What are some examples of conflict in Othello as supported by specific quotes? 

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conflict in literature involves a struggle between opposing forces, such as between a protagonist and an antagonist. Such conflict is external, but conflict can also be internal, as when a character struggles to come to terms about whether to commit an act or not. External conflict may even exist between a character and his or her circumstances, the weather conditions, and so forth.

The play exhibits many examples of both external and internal conflict. The first of these is displayed in Act 1, Scene 1, where there exists an apparent conflict between what Iago wants and what Othello has decided. The general's agent is apparently bitter that Othello has appointed a foreigner, Cassio, as his lieutenant instead of choosing him, a loyal, long-serving, and experienced soldier. Iago is enraged and promises to avenge the humiliation Othello has served upon him. Othello is, of course, blithely unaware of his ancient's resentment and wholly trusts him. Iago, however, has made his intentions clear to Roderigo, who is his confidante and gullible puppet. He tells him ,"I follow him to serve my turn upon him." This sentiment indicates an obvious external conflict.

A further example of such conflict is indicated in the verbal altercation between Brabantio, Desdemona's father; Iago; and Roderigo, when the latter two try to convince the former that his daughter has fallen prey to Othello, who, they claim, has abducted his daughter. Brabantio initially refuses to believe them and threatens Roderigo by saying, "I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors." He calls Iago a "profane wretch" and a "villain." The conflict is resolved, though, when Brabantio believes the two men and calls upon his servants to bring light so that they may search for his daughter and Othello.

Iago and Roderigo's devious lies also create conflict between Brabantio and Othello. Brabantio also later turns against his daughter when he believes that she has betrayed him by choosing to be with the Moor rather than him. He tells Othello in Scene 3 of Act 1:

Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee.

Brabantio unintentionally plants a pernicious seed in the general's mind that will add to Othello's inner conflict and exacerbate his external conflict with Desdemona later in the play. The consequences of these will prove to be devastatingly tragic.

Another example of external conflict occurs during Othello's journey to Cyprus. In this instance, the weather conditions pose severe difficulties, and the rough seas make it doubtful that the general will ever reach his destination, as the following quotes from Act 2, Scene 1 suggest:

And prays the Moor be safe; for they were parted
With foul and violent tempest.

O, let the heavens
Give him defence against the elements,
For I have lost us him on a dangerous sea.

Othello, fortunately, overcomes this situation and arrives safely. Iago's manipulation later brings the general into serious conflict with what he feels he has to do and his love for Desdemona. He is most apparently traumatized by what Iago has told him and the supposed proof of Desdemona's infidelity when he sees his precious gift, a handkerchief, in the hands of Michael Cassio's girlfriend. In the final scene of the play, Othello declares in a voice filled with despair:

Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again.

Ah balmy breath, that dost almost persuade
Justice to break her sword! One more, one more.
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
And love thee after.

He later suffocates the innocent Desdemona, and, in a final act of desperate sacrifice and atonement for his terrible deed, he eventually commits suicide.

durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conflict is often created due to a lack of communication and Othello is no different. Iago, in fact, thrives on miscommunication, inferred meaning (entendres) and double meanings.

Iago is the first to show his displeasure after he has been passed over for promotion. When Roderigo suggests that Iago should "not follow him," Iago is quick to note that there will be consequences to Othello's decision:

 I follow him to serve my turn upon him. I.i.42

Iago goes on to basically warn Roderigo because Iago himself admits

 “I am not what I am,” I.i.66

Iago knows how Roderigo wanted to court Desdemona and will manipulate him to create conflict and mistrust between Brabantio and Desdemona. As Iago says to Roderigo:

Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him.."I.iii.365

Brabantio is immediately enraged by Roderigo when he is roused from sleep and Iago's use of coarse language - "you'll have your daughter cover'd with a Barbary horse"I.i.113- creates enough conflict to incense Brabantio against Othello,at this point.

The play itself is set up in Act I.i. and the conflict that can be expected is all but announced:

all the action stems from Iago manipulating other characters and wreaking havoc in their lives so that his own life may be what he feels is owed to him

Iago's schemes to subvert Othello's happiness by upsetting Desdemona's father are in vain and later, Iago sets Cassio up to get involved in a bar brawl. This serves a double purpose as Iago is able to discredit both Cassio and Othello; Othello obviously making a poor decision choosing Cassio.

“Cassio I love thee; / But never more be officer of mine.” II.iii.241

Cassio plays right into Iago's hands, as Iago counsels him to plead with Desdemona - thereby adding circumstantial evidence in Iago's plot to destroy Othello.

"I'll pour this pestilence into his ear.I.iii.345

The play intensifies and the relationship between Othello and Desdemona all but disintegrates as Othello demeans Desdemona and himself:

 “I took you for that cunning whore of Venice / That married with Othello.” IV.ii.90

Iago is now so motivated  as his plan comes together and he is still manipulating Roderigo who will attempt to kill Cassio. Even in Act V Othello still refers to "honest, honest Iago."V.ii.157.

When Othello is persuaded by Emilia,both realising they were duped over the handkerchief and that Iago is a liar and a fraud and Desdemona was pure, Othello wants to kill Iago. He is prevented from doing so and ultimately kills himself:

I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee.....killing myself...."V.ii.361

an ultimate resolution of the conflict.