Iago's Use Of Metatheatre In Othello

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In this essay I will examine metatheatre within Shakespeare's Othello, focusing on the disintegration of language and the subsequent destruction of self. Conflating the definition of comedy and tragedy, Othello explores the limitations of language and the malleability of knowledge within the confines of theatre and how this undermines the very basis of the play. Throughout the extract, imitation is the catalyst for the play's instability, as the social hierarchy is inverted against a myriad of metatheatrical tension and initiates the breakdown between stage and audience; expanding on Greenblatt's idea of self-fashioning, I will discuss how Iago's ability to manipulate the external reality distorts the foundation of the play and subverts the…show more content…
Moreover, the histrionics of this performance paradoxically intensify the superficial elements of this act, Othello losing first the audience's adulation and now their sympathy. Iago has effectively reduced him to the 'blackface' caricature he once rebelled against, the internalisation of racial and cultural dehumanisation culminating in the phrase “begrimed and black”. With Othello representing futility, Iago by default assumes his role as 'tragedian', or more abstractly, fate itself. Imitating Othello's predisposition to exaggeration, Iago, recreating himself as the lyricist, extends the hyperbole amidst the words “O wretched fool” and “O monstrous world”, as this act of mimicry is the ultimate catalyst in the deterioration of language; hence, as language sustains illusion, the play itself begins to collapse and depend on abstraction and…show more content…
The reliance on divine imagery (3.3.368) and pathetic fallacy (3.3.373) amidst the projection of his misery onto the celestial firmament “to make heaven weep” isolate him further; for Othello, the world is condemned to an abstraction, and it is this travesty of language that dooms the play to superficiality predicated on fabrication. Furthermore, the contradictions and paratactic chaos (3.3.385-392) that infect his speech provide the tension that will ultimately end in death. The mutually incompatible statements “I think my wife be honest” and “I think that [Iago is] just” ironically undermine the basis of Othello, highlighting the emptiness of the stage by demonstrating that the play in its entirety is underpinned by the lack of speech, a betrayal of language; it becomes little more than a tableau conceived by Iago, predicated on Othello's silence and haunted by the provision “I am not what I am”

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