Tutor profile: Francesca S.
'Othello is a worthy hero' to what extent do you agree?
Worthiness can be seen as a person’s adequacy to be deserving of something, and in the tragic genre, the positive attributes of the tragic protagonist often render them deserving of veneration as a hero. In Shakespeare’s Othello, the eponymous protagonist’s initially respected and eloquent character at the exposition, as well as his eventual restoration of his honour at the denouement through his repentance, and the fact that his actions are out of a noble pursuing of justice perhaps renders him deserving of the title of hero. However, Othello’s unreasonable violence, volatility and cruelty which drive the murder of his tragically innocent wife and his own suicide may render him beyond depiction as a hero as he perhaps cannot be redeemed from these villainous actions. Thus, Shakespeare develops the interesting debate: whether Othello’s motivations and apparently honest disposition are ultimately enough to exonerate him from his callous actions and prove his worthiness as a tragic hero. At the exposition, in Act One Scene Three, Shakespeare presents Othello as a venerable and distinguished general who is deferential and loving, all of which are heroic traits. Othello’s poise and intelligence is demonstrated in his eloquent addressing of the ‘most potent grave and reverend signoirs’ as well as his respectable position as ‘valiant Othello’ and ‘brave Moor’, as he is referred to by his peers, with the premodifying adjectives allowing Shakespeare to convey Othello’s worthiness of his desirable position in society as a ‘great captain’ and ‘noble lord’. Furthermore, not only does Shakespeare shows how Othello’s past heroism in all ‘the dangers [he] had past’ won him respect, but they ‘won’ him his ‘true and loving wife’, the ‘virtuous’ Desdemona, despite Brabantio’s indignation at their elopement due to the contextual views of Brabantio’s position as patriarch meaning the marriage undermined his authority and thus his masculinity. This therefore shows how although Othello’s race as a ‘moor’ may have held him back as an outsider incongruent in Venetian society, he has nobly overcome these restraints and prejudices as (what Roderigo refers to him as) ‘a beast’ and ‘lascivious moor’ to earn a status of ‘general’ and also a ‘most virtuous’ wife. Thus, Shakespeare demonstrates how, at the exposition, Othello is worthy of the title hero as he has overcome the overwhelming societal prejudices of race which may have tragically prevented his attainment of such veneration to show his ‘perfect soul’ and ‘free and open nature’ to be loved and respected. Perhaps Shakespeare is attempting to expose the truly absurd notions of such a tragically prejudiced society by demonstrating how much more honourable a character arguably is for being able to transcend these repressive views: Othello is heroic in how overcomes these social prejudices. However, towards the middle of the play, Othello undergoes a drastic regression, being presented by Shakespeare as volatile, violent and jealous: traits unfitting of a worthy hero. In Acts Three and Four, following the tragic manipulation by the iscariotic Iago, Othello both ‘strikes’ Desdemona publicly, calling her a ‘subtle whore’ and an ‘impudent strumpet’, and decides ‘how shall [he] kill’ Cassio, showing how his character is ‘much changed’ to become vicious and truculent. The perverse way that Othello has poignantly descended from being eloquent and poised to duplicitious and disjointed in his instability is demonstrated in how Shakespeare contrasts his language from the exposition in his articulate delineation of how ‘she loved [him] for the dangers [he] had past, and [he] loved that she did pity them’, juxtaposed with the fragmented language of ‘confessions-handkerchief-confessions’ and ‘blood blood blood’, after seeing the ‘ocular proof’ in the handkerchief Cassio holds. This marks where Othello has experienced a catastrophic change from Iago’s ‘poison’ to be ‘in a jealousy so strong that even reason cannot cure’, to lose his innocent love of the tragically ‘guiltless’ Desdemona and also his identity as a respected and heroic general, thus perhaps diminishing his worthiness to be called a hero as his ‘free and open nature’ has been manipulated by Iago to lead him to condemnable desires of ‘black vengeances’ and ‘great revenge’ through murderous means. Furthermore, the fact hat Iago may be blamed for how he was the one to ‘pour pestilence in [Othello’s] ear’, thus diminishing Othello’s condemnability as he is more a victim of Iago’s vile machinations, this can arguably be negated as Othello is not prompted directly by Iago in his thoughts to ‘tear her all to messes’ and ‘chop her into pieces’, Iago is not even present when Othello reveals his belief that Desdemona ‘must die’. This therefore shows how Shakespeare wishes us to appreciate Othello’s culpability in his reproachable actions and therefore deem him unworthy of presentation as a hero. Thus, Shakespeare demonstrates the dramatic and catastrophic nature of a hero’s tragic fall as the audience is directly encouraged to mourn Othello’s piteous loss of love, control