself.