The Power of Language in Othello

English Speech: The Power of Language in Othello

Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist, once said:
“Words, so innocent and powerless…when standing in a dictionary, how potent for good or evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
This quote can be directly related to the play Othello, in which Shakespeare uses language to inform, persuade, manipulate and romance both the characters and the audience throughout the play.

Shakespeare uses soliloquies, asides and diction to inform the audience. The language used in Iago’s soliloquies and asides informs the audience of Iago’s true feelings and plans. Consequently, the audience begins to feel involved resulting in a sense of admiration upon his success. An example of this can be found in Iago’s soliloquy at the end of Act 2. He says: “and out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all.” This line reveals to the audience the nature of Iago’s plans and the audience can then see the resulting action in the following Acts. The use of asides also portrays the theme of appearance vs. reality. In addition, Shakespeare informs the audience about the characters through diction. For example, Iago uses words such as “foolish” and “blackness” to describe women. This shows that he does not respect women and regards them as inferior. However, this is contrasted to the way in which Cassio describes women. He uses words such as “divine” and “fair maiden” which shows he is the opposite of Iago.

Furthermore, Shakespeare uses language to persuade which becomes apparent in the speech Othello delivers to the Venetian Government about his marriage with Desdemona.   Othello begins with “most potent, grave and reverend signiors.” This is an intentional bold, formal and flattering opening showing respect and hence creating a good foundation. Othello also employs a modest approach saying: “rude am I in speech… and therefore little shall I grace my cause in speaking for myself.” This...