and integrity which were once seen as intrinsic aspects of his previously heroic character, rendering him more worthy of a title as a pitiable victim, than a hero. However, at the denouement, Shakespeare presents Othello as murderous and malevolent but perversely also tragically misguided in his beliefs which render what he believed as just and necessary actions to actually be cruel and devastating; Othello’s actions are not heroic, but in some ways, his motivations are. Othello seems enthralled by Desdemona’s ‘balmy breath’ and still In love with her as a ‘rose-lipped cherubim’ and therefore reluctant to kill her, but he believes ‘she must die, else she’ll betray more men’ and to ‘again her former light restore’, showing that while Othello’s morally sinful and contextually blasphemous actions are admonishable, his reasoning is pure in that he wants to preserve Desdemona’s virtue, as he sees her as ‘contaminated’, and protect other men from being dishonoured as ‘horned men’ by her. Therefore, Shakespeare perhaps wants the audience to see how in Othello’s mind, he is being heroic in how he sacrifices his ‘loyal wife’ in as perversely a respectful way he can, saying ‘I’ll not shed her blood, nor scar that whiter skin’, to conform to his tragic misinterpretation of contextual societal notions of patriarchy and masculinity which promulgate infidelity as emasculating to husbands and unvirtuous in wives, therefore Othello is striving to restore his warped sense of ‘justice’ and order. Furthermore, the fact that when Emilia delineates the catastrophic situation and Iago’s treacherous nature as a ‘demi-devil’ and ‘villainous knave’, Othello realises his devastating error and acknowledges his sin of how he ‘threw a pearl away’, thus desiring divine punishment in ‘whip me ye devils’ at the cost of his eternal peace in a heroic, yet futile, final attempt to restore justice. Thus, the audience arguably sees Othello as ‘one that loved not wisely, but too well’ and therefore he is worthy of being a hero in how his intentions were, although flawed, arguably noble and knowingly at the cost of all he held dear and yet he persevered to do what he thought was right and ‘on just grounds’. Shakespeare thus exposes the tragic consequences of flawed and destructive social views of patriarchy and how there can be devastating consequences from their unfair beliefs. Overall, I believe that although Othello can be condemned for his malicious and ultimately violent and destructive actions, the fact that it is only while Iago is available to manipulate and control him serves to demonstrate how Shakespeare is ultimately showing Othello as a worthy hero but one who was misguided by malicious lies which augmented and intensified the pressures of social conventions of masculinity and reputation. Shakespeare thus shows how heroism can be perverted to result in destructive acts and yet it is ultimately the respectability of intentions which determines our worthiness as heroes.
To what extent does Blake only present Authority figures as negative and a source of suffering?
In Blake’s poetry, authority figures are typically presented as being the harsh commanders who both restrict the freedom of and in some cases induce the suffering of those beneath them in their social hierarchies. However, authority figures can also be seen as compassionate and affectionate protectors of those they care for, more protectors from anguish than the cause of it, as in ‘The Little Boy Found’ and ‘Nurse’s Song’. In ‘The Little Boy Lost/Found’, Blake immediately establishes the dependence of the vulnerable ‘little boy’ on his father as well as reinforcing the boy’s fear and isolation when his father abandons him, showing how authority figures can be neglectful but also powerful to inflict this suffering. Without his father, the boy ‘shall be lost’, with the modal verb of ‘shall’, coupled with the almost threatening ‘or else’, allows Blake to suggest a level of inevitability that the boy will be ‘lost’ and subsequently be in distress in the menacing ‘dark’ night which further enforces the idea that authority figures are perhaps necessary to protect those that are vulnerable, like the son who is referred to by the diminutive adjective ‘little’ to perhaps emphasise his weakness. However the fact that the father doesn’t protect his son, suggests there is perhaps an abuse of this responsibility of authority figures to protect those without power, like the ‘little boy’ in the poem. Furthermore, the fact that the boy describes himself as ‘your little boy’ to his father suggests not only that the son is a possession of his father’s, and thus presumably the responsibility of his father to care for, but also that the boy himself perceives himself as ‘little’ and therefore perhaps acknowledges his own weakness and fragility which enhances the reader’s negative perception of the father as the boy has been left against his will in a ‘night [that] was dark’ in a ‘mire [that] was deep’. In addition to the sense of hopelessness, as the ‘child did weep’ when his father left, there is also a sense of disillusionment within the child himself at his father’s authority as his confusion in his