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Joey Welsh-Lupica Professor Erney English 1102 February 17, 2012

Desdemona Christ Living in seventeenth century England, Shakespeares life was constantly exposed to the religion of Christianity. With Queen Elizabeth reigning, Christianity affected his life. It is evident through many of Shakespeares plays that it was a big part of society as well. Throughout his plays there are many allusions to the Holy Christian Bible. Shakespeare strategically chooses his characters and their actions to be a direct correlation to the events and people known in the Holy Christian Bible. In Othello, Shakespeare clearly uses his technique of alluding his characters and their actions to the Bible. Throughout the play it becomes evident that Iago and Desdemona are the equivalents of Satan and Jesus Christ. Emilia is drawn out to be the disciple Peter. Rodrigo and Othello are two people that have been deceived by Satan and Cassio is an innocent soul trapped in the midst. Othello is a play that merely illustrates how Satans actions can sway one away from the righteous path and how there is no winning when you are dealing with Satan. When Shakespeare starts off the play, he immediately introduces us to Satan. We find out that Rodrigo is in love with Othellos wife, Desdemona, and has hired the deceptive Iago to break them apart. Rodrigo is a misguided soul that just wants to successfully gain love so he

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makes a deal with Satan. Working with Satan has a price so Rodrigo finds himself wasting his time and money waiting on Iagos plans to go through. After finding out that Desdemona is marrying Othello, Rodrigo becomes upset with Iago, "Tush! Never tell me; I take it much unkindly / That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse / As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this" (Shakespeare 1012). Using his deceptive skill and mindset Iago convinces Rodrigo into thinking that the marriage is part of his plan and that the love he longs for is yet to come. Iago decides to lure Cassio into a fight with Rodrigo so that he loses his position as first lieutenant. The fight takes place and Iago then uses Cassio as bait for Othellos downfall. Iago tells his wife, Emilia, to persuade Cassio to ask Desdemona if she can help get his position back. By Desdemona showing concern to Cassio it is easy for Iago to fool Othello. In the Bible Satan is traditionally identified as the serpent that convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. In Othello Iago is convincing Othello that his wife is cheating on him with his first lieutenant, Cassio. While trying to sway Othellos judgment, Iago never directly tells Othello that his wife is cheating on him. Yet, he uses his wit to imply the false fact so that it is more believable to Othello. Look to your wife, observe her well with Cassio / Wear your eyes thus, not jealous nor secure, (Shakespeare 1054) Iago is convincing Othello to eat the forbidden fruit. He is feeding him information where the newly gained knowledge will result in his demise. This mirrors Satan convincing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. After she ate it she grew an immense knowledge of the world. This knowledge resulted in her demise as it will in Othellos. In Othellos situation he is fed a false knowledge. Satan is often described as temptation. Satan wants to tempt people into sinning. Iagos temptation to sin is obvious in the play. He promotes five of the seven deadly sins; avarice, wrath, lust, envy, and pride. Iago is the representation of avarice. He is a greedy person who

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wants more money and does not give back to anyone else. His excessive greediness results in him being very gluttonous, wanting more money and power. He encourages Rodrigos lust and envy for Desdemona. With his heightened lust and envy it becomes easy for Iago to convince Rodrigo to kill Cassio, Come, stand not amazed at it, but go along with me / I will show you such a necessity in his death that you shall think yourself bound to put it on him(Shakespeare 1080). During Rodrigos attempt to kill Cassio, Iago deceives him again and kills him. Iago also causes Othellos pride to be seen. Because Othello believed his wife was cheating it hurt his pride, But, alas, to make me / The fixed figure for the time of scorn / To point his slow and moving finger at (Shakespeare 1076). By causing Othello to become angry with his wife and eventually killing her, Iago is also influencing the sin of wrath. Wrath is also expressed when Othello finds out that his wife was innocent and takes his own life out of anger. Desdemona is characterized as Jesus Christ. Her position as Jesus is evident when Emilia asks Desdemona what ifs about her husband cheating. Desdemonas response is to not get bad from bad, but to return bad with good. Good night, good night. Heaven me such uses send, Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend, (Shakespeare 1083) this statement reflects on Matthew 5:39, If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. By not returning bad with bad Desdemona is turning the other cheek. Desdemona physically demonstrates Matthew 5:39 when she is struck by Othello and she continues to be a respectful wife. Desdemona sings a song called Willow it is a song that her mothers maid, Barbary, used to sing. By singing the song about a willow tree Desdemona is furthering her comparison to Jesus. A willow tree is a tree that is strong and flexible. Although it is flexible it is still unchangeable and stays strong. The song describes Desdemona and Jesus because they are both strong and accepting, but cannot be swayed.

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Desdemona also knows when she was going to die and tried nothing to prevent it. The only thing she asked was to be buried with her wedding sheets. The sheets are a representation of her pure and clean soul. By letting her death come to her Desdemona was sacrificing herself for Othellos and Iagos sins. She knows that Iago had fooled her husband and she only wanted truth to prevail. This is the equivalent of Jesus sacrificing himself for his peoples sins. It is a selfless act that shows how one person can give up their own life to benefit the lives of others. Emilias character embodies that of Peter; she knew of Iagos plans and betrayed Desdemona by not letting her know of his cruel intentions. Emilia let Desdemona become destroyed and did nothing to prevent the destruction. When Desdemona was looking for her handkerchief Emilia stood there in silence, she knew she stole it and was going to let Iagos plans fall into action. When Emilia spoke with Othello about Desdemona cheating she told him, Remove your thought, it doth abuse your bosom. / If any wretch have put this in your head (Shakespeare 1075). Emilia knew Othello thought Desdemona was cheating and told Desdemona nothing. This left Desdemona helpless and confused when Othello came questioning. Disprove this villain, if thou best a man / He says thou toldst him that his wife was false / I know thou didst not, thou'rt not such a villain / Speak, for my heart is full, Emilia presents that she knew of Iagos plan to portray Desdemona as a cheating wife (Shakespeare 1092). Emilias attempt to speak the truth was too late and resulted in her preparing Desdemona for her crucifixion just as Peter did to Jesus. Peter lead the people to Jesus and this is what Emilia is doing to Desdemona. Within Shakespeares plays he used his allusions to the Bible. Whether it was to attract bigger audiences or to act as a subliminal message is not known. The fact is the lives and actions of his characters prove to reflect those of the Bible. The good and the bad were both used to drive his plays. Iago as Satan created a manipulating, deceptive character that is contrasted by

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that of Desdemona. Desdemona is a passionate woman who sticks to her beliefs. She cannot be swayed by terrible words or actions. She stands strong no matter what happens. Emilia is a betraying friend that should speak up for what is just, but fails to do so. Instead Emilia lets her friend down and allows death to fall upon her. Rodrigo and Othello are left as two fools who have fallen for Satans cynical plans. Their ability to be deceived so easily results in the death for both of them. Finally Cassio is left as an innocent soul trapped in the mist of conniving evil. With his lack of involvement he is blessed with the opportunity to live and keep a prosperous life. Word Count: 1,507

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Works Cited Shakespeare, William. "Othello", Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry and Drama 2nd edition. Robert DiYanni. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008:1012-1097. Print The Holy Bible: New James Version. Chicago: J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1960: Print

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