In Act 1, what imagery does Iago use to describe Othello and Desdemona's elopement, and what conflict does that imagery develop?

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In Othello, Iago very cleverly uses much emotional imagery to evoke an emotional response from Desdemona's father Brabantio regarding her elopement.   The images are as follow:

  • Thief and Crime Imagery:

Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves!
Look to your house, your daughter and your bags!
Thieves! thieves!


'Zounds, sir, you're robb'd

  • Sexual, Religious, Animal, and Racial Imagery(combined):

for shame, put on
your gown;
Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise;
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you:
Arise, I say.


'Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not
serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to
do you service and you think we are ruffians, you'll
have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;
you'll have your nephews neigh to you; you'll have
coursers for cousins and gennets for germans.

This last line translated is, "you'd have your daughter covered with a African horse; you'd have your nephews neigh to you; you'd have chargers for cousins and small Spanish horses for Germans."

In short, Iago synthesizes all the imagery together (sexual, religious, animal, racial, criminal) to bombard Brabantio and inflame his rage.  Iago wants Brabantio to start a fight with the Moor, to annul the marriage, to prosecute and court- marshall him.  Iago knows that Brabantio is paranoid and racist about his daughter seeing Othello, who is much older, black, and a former-Muslim.  Iago plays upon the fears of the European male of the time: that a black man is a sexual predator out to seduce and steal his white woman and that a black man is superior to a white man in bed.

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