Search the text of Othello for specific words

Girls, this is a cool search facility. You can explore the text for occurences of the same word – very useful for cross referencing across the text and when looking for linguistic patterns.

Have a go, perhaps start with black/ fair/ white/ web/ trust….

Reply with your most interesting findings….

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12 Responses to Search the text of Othello for specific words

  1. Issie Buckley says:

    I found it interesting how many biblical references there are in the play; I searched ‘devil’ and found multiple examples of it being used as an insult or threat, and as a description of Othello, usually by Iago. I also searched ‘heaven’ and I was surprised how many references there were, and how often the phrase ‘by heaven’ and ‘heaven bless us’ is used. I remember through studying R+J that there were frequent references to the bible and to god and it made me wonder if this is common in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

    • Mrs Taylor says:

      Give some examples and see if you can explore the pattern – who do they refer to? What significance would they have in early 17th century England? What is Shakespeare trying to do?

  2. simonebadham says:

    I had noticed that there was several references to dogs throughout the play, so i searched ‘dog’ and found that the animalistic images were used as derogatory terms in some cases.

    (2.3.42-43) ‘He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence as my young mistress’ dog’. Here, Iago is referring to Cassio, the image of a small dog in a ‘quarrel’ is not one that radiates dignity and pride, therefore the animalistic image is portraying how Iago wishes Cassio to react after he has had a few drinks and is not a positive image but a degrading one.

    The second reference to a dog is in (3.3.363-364), ‘Thou hadst better been born a dog/Than answer my waked wrath’. Othello passionately warns Iago that he had better not be lying about Desdemona’s infidelity and wishes upon him that he had rather of had the misfortune of being born a dog than suffer his anger.

    (5.1.63) ‘O damned Iago! O inhuman dog!’ Roderigo had dammed Iago to hell and used the image of an inhuman dog to convey how Iago’s nature lacks compassion and is selfish.

    (5.2.351) ‘I took by the throat a circumcised dog’. Shakespeare has used the image of a ‘circumcised dog’ represent the image of a Turk.

    The references to dogs to a 17th century, Christian, audience would have been significant as they would have believed that animals were soulless and that humans were very much the dominant species, due to the fact that they believed that it was God who had created the world and all of its inhabitants, through the story of genesis, and had created humans as stewards to look after his creation. Therefore, a contemporary audience would have been able to fully relate to the several references made and would most certainly have believed that being likened to such a creature would be truly insulting.

  3. Issie Buckley says:

    In Othello, I found a lot of references to ‘drowsy syrups’, ‘substances’ and ‘poisons’, as Iago corrupts images of nature to form more dark and sinister imagery.
    1:1:67: ‘poison his delight’. This quote from Iago about Othello’s relationship with Desdemona describes the way in which Iago wishes to deform and sabotage Othello’s happiness and fortune, and it is a powerful image, as poison results in prolonged pain and suffering.
    3:3:325: ‘the moor already changes with my poison’. This shows how Iago is succeeding in his dark plans, and taking enjoyment with his villainy. The idea of Iago creating and using poisons reinforces his evil and all-powerful nature and ability, and suggests the stereotypical image of a villain brewing deadly substances.
    2:1:278: ‘doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards’. I think that the repetition of this image is vividly descriptive of the way in which Iago’s schemes are having an effect on Othello, and highlights Iago’s manipulative and destructive ability towards his victim. ‘Gnaw my inwards’ shows how Iago will have a long-term, irreversible effect on Othello, and on his and Desdemona’s relationship (the extremity of this effect however, is not revealed to the audience yet).
    3:3:327: ‘dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons’. The corruption of nature has been a common theme throughout Iago’s imagery, and here he is talking about how nature itself is dangerous and poisonous, depicting very dark and twisted image.

    Although I couldn’t find examples of Don John using poison imagery, I found a few uses of the word by using the search website for Much Ado about Nothing. Borachio talks about poison in relation to love:
    2:2:21: ‘the poison of that lies in you to temper’. Here, he is relating the destruction of marriage and love to the effects of poison – not dissimilar to the use of the word in Othello, and the idea of Don John possessing the ability to poison love is a similar image to the one which Iago uses to speak of his own ability.

