Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Othello book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Othello, how do we know Othello's second speech of justification was effective? What makes it effective as a piece of language?  Act 1, Scene 3

Expert Answers info

Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer

bookB.A. from University of Oxford

bookM.A. from University of Oxford

bookPh.D. from University of Leicester

calendarEducator since 2017

write2,267 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Othello is a gifted orator. The speech that he delivers telling the story of his courtship of Desdemona contains several rhetorical features commonly found in persuasive language, in order to enrapture and convince an audience. Notice, for example, his use of enumeratio and anaphora when he relates the many incidents in his history to Desdemona: "Of moving accidents...of hair-breadth...of...And...and..." Later, he uses repetition, carefully selecting the words to repeat in order to emphasize them.

He says twice that Desdemona found his tales "strange" and "pitiful." This confronts the reader with the fact that Desdemona reacted to Othello's past with pity and compassion because she is a good person of good nature. This serves to convince the listeners that if they, too, are compassionate people, they should have the same reaction, rather than accuse Othello of having used "witchcraft" to woo Desdemona.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,388 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Math, and Social Sciences

Othello constantly feels the need to justify and prove himself to the people of Venice, his adopted home country.

The tone of Othello's speech is sincere and his love for Desdemona is apparent during his speech defending his marriage. He talks so passionately about his conquests and

of the Cannibals that each other eat, / The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads/ Do grow...

enthralling his audience. He is most likely many years older than Desdemona, is a foreigner and admittedly not as eloquent as other suitors, and yet Desdemona still falls for him.

Brabantio tries desperately to convince the Duke and senators that Othello used spells and medicines to ensnare Desdemona, but Othello’s “round unvarnished tale” of how he sincerely won Desdemona’s love and affection is enough to convince even her father of Othello's good intentions:

I think this tale would win my daughter too.

Desdemona herself is convincing in her argument when confronted by her father as to whom she "owes obedience," and Brabantio cannot pursue further argument regarding Othello's purported witchcraft.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial