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As in Oedipus the King, a major theme in Othello is man's inability to reliably...

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madmarticus | eNoter

Posted January 24, 2012 at 1:42 PM via web

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As in Oedipus the King, a major theme in Othello is man's inability to reliably distinguish between what seems to be and what actually is.

As in Oedipus the King, a major theme in Othello is man's inability to reliably distinguish between what seems to be and what actually is. Explain how this shared theme of "uncertain vision" is treated somewhat differently in Othello than it is in Oedipus the King.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 24, 2012 at 1:56 PM (Answer #1)

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Your question relates to the disparity between appearances and reality that is a feature of so many tragic works. Of course, Oedipus is a classic example of blindness. It is his uncertain vision of the situation and his reluctance to put two and two together, even in the face of evidence, that characterises his blindness, and leads to the tragic conclusion of the play. Oedipus, a character famed for his ability to see situations clearly, discovers that he has been blind to a massive situation that he is experiencing right beneath his nose, and as a result, blinds himself so as not to see the reality in which he lives. Uncertain vision is therefore all part of the dramatic irony of this tragic play, where Oedipus embarks on a quest to find a murderer never imagining that the man he is looking for is himself.

For Othello, on the other hand, the uncertain vision that he experiences is largely a result of the manipulations of Iago and his own intense jealousy. It is his susceptibility to Iago's blandishments and to his own natural jealousy that make Othello see things to be very different from what they actually are. He sees affairs and intrigues when there are none, and the following speech, uttered after he discovers the truth, indicates the bitter pain of finally being able to see clearly:

Whip me, ye devils,
From the possession of this heavenly sight!
Blow me about in winds! roast me in sulphur!
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!
O Desdemona! Desdemona! dead!
Oh! Oh! Oh!

Uncertain vision leads Othello to look upon others in a very different way from the reality of the situation, and causes him to act upon his inaccurate knowledge.

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