enquiry at the exposition ‘father where are you going?’, coupled with the ambiguous final line ‘away the vapour flew’, perhaps metaphorically means the child was previously living in naivety as he depended on and trusted his father, however when the father leaves him, the son no longer has an authority figure to lead him and so the metaphorical ‘vapours’ of innocence that protected him have now been dispersed and the child has been perhaps forced in to a premature maturity which he cannot cope with. This therefore demonstrates how Blake is attempting to perhaps portray authority figures as untrustworthy and fallible as the son couldn’t depend on his father to guide him through life and so has been unwittingly left in a dire and distressing situation, therefore heightening the audience’s distain towards authority figures. However, in ‘The Little Boy Found’, despite the child’s father leaving him in a ‘lonely fen’ ‘to cry’, hope is restored when God ‘appeared like his father in white’ which suggests not all authority figures are remiss or flippant towards their power and that the son can rely on God to guide him, as his authority, out of anguish. Furthermore, the fact that God ‘kissed the child’ and led him ‘by the hand’ presents God as a much more caring, affectionate authority, who can make the child feel more secure in the reliability that God is apparently ‘ever nigh’, to the child who gave him the spiritual guidance that metaphorically lead him to his mother when his father didn’t. Therefore, Blake may be presenting respect and belief in divine authority to be the saviour of the boy’s situation and perhaps encourages religious belief from the audience who may revere and admire God’s tenderness and comforting omnipotence as he is ‘ever nigh’. Furthermore, the fact that God looks ‘like his father’, coupled with the sudden and vague verb ‘appeared’, may suggests God is in fact an internal apparition in the poem, created by the boy, perhaps in desperation to improve his situation. This notion is supported by Blake’s belief in the human form divine as religion is a personal experience based on an individual’s own beliefs, not an institutionalised and formal affair, hence why the boy is led by a ‘wandering light’ which suggests it is perhaps free and natural, not as a consequence of religious indoctrination. Therefore, the boy in some ways becomes his own authority figure as he projects a gentle, compassionate authority to lead him home like a ‘wandering light’ which perhaps suggests Blake is presenting our own internal authority and power to guide ourselves as the most powerful and positive authority, but which perhaps can only be realised through religious awakening. Thus, while the boy’s father may be a damaging and dismissive authority figure, the fact that his neglect results in the suffering which allows the boy to find the spiritual awakening and his own authority to reach safety perhaps suggests the father’s authority, though the cause of immediate suffering, ironically resulted in positive self-realisation and religious enlightenment. Thus, while the authority figure of the father may be perceived negatively as the source of the boy’s misery, the result of his neglectful authority was not entirely awful as there were some desirable benefits from the situation. In ‘Nurse’s song’, Blake presents the authority figure of the nurse as empathetic and compassionate in her consideration of the childrens’ desires, allowing their innocence to flourish in their liberated play and thus she is relaxed and understanding in how she uses her authority over the children. Blake immediately establishes the nurse’s connection with the children as, although perhaps being seen as idle or neglectful in her removal from the children’s play, she overall appears kind-hearted and empathetic as when she hears ‘the voices of the children’ and their ‘laughing’, her ‘heart is at rest’. This suggests the nurse is perhaps acting more as a protector of the children, similar to the Shepard in Blake’s poem ‘The Shepard’, in that she is removed from their play and only intervenes when she believes danger to be approaching as she stops their play when ‘the sun is gone’, and that this relationship with the children is overall constructive and positive as ‘everything else is still’ which suggests her guardianship allows the children to enjoy themselves in safety: her authority is relaxed and unobtrusive so as to only be needed in times of danger. However, when the nurse alludes to ensuing danger when she commands the children ‘come home’ as ‘the dews of the night arise’, thus exercising her authority to shield the children from suffering similar to the child ‘wet with dew’ in ‘The Little boy Lost’, as the children would not be left in the night under her care and so would not be exposed to the same cold misery, she relents to the childrens’ pleas to ‘let us play’. This could perhaps show how the nurse could be interpreted as too lax of an authority and subsequently exposes the vulnerable children to the threats of the world, this is perhaps why the poem ends with how ‘all the hills echoed’ as it perhaps sounds symbolic of the children being lost or