Othello: Importance Of Act I Essay, Research Paper
William Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragic play consisting of five acts. Although each act is not of equal importance, each serves a distinct role that affects the quality of the play in its entirety. Removing any act would therefore greatly diminish the final product of this play; consequently, reducing the play’s appeal to the audience. Since Act I satisfies several essential purposes, removing it would be a mistake. Ultimately, we would no longer be seeing Othello the way Shakespeare had intended us to.
First of all, Act I serves as an introduction. As a result of Act I, we get a feel for the setting, the characters, and prior events that are required to thoroughly appreciate this play. Without receiving this vast amount of information, unfortunately the rest of the play does not have the same impact. For example, it is in Act I that we learn of Othello’s ethnic as well as military background. Although the Moor finds himself the target of racial comments, the impression we get of him, throughout Act I, is one of simplicity combined with dignity and honesty. In Scene I, we are also informed of Othello and Desdemona’s recent marriage. The situation regarding Othello’s choice of lieutenant is another important event described in the first scene of Act I. Iago had attempted to bribe his way into this position, but Othello chose Cassio, a Florentine, whose knowledge of war was great despite his lack of experience. All of these events occurred prior to the start of the play, but are involved in the development of the play; therefore, they are recalled for our purposes in Act I. Removing the first act of Othello would consequently prevent us from realizing that these events had indeed taken place, making it quite difficult to understand the meaning of the play.
In addition, the removal of Act I from Othello would weaken the audience’s feelings of anguish for the characters. The deaths of Othello and Desdemona would be considered less tragic because the downfall of these characters would be to a lesser extent. In Act I, both Othello and Desdemona are portrayed at their greatest moment. Othello is depicted as a general of utmost ability. News of an imminent attack on the island of Cypress sends Venice into a state of emergency, so Othello is sent for. Othello’s good reputation with the Duke and Senators convince us of his capabilities. Othello’s high status is also demonstrated when he and Brabantia approach the Duke in scene III. Although Brabantia outranks Othello, the Duke initially acknowledges Othello by saying, “Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you / against the general enemy Ottoman.”( ). Similarly, Desdemona’s finest qualities are also revealed in Act I. The senator’s daughter is depicted as a beautiful, elegant, young lady. Her pureness and innocence provide a refreshing outlook toward life after witnessing Iago’s intentions. Act I also shows Brabantio’s high influential power in Venice. Desdemona’s courage to marry a man whom her father does not approve of represents the strength of Desdemona’s love for Othello.
These impressions are required to classify Othello as a tragic play. Without seeing these characters at such a height, in the beginning, their deaths may not be considered tragic in the end. Ultimately, without Act I the downfall of both Othello and Desdemona would not be as noticeable.
Othello would not be a play of such caliber without Act I. The first act of the play is designed to set the play into action. In order to remain in control of Roderigo’s money, Iago must justify his actions. He decides to plot against both Othello and Cassio, introducing the motive for the play:
Cassio’s a proper man; let me see now,
To get his place and to plume up my will
In double knaverry – How, how? – Let’s see: –
After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear
That he is too familiar with his wife.
This soliloquy reveals Iago’s evil character to the audience and predicts what is to come. Despite Iago’s reasoning to Roderigo that revenge is the motive behind his actions, we soon realize that Iago has a motiveless maliciousness; doing evil for his own enjoyment. In addition, the prominent theme of deception is introduced in the opening act. Iago’s precise description of himself, “I am not what I am” turns out to be major factor in the play. Iago’s ability to deceive everyone results in his near success of causing Othello’s downfall. The conversation in Scene III between Othello and Brabantio, regarding Desdemona, is similarly important. Brabantio words, “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see; She has deceived her father and may thee” ,carry no truth but are used by Iago as ammunition to deceive Othello. Act I initiates Othello in a way that the play can progress smoothly to it’s tragic ending.
In conclusion, the removal of Act I, of Othello would significantly alter the audience’s response to the play. The play would not be as effective if the audience was not aware of the information presented in Act I. In order to classify Othello as a tragedy act I must be included, or the downfall of the main characters may not be as noticeable. In addition, the minor events of Act I are crucial to initiate the play, and set it into action. Essentially, removing Act I from this tragic play would diminish the play’s appeal; which would be a tragedy in it’s self.