Margaret M.


In the play, Othello, Shakespeare utilizes light versus dark motif to emphasis good versus evil in order to show how contrasting Othello and Desdemona are.

Othello, the main character of the play, is a dark skinned, strong, powerful, military general. He is highly respected in society due to his war and battle ethics. His wife, Desdemona is a beautiful, pure, young, kind, and light skinned woman. They are very much in love despite their different characteristics. Within society, despite Othello’s prestige reputation, he is still labeled due to his skin color. Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, disapproves of Othello in general. When Brabantio learns Othello and Desdemona are married he is shaken up. It is hard for Brabantio to believe his sweet innocent daughter would do such a thing. He needs much convincing from Iago, who too hates Othello. “ Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is topping your white ewe.” Other than this quote’s literal meaning that Othello and Desdemona are in a relationship, Shakespeare’s diction portray the light vs. dark motif. He uses “black ram” to describe Othello. This exemplifies Othello’s inner and outer configuration. Black relates to his skin and his tough exterior. Also, using the word ram, it portrays Othello as an old animal. Furthermore it shows how Othello is controlling Desdemona because the adult ram controls the baby ram, ewe. Therefore, to Brabantio, he is the evil side of the motif. Unlike Othello, Desdemona is described with the exact opposite words. “White ewe” depicts Desdemona as a light skinned and young. By using ewe, it characterizes Desdemona as innocent, pure, holy like, and very much like a young child. She is the good side of the motif. Throughout the play, she remains good, unlike Othello. Othello and Desdemona are clearly represented though Shakespeare’s motif of light verses dark.


Throughout the play, Iago manipulates Othello, which stirs the evil side of Othello and brings it to the surface. The manipulation results in intense jealousy and rage, which then unleashes the dark and evil side of Othello. He is unable to handle this situation with Desdemona and the idea that she has not been faithful. He changes from a rational state to an irrational state. Unlike Othello, Desdemona remains loyal throughout the entire. She does not allow herself to be manipulated. She stays the same, pure innocent, light, and a loyal wife. After being convinced Desdemona is unfaithful Othello snaps. “Now I do see, ‘Tis true. Look here, Iago all my fond love thus do I blow to heaven. ‘tis gone. Arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hell…O, Blood Blood Blood! (act 3. Sc. Line: 505) Othello believes he is the victim and therefore he retaliates against Desdemona. Othello is so angered by Desdemona he replaces his love for her with evil. The evil is the jealousy and rage that essentially leads to her death. A rational person would not escalate to the point of “black vengeance”. Othello is portrayed as black for his skin color and the foreshadowing dark villainous deed against Desdemona. Light vs. dark is clearly demonstrated through the actions of these two characters. It is obvious to the reader who is good and who is evil through the element of light and dark.


In the play Othello, Shakespeare created characters that demonstrated specific behaviors such as goodness and evil and depicted this through their skin color. This is exemplified by Desdemona’s good character and behavior. Despite Othello’s harsh, and compulsive actions toward Desdemona she remains pure to her beliefs and good-natured. She refuses to be manipulated. She remains true to her character and would not consider be unfaithful to Othello for anything in the world. Even when Emilia may try to persuade to her, Desdemona stays strong. “Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?” asks Emilia. “No, by this heavenly light!” (act. 4 sc. 3 lines: 71-74) Even for the world, Desdemona would never cheat on Othello. Her pureness is portrayed through light. The use of the word “light” was purposely done by Shakespeare to show the good and loyalty in Desdemona’s choice. Shakespeare’s motif of light verses dark represents the good behavior and good character of Desdemona.

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