What is the interplay of love and fear in Othello?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Love and ultimately the fear of rejection, shame, loss of reputation and self-worth intertwine in Othello to create an almost personal tragedy. The circumstances are real and an audience can relate to and even empathize with the characters as they fight these two powerful forces.

Iago is the main proponent of fear and manages to instill fear into even the most rational characters. Brabantio's love for his daughter is tainted by Iago's reference to his

daughter covered with a Barbary horse.

His fear is such that, despite being confused by Iago's references, he orders a search party thinking that perhaps his daughter is bewitched.

Othello's love for Desdemona is overshadowed by his fear that she will ultimately betray him:

She did deceive her father, marrying you,..

In Act III Scene iii Othello reaches a turning point as his jealousy 

borders on doubt and certainty with respect to Desdemona’s fidelity and Iago’s honesty.

Iago comments that Othello is “eaten up with passion,” and he proceeds to conjure images of animal lust to rouse Othello even further.

Othello is still firmly in love with Desdemona but Iago knows Othello's vulnerability and capitalizes on his jealous nature by supplying the "proof" of her infidelity. Othello's fear of rejection is intense and his insecurities about being both black and a foreigner add fuel to this.

Othello's occupation is gone.

Othello becomes more confused as events occur to the point that he believes he is saving Desdemona's good name by killing her!

I can again thy former light restore,

He is so afraid of appearances. In the end, in terms of his own reputation

Othello asks to be remembered as one that lov'd not wisely but too well

His realization that his wife remained faithful and thus he has failed and his fears were irrational reveal his belief that he too must make the absolute sacrifice in the name of love - and he commits suicide.