entrapped in a vast and complex world. This is arguably a bleak ending which suggests the children would be exposed to further danger anyway despite our initial belief that the nurse would protect them, her authority is perhaps too relaxed. However, the fact that the children challenge the nurse’s authority in open defiance to complain ‘it is yet day’ and that ‘the little birds fly’ perhaps suggests the nurse has constructed this danger due to her anxiety for the childrens’ safety in the sense that she is so paranoid that the children will come to harm because she cares for them so much that she is inadvertently generating false dangers , therefore the reader arguably extols her further because she is so concerned with their wellbeing. Furthermore, the lexical similarities between the childrens’ speech and the nurse’s with ‘come, come’, ‘no, no’ and ‘well, well’ allows Blake to balance and similarity between the childrens’ and the nurse’s reasoning which presents the two parties more as two equals than those of a stratified hierarchy which thus makes their conversation less a competition of power and authority, and more a discussion to reach a compromise. This may suggest Blake is attempting to present authority figures who share equal power with those they should command are the most positive as the ending of the poem could be seen as symbolic of overwhelming mirth and joy at the lack of oppressive restriction exercised by the nurse as the children ‘leaped and shouted and laughed’. This then makes us revaluate the ending line ‘all the hills echoed’ as it may more symbolises the pleasant freedom experienced by the children due to the relaxed authority of the nurse where ‘echoed’ is instead referring to boundless and everlasting joy experienced by the children in a free and unrestricted world . Therefore, Blake could be suggesting authority figures who can diplomatically submit to the desires of those they control when there is no reason not to do so are overall positive and allow for a more liberated and peaceful society. Overall, Blake presents authority figures negatively in some cases, as with the little boy’s father who neglects his child and leaves him to a premature maturation in the dangers of the wilderness. However, when authority figures do not entirely neglect but relax their authority while still remaining vigilant against danger, as with the nurse, or only appearing when the threat was causing suffering, as with God, then they are presented by Blake as a positive and perhaps necessary influence as although their presence inevitably means there is a level of hierarchical power, it is also perhaps necessary to distinguish between when freedom can be granted and therefore enjoyed, and when liberation will result in the same distress experienced by the little boy. Authority figures are therefore presented moreover as a necessary guide whose authority can in fact allow for more enjoyment and alleviation of suffering but, only when the best interests of those they care for are their priority.
Closely analyse how the writer uses language to describe Rosabel's bus journey. (8 marks) Rosabel looked out of the windows; the street was blurred and misty, but light striking on the panes turned their dullness to opal and silver, and the jewellers' shops seen through this were fairy palaces. Her feet were horribly wet, and she knew the bottom of her skirt and petticoat would be coated with black, greasy mud. There was a sickening smell of warm humanity – it seemed to be oozing out of everybody in the bus – and everybody had the same expression, sitting so still, staring in front of them. Rosabel stirred suddenly and unfastened the two top buttons of her coat… she felt almost stifled. Through her half-closed eyes, the whole row of people on the opposite seat seemed to resolve into one meaningless, staring face.
The writer uses pathetic fallacy to establish a grim and unpleasant mood to Rosabel's bus journey as 'the street was blurred and misty'. However, the writer then enlivens this mundane scene through the use of metaphor as the windows became 'opal and silver' while the 'jewellers' shops... were fairy palaces'. This therefore establishes how the exterior of the bus seems magical and mystical to Rosabel, a world full of potential and beauty. However, the grotesque sensory imagery within the bus of 'the sickening smell of warm humanity' presents the interior of the bus as vile, disgusting and repellent to Rosabel as the verb 'sickening' demonstrates how her bus journey makes her physically nauseous. Furthermore, the fact that at the end of the extract, Rosabel sees the other passengers 'resolve into one meaningless, staring face' shows how it is the other people who make her bus journey so unpleasant; the verb 'staring' is pointed and almost aggressive, suggesting that Rosabel feels judged and scrutinized on her bus journey as they are inexplicably watching her. Thus, the writer presents the world outside the bus as a free and wonderful place, but the environment and people within the bus make Rosabel's bus journey uncomfortable, distressing and almost intolerable.
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