What three examples support the "sight/seeing" motif in Othello, and what does it represent?

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The theme of vision as related to appearances, including erroneous impressions, is central to Othello. It is often expressed through physical vision or sight, and accompanied by contrasts between light and dark. The theme is especially relevant in a study of racism and deception: Iago plays on racist preconceptions to encourage people to think poorly of Othello, and he lies and deceives people to carry out his plot. Spying, both visual and aural, is an important way that his plans advance, including reliance on visual evidence.

Desdemona, who does not seem susceptible to the racism of her day, encourages her father not to be racist. She tells him to look past Othello’s outward appearance to see his real “visage” as she has done: “I saw Othello’s visage in his mind” (act 1, scene 3).

While Brabantio accepts him, he remains furious that his daughter deceived him, and uses visual language to tell Othello not to trust her (act 1, scene 3):

Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see;

She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee.

Iago uses the same visual language in encouraging Othello to mistrust and spy on Desdemona as he tries to get him to think his wife is cheating on him (act 2, scene 3). “Look to your wife, observe her well” he says, and then repeats, “Look to’t.” In the same scene, the idea of visual evidence is stressed, and the handkerchief becomes the central object, including the highly visible red strawberries. Othello wants “ocular proof,” something he can see with his own eyes. When he gave Desdemona the handkerchief, which was his mother’s, he references sight again by mentioning the eye: “Make it a darling like your precious eye,” meaning “Don’t let it out of your sight” (act 3, scene 4).

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