What action in Othello best provides catharsisnand what other themes do you see at work in this play?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Othello has its fair share of inner turmoil as Othello, a brave and initially heroic figure, trusted by Venetians and very dependable, reveals his weakness, his jealousy, and becomes susceptible to "honest,honest Iago," and his wicked schemes. Othello's self-awareness abandons him because, he suggests, that he is a man "not easily jealous, but, being wrought, Perplex'd in the extreme..." (V.ii.347-48), he cannot ignore the signs of Desdemona's infidelity. Demanding "ocular proof" (III.iii.364) because of his doubts, allows "the green-eyed monster" ( 170) to remove all rational thought to the point that he "threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe," ( V.ii. 350) and killed Desdemona. 

Othello's actions then provide the catharsis in Othello. The audience sees the build up of Othello's jealousy; at first, denied ("she had eyes and chose me," III.iii.193), then defended ("...but Desdemona's honest" (229)) and is forewarned of what may follow. Othello, once incited ("Thou hast set me on the rack," (340)) must ultimately assuage his feelings despite his reluctance which is clear when he says, "So sweet was ne'er so fatal," (V.i.20). His jealously will be revealed as misplaced when it is all too late and Othello can only rationalize his actions when he refers to himself as "an honorable murderer...for nought I did in hate..."(V.ii.297-298). This serves to retain Othello's honor and prevents the audience from hating him such as they hate Iago. The Elizabethan audience is satisfied that the play it has witnessed has come full circle. The audience can leave with its own conscience clear. If someone as honorable as Othello can show such a lapse in character then the members of the audience can ease their own guilt. Othello serves as the catharsis for them, ready to face their own challenges with a renewed sense. Othello is forgiven because he "loved not wisely but too well" (V.ii.347) and they too can manage their own shortcomings.

Jealousy would be a major theme in Othello together with honor and reputation and most certainly manipulation. All is not as it seems and so appearance versus reality features strongly and, in fact, the audience is introduced at the beginning to the schemes of Iago - " "I am not what I am" (I.i.66)