  4. Grace Allum says:

    I found Shakespeare’s use of the word ‘plague’ interesting as we see a plague to be a contagious disease, however Shakespeare uses it to describe the evil within characters. Act 3, Scene 3 L. 146 “Though I perchance am vicious in my guess – As I confess it is my nature’s plague” where Iago tries to justify his evil plotting/actions.

    ‘Plague’ is used again by Iago at the beginning of the play where he talks of telling Desdemona’s father about her and Othello; Act 1 Scene 1 L. 71 “Plague him with flies. Though that his joy be joy”. Shakespeare’s use of the word ‘plague’ implies that it is very much self inflicted – which can be compared to Iago’s wrong doing.

    Iago uses ‘plague’ for the third time in Act 4 Scene 1 L. 96 when talking about Bianca and Cassio; “Buys herself bread and clothes: it is a creature That dotes on Cassio; as ’tis the strumpet’s plague”. This could relate to the views of a contemporary audience as prostitution could have been seen as contamination or a ‘plague’ which spread the streets, or Shakespeare may be using the word ‘plague’ as a synonym for immoral, evil behavior, hence why it is only used by the character of Iago.

  5. Freya Swabey says:

    In Othello, I was able to find a lot of animal imagery. This is mainly said by Iago in reference to Othello. One of the first examples of this was in act 1 scene 1 where Iago tells Brabantio “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe”. The “old black ram” is in reference to Othello and the “white ewe” is Desdemona. This signifies how Othello is a beast and is taking advantage of Desdemona’s delicate nature.
    Another animal reference from the play Othello was when Iago says that Othello “will as tenderly be led by the nose as asses are”. In this quote, Iago is comparing Othello to a donkey, a large mammal used merely for their strength. They are not the smartest of creatures and are easily controlled. This is why Iago chooses this comparison to Othello.
    During act 4 scene 1 of Othello, there is an episode where Iago references to Othello as being a cuckold. He says this by asking Othello “have you not hurt your head?” This offends Othello as he is suggesting that, like a cuckold, Othello is growing horns out of his head. A cuckold was a man whose wife was having an affair with another man and was said to grow horns and become a dumb animal deserving of laughter. This is another way in which Iago refers to Othello as being a beast.

    In Much Ado, I found that animal imagery was used in a different way. It was often used by Benedick when talking about love. He said “If I do [submit to love], hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me”. In this quote, Benedick is saying that if he ever did fall in love, then he would be like a trapped animal. This is very different to The use of animal imagery in Othello. It is a lot more positive.
    Don Pedro tells Benedick that even a “savage bull” would succumb to love. This shows how not even the biggest of animals are able to escape love and therefore Benedick is no exception.

  6. Florence Fry says:

    In both ‘Othello’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ I found numerous references to animalistic images. The use of animalistic descriptions is used for varying effects and for varying descriptions of both characters and concepts to do with contemporary views.

    In Othello I found the quote ‘your daughter and the Moor are making a beast with two backs’ (1.1.116/7). This refers to Othello and Desdemona having sexual relations; in the early 17th century this concept was unspoken of, especially between a black man and a white women. Religion was omnipresent which made these acts to secretive and, in some sense, taboo. Shakespeare would have intended to shock a contemporary audience with a line like this, perhaps trying to sour their view of Othello even further.

    This technique of using animalistic imagery to describe sexuality is also used in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. ‘As once Europa did at lusty Jove, when he would play the noble beast of love’ (5.4.46/7) is a line to suggest Benedick being empowered by taking sexual possession of Beatrice. The word ‘beast’ is used again, however it contrasts Shakespeare’s use of the word in ‘Othello’. In ‘Othello’ he used this word to give a threatening aura to the concept of sexuality, however in ‘Much Ado’ the word is used in a positive light, in that being sexually empowered is admirable. I think the use must be linked to the fact the Othello is black whilst Benedick is white. At a time when racism was second nature to this contemporary audience it would have been less criticised for a white man to be talking of sexual relations, however, black men would have been seen as hot headed and lewd, depicted in a negative light.

    Animalistic references in Othello are often aimed at demeaning Othello due to his race and ethnicity. These terms reflect the views of a contemporary audience who would have shared the view that Othello is an ‘old black ram’ (1.1.89). The line ‘Barbary horse’ (1.1.111) is used by Shakespeare to tell the audience, who at this point has not met Othello, that he is a savage blackmoor. Even without meeting Othello they are being forced to build up a negative image of him because this line, along with other lines referring to him being a ‘devil’ (1.1.92), connote him as being a barbaric Moor.

