Blinded by Madness

This being my first time reading Othello, I find the attribute of sight and blindness to be an intriguing motif within this play as a whole. From the very first instant the play begins, Othello’s character is being interpreted by Iago and Roderigo exemplifying the physical characteristics of Othello’s character, referring to him as “the Moor” (1.1.57), “the thick-lips” (1.1.66), and “a Barbary horse” (1.1.113). Not to mention his is ambiguously mentioned by pronouns of “he” and “him” in order to revert from speaking his name. On top of the physical representations that these characters portray Othello as, the audience is blinded by Iago’s delusion of Othello. As the reader in this opening act, Othello’s introduction to the tragedy is merely speculation of Iago and Roderigo’s deceptive portrayal, the first instance in which the metaphorical sense of blindness is brought up in the play.

Iago’s rumors and deception blinds many of the characters within the tragedy itself, yet the only character that is open-minded and full of clarity within the play is Desdemona. The physical attributes that blind Venice, Desdemona’s father, Iago, and many more, are underscored by the fact that Desdemona “saw Othello’s visage in his mind, / And to his honours and his valiant parts / Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate” (1.3.250-252). She is able to see past the physical implications of skin color that divides Othello from the rest of the community. She sees who he truly is on the inside, and having fell in love with him because of this.

While Desdemona, the main female character in the play, is clarity in a world of deceived and blind characters, and even viewership in the beginning who had the wool pulled over their eyes by Iago, the cloud of judgement and madness that will intercept Othello out-shadows all sense of clarity and sight. The foreboding actions through the limitations of sight at the harbor–“What from the cape can you discern at sea? / Nothing at all. It is a high-wrought flood” (2.1.1-2)–implicates that the madness brought about by Iago’s delusions and deceptions will turn the sight of Othello into a maddening storm. The correlation between the visibility at the moor, which happens to be a place where  boats are known to dock, and the dwindling sight of Othello titled the Moor of Venice, is illustrates the impending shroud of madness that will befall Othello.


One thought on “Blinded by Madness

  1. Margaret Hack

    I love the tie you draw between the vagueness and cloudiness of the moor and the Moor of Venice. I think it foreshadows the lack of faith the audience should put into his character – and the consistency of it. Although he may seem like a trustworthy man, our judgement of him is clouded at this point in the play. Perhaps he is masking himself, or maybe the nature of character will change, but either way he will not be the same Othello as the “charming” one we meet at the start of the play.


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