Written by a friend


Truth or Consequences


I HAVE CHOSEN TO WRITE MY TERM PAPER ON THE Play “Othello”, written by William Shakespeare.


I want to discuss honesty and the problem of drink that run through this play and have a direct effect on the outcome of this tragedy.


Fact:  Othello seems unable to see the fact that Cassio has a drinking problem.


Fact:  Cassio at first does not want to admit to his need for drink.  Cassio protests over and over again that he is not drunk in Act II. Scene 3, by saying “I am not drunk now.  I can stand well enough, and I speak well enough.”  The gentlemen he is with reply “Excellent well!” to which Cassio replies “Why, very well then, you must not think then that I am drunk.


Then later in this same scene you find Iago and Montano discussing Cassio, and Othello’s belief in Cassio, seeming that Othello is oblivious to Cassio’s problem with drink, Iago is worried about the fact that he fears the trust Othello places in Cassio, seemingly oblivious to his infirmity (drink).


One can see how Iago is encouraging Cassio to have one more drink, that it is a night to revel, that the gallants desire it.  At first Cassio says no to the idea, but Iago talks him into it; after he goes out the door Cassio, in an aside, “If I can fasten but one cup upon him, with that which he hath drunk tonight already, he will be as full of quarrel and offense…”  further indicating his intentions to get Cassio into major difficulty.


Because of the fact that Cassio fought Montano, Othello then states that though he loves Cassio, he will never be officer of his again.


Iago and Cassio now have dialogue about the fight he had had with Montano, while he was drunk.  Cassio is bemoaning the loss of his reputation.  Iago makes the statement that Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving.  That Cassio had lost no reputation at all unless he reputes himself a loser.   Cassio becomes concerned that he has lost his reputation after the fight with Montano, that he has lost the immortal part of himself and what remains is bestial, in other words, he gave away his reputation, when being drunk, he chose to fight, something he would not have done had he been sober.


Iago asks of Cassio the day after the fight, “Why, but you are now well enough.  How came you thus recovered?  Iago then further encourages Cassio to drink, saying that good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used, exclaim no more against it; knowing full well that Cassio has a definite problem with alcohol. 


In Act III, one finds Cassio requesting one of the Clowns to see if the gentlewoman that attends the General’s wife (Desdemona) is stirring, and if she is to notify unto her that he (Cassio) desires speech with her. 


Cassio replies “It hath pleased the devil drunkenness to give place to the devil wrath.  One imperfection shows me another, to make me frankly despise myself.  It would appear that Cassio is aware of his problem, but not enough to do something about it, like quit drinking.


As the play continues, one finds Iago saying that he “loves Cassio well and would do much to cure him of this evil (the drink).


What is also of interest is the fact that Cassio encouraged and championed Othello’s wooing of Desdemona.  Cassio when not drinking was obviously different from the Cassio who in his cups, would say anything?


Iago is talking with Othello, and admits to having overheard Cassio, while dreaming, curse the fate that gave Desdemona to Othello, and how they need to hide their love.  Iago speaks further about the “handkerchief” that he saw Cassio wipe his beard with, the one that which had been Othello’s first gift to his fair Desdemona.  Giving Othello more ammunition to use against her, that being the act of infidelity.  Ultimately giving him the proof he needed to suffocate his wife Desdemona for her dishonesty to him.


Then Othello meets with Desdemona and Emilia, and in an aside to the audience admits that he now knows that Desdemona is not being honest with him, that he must as yet dissemble to her.

When Othello asks to see the handkerchief that he had given to Desdemona, she refuses to get it when he asks her to; they argue and Othello exits, leaving her and Emilia alone.  Emilia asks is not Othello jealous, to which she replies that she has never before seen Othello behave the way he just did.  Cassio asks about her progress with getting him back in Othello’s good graces, to which she replies that that what she can do she will and will do more for him than for herself. 


Dishonesty continues and Iago informs Othello that Cassio talked about lying with her, that is to say lie on her, not as in dishonest lie but rather to be on top of …


Iago is a major part of the lies that permeates this play.  He is manipulating both Othello and Cassio.  This action shows up in many scenes of the play, one in particular shows him saying “My medicine works thus credulous fools are caught, and many worthy and chaste dames even thus, All guiltless, meet reproach.”  Iago keeps feeding Othello’s jealous concern about Desdemona’s fidelity by bringing up the missing handkerchief.  It does appear that Cassio is also dishonest about his feelings for Desdemona when he laughs at the thought of marrying Desdemona, and speaking about her throwing herself at him.


 Iago plays both sides of the fence with Othello and Cassio, causing Othello to lose trust in Cassio by the tales that he tells.  Then he counsels Othello to patience, to listen as he, Iago,  has Cassio tell the tale of when he and Desdemona were together.  Cassio tells Iago that he believes that she loves him, but laughs when Iago asks him if they will marry, showing his lack of concern for the “Fair Desdemona”, just another lie.


I first read the play “Othello” a few short weeks ago, having been assigned to do a Term paper for school on a play and I chose “Othello”.  Since that time I have become aware as to how much alcoholic thinking and the truth seemed to have a bad time of it in this play.  Thus I chose to address the concept of how truth and drinking did not mix well, using examples from the play to illustrate this.  I hope that you enjoy what I have written and leave this page with a different perspective of the play than that with which you arrived.




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