    Reference to him being a ‘devil’ (although not an animalistic, it’s still key) immediately tells a Jacobean audience he is an outsider to their society. As mentioned earlier, religion was what life was based on; Othello, being described as a devil, would instantly make people dislike him.

  7. Hannah says:

    During my research I noticed the contrasting references to fire throughout the play. Fire is associated with one of two things, hell or passion.
    I found that there were more references in regard to pain and hell than there were of love and passion. For example in Act 3 Scene 3 Othello says “If there be cords or knives, poison, or fire, or suffocating streams” (389) in reply to being enlightened of the rumour of Desdemona’s infidelity. He is saying that as long as there are things to hurt or kill her with then he will not let her be unfaithful without consequence. This is aggressive, violent imagery and really conveys the pain felt by Othello. Another reference to pain is in Act 5 Scene 2, where Emilia refers to Othello as “rash as fire” (134). This provides imagery for the sharp pain that a burn brings and comparing it to the effects of Othello’s mistreatment of Desdemona. Evidently, in this context, fire is compared to negative things. Again, in Act 5 Scene 2, Othello exclaims “wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!” (280) when he realises Iago’s lied and he has murdered his innocent wife. Othello is asking for his guilt to be turned into physical pain. Several lines previous he says “whip me, ye devils” (277). This automatically lends the reader to believe he is asking to be sent to hell for his actions. There is another quote on the fires of hell in Act 4 Scene 1 where Othello exclaims “fire and brimstone!” (234) similar to an expression such as “damn it!”. This is very short and sharp but links the word fire with associations of hell.
    However, there’s only one point where the use of fire imagery could convey positive things. In Act 2 Scene 1 Cassio announces that Othello should “give renewed fire to our extincted spirits” (81). This use of the word fire is not in a painful context but rather in one of motivation and passion. It relies more on the heat of the fire to convey the image rather than the pain of touching it.
    I then decided to extend my research with the use of the word blood. I consider the word blood is similar to fire in regards to it having two main concepts associated with it, also similar to that of fire. Blood is linked with passion and lust but also with pain and, often, sacrifice and devilish actions. I found several quotes, one of which in Act 5 Scene 2 in which Othello claims “Yet I’ll not shed her blood” (3) making the blood of her seem sacred and pure, the opposite of connotations of hell and Satan. Another, in Act 2 Scene 1, when Iago says “When the blood is made dull with the act of sport, there should be a game to inflame it” (226) about Desdemona’s love for her husband. This quote suggests that passion and lust do indeed stem from the blood.

  8. Bryony Pearce says:

    I found Iago’s references to webs interesting as this could reveal how he thinks himself the grand master able of spinning intricate traps around people leaving them helpless and unknowing. This shows and element of Iago’s arrogance and reverence of himself compared to the others who he views with supercilious contempt. It also reveals Iago’s self-indulgent nature that instead of setting a simple effective ploy he allows himself to work in shadows with an obsessive delight in the complexity of his evil- indeed he revels in his own evil nature, content to have connotations of a spider for the audience and all the other lurking horrors of the night. He uses this web imagery in
    “with as little a web as this will I
    ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.” (2, 1, 168-9)
    This shows Iago’s petty hatred of all those who have succeeded in some way more than him, especially as Iago views himself to be the most intelligent prodigy of his day- therefore this could reveal Iago’s true motivation: jealousy and a suppressed feeling of personal fulfilment. Furthermore it is then clear that Iago has a sadistic side to him in actively seeking and creating the failings of others whilst simultaneously pretending to be a friend, delighting in the fact that they are unaware that the monster who “ensnared” them was Iago, or even that they had been victims of a trap at all. This once again plays into Iago’s love of feeling superior to others.

