What literary device, if any, is used in the play Othello?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare uses literary devices to strengthen his argument, develop his themes and present information to the audience in an often dramatic and surprising way which keeps the audience in suspense. There are numerous literary devices in Othello such as figures of speech, the most noticeable of which is dramatic irony. Other figures of speech include metaphor, simile, alliteration and personification. There is also imagery, symbolism and foreshadowing in Othello

By using dramatic irony in Othello, Shakespeare shares details with the audience of which the characters are unaware . The audience knows exactly how scheming and self-serving the "honest" Iago is and is intrigued, hoping that Othello sees through Iago's carefully constructed plot to destroy him. The audience feels emotions towards the characters which ensures that it is readily engaged with any progress and is aware how inappropriate some of Othello's responses are. The audience knows that Desdemona is innocent and watches as Othello is manipulated by Iago and ultimately convinced that he has "ocular proof" (III.iii.364) of her infidelity. The term "honest Iago" (I.iii.294) which is regularly repeated is symbolic and reveals the contradiction and irony in Iago's representations of himself and adds to the dramatic irony.

Foreshadowing is a literary device which contributes to the suspense and in the play it is prophetic when Brabantio warns Othello in Act I,scene iii and says "She has deceived her father and may thee" (293). The only things Desdemona is guilty of are honesty, trust and loyalty and it is Othello's own insecurities that contribute to this situation. 

The animal imagery is distinct and is intended to shock the audience and create a vivid visual picture which is insulting, discriminatory and is in bad taste. Iago suggests that "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe" (I.i.90) when he tells Brabantio that Desdemona is with Othello. Not having met Othello yet, the audience may be inclined to mistrust him at first which is exactly Iago's intention. 

Therefore, it is apparent that Shakespeare makes good use of various literary devices in his plays and creates memorable and very defined situations in which nothing can be assumed and audiences must wait for the conclusion to confirm their suspicions. 

podunc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare uses the literary device of dramatic irony in Othello. Dramatic irony occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a character believes and what the reader/viewer knows to be true. For example, the audience knows that Iago is a traitor and misleads Othello regarding Desdemona's fidelity. The audience reads/watches in horror as Othello trusts Iago's information and murders his wife. The result is one of the most heartwrenching scenes ever written, since we witness "the fall of a proud, dignified man," and "the murder of a graceful, loving woman" because of Iago's treachery.

conman01 | Student

There are a lot of ironies used in this play. The most important one is verbal irony. When Iago tries to makes schemes it actually means something else, he always tries to come up with excuses by making those schemes. that is verbal irony