  9. Livia says:

    When doing some research about imagery in Othello it was interesting to find how frequently there was reference to poison.
    Iago plans to “poison his [Brabantio’s] delight” (1.167). His jealousy is so strong that it “Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards”(2.1.295) so he then resolves to “pour this pestilence into his ear”(1.3.351)
    These references to poison are appropriate to Iago, his actions are swift and deadly and he is responsible for the tragic result of his wrongdoing. Iago relishes the pain he causes and is gleeful as he describes how his ‘poison’ will “burn like the mines of sulphur”(3.3.329).
    In addition, Othello describes how his feels tortured by jealousy using imagery that recalls those used by Iago – “if there be chords or knives / Poison or fire, or suffocating streams / Ill not endure it” (3.3.391)

    (4.1.201) Othello decides to murder Desdemona as his mind is poisoned with foul thoughts through Iago’s scheming. It is Iago who suggests the method of poison to kill her. His power and impact is underlined when Lodovico looks at the “tragic loading” of bodies and comments that it “poisons sight”(5.2.36).

  10. Orla Kearns says:

    I was interested in the imagery and symbolism of war and battle within the two plays.

    Throughout Much Ado, images of war frequently symbolise verbal arguments and confrontations. At the beginning of the play, Leonato relates to the other characters that there is a “merry war” between Beatrice and Benedick: “They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them” (I.i.50–51). Beatrice carries on this martial imagery, describing how, when she won the last duel with Benedick, “four of his five wits went halting off” (I.i.53). Leonato accuses Claudio of killing Hero with words: “Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart” (V.i.68). Later in the same scene, Benedick presents Claudio with a violent verbal challenge: to duel to the death over Hero’s honor. When Borachio confesses to staging the loss of Hero’s innocence, Don Pedro describes this spoken evidence as a sword that tears through Claudio’s heart: “Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?” (V.i.227), and Claudio responds that he has already figuratively committed suicide upon hearing these words: “I have drunk poison whiles he uttered it” (V.i.228). Don John, despite not having many words, is also aware of the tensions and delicate relationships that surround him. His troublemaking is, in effect, his own battle, or war, in getting his own back on his brother and those around him, in light of his status as a social outcast. His lack of speech also suggests planning or scheming; a calculated, war-like attitude to doing as much damage as he can.

    Comparatively, war is Othello’s occupation: it has been his life, and he is/was very good at it. Othello is a general in the Venetian army and most of the action takes place on Cyprus which is occupied by the military in order to protect it from the Turks. The vocabulary of war comes easily therefore to the main characters, particularly Othello. It was in describing war that he won the love of Desdemona and he is at his most eloquent when speaking of his military life. This quality is defined as a pompous and hollow by Iago who describes Othello’s words as: “bombast circumstance, horribly stuffed with epithets of war”(I.i.13-4). After jealousy takes hold of Othello, however, he says goodbye to war and claims that his “occupation’s gone”. This is shocking as it has been the centre of his life, yet he puts all of his noble and valiant traits aside and is dominated by jealousy and a desire for revenge. It is these aspects of war that are used to characterise the love between Othello and Desdemona, as well as being symbolic of the tensions between the characters- particularly Othello and Iago.

  11. Jess Uren says:

    Throughout the text there are many references to black/white in Othello. As Othello is the only black character in the play, his colour is frequently used against him by other various characters e.g. Iago.
    I found that often the use of colour is paired with animal imagery, which gives it a more dramatic and derogatory statement. For example, Iago talks about Othello and Desdemona’s marriage by saying, ‘An old black ram is tupping your white ewe.’ This is a very strong metaphor as it shows how people believed that white versus black was like good versus evil, therefore showing how degraded Othello is due to his colour. Iago also uses the animal imagery to try and show Othello as a ‘lusty’ stereotypical black man.
    However, although Iago uses the colour of Othello to manipulate him, the Duke Senior uses Othello’s colour in a more positive way. When the Duke is trying to talk Brabantio into accepting the marriage he talks about Othello in this way; ‘your son in law is far more fair than black.’ ‘Fair’ not only means white but beautiful and good, therefore he is saying that Othello is a very noble man therefore it is wrong to categorize him. However, the fact he has to name Othello as white to show he is innocent, still shows that they have not accepted coloured people into the society.
    When Emilia is talking to Othello about murdering Desdemona, Emilia says ‘O more angel she, and you the blacker devil.’ This shows how Emilia believes that Othello has got his morals the wrong way round, in her eyes Othello is the criminal and Desdemona is the victim. The fact she is also saying ‘blacker devil’ implies that she is using the blackness of Othello to show how he has links to the devil, and also links to the good versus evil quote in the first paragraph.
    Jess Uren

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