Motif: Honesty

Shakespeare's Othello


Everyone views honesty differently. Some people see it as a from of reputation, others see it as a moral choice. Honesty is something that forms an individual's perspective and personality.

Innocent Desdemona

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"I saw Othello's visage in his mind. And to his honour and valiant parts did I my soul and fortunes consecrate" (Desdemona 1.3.252-254)
This image shows is a metaphor of Desdemona. She is sweet and white like a rose, but she tainted by reality in the end. Othello never sheds her blood but Emilia dribbles on her and her innocence and beauty becomes soaked in deceit and lies. This relates to the quote because Desdemona sees what she thinks Othello sees himself as, but in the end her innocent outlook is ruined by the stains of jealousy.
Desdemona is such a pure and innocent individual. She works to see the best in everyone, I trait that leads to her being blind Othello's true feelings. "I saw Othello's visage in his mind," 'I saw how he sees himself and I fell in love' is what she is really saying. To Desdemona the world is full of sunshine and possibility, there is no such thing as evil or deceit. Everyone presents themselves on the outside exactly as they are on the inside. Outward appearance is merely a glass vase encasing a persons' true inner self. She sees Othello as "honour[able] and valiant" just like everyone else. Sometimes seeing the best in everyone makes people blind to the dishonesty and deceit of human nature, just like Desdemona was blind to Othello's jealousy.

Alduterous Emilia

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"Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch?" (Emilia 4.3.74-75)
This image depicts Emilia and Iago's marriage. They have sworn an oath to each other yet they both do as they please. Emilia sleeps with other men to make Iago feel something towards her. Their relationship is broken because there is no honesty or trust. This image relates to the quote because it shows how Emilia breaks her vows to bring honour to Iago.
Emilia is the true definition of a Venetian women. She is being completely honest with Desdemona. She would cheat on Iago if it meant he would gain power or position. Desdemona doesn't understand this. She doesn't understand how Emilia could commit such sin against her husband and be perfectly okay with it. She doesn't get how that could be morally right. This shows the contrast in what the two women see as socially acceptable under the oath of marriage. Desdemona is young and innocent. She is honourable the true definition of an honest woman. She is honourable to her husband through thick and thin. Emilia slyly suggests that she has been with other men in the name of "making him a monarch". Her morals aren't quite as high or strong as Desdemona's. To Emilia, honouring her husband means bringing success to his name. The two women demonstrate very different views of what an honourable and honest wife's duties are.

Honourable Othello

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"Why should honour outlive honesty? Let it go all" (Othello 5.2.245-246)
Othello is broken and repentant. How can "honour outlive honesty?" He knows that he cannot escape punishment for his deeds so he takes his own life. This image shows a man kneeling and repenting. Othello says, "let it go all". He means that his deeds are done and there is no going back so he will end it for good.
Othello is seen by everyone as strong, sturdy rock. He is pillar of strength in every situation, including battle. "Why should honour outlive honesty?" Why should him killing Desdemona be justified by the fact that he did it thinking he was doing the right and honourable thing? He knows that murdering Desdemona in accidental-cold-blood was wrong and that his actions cannot be forgiven. He realizes in the end that Desdemona was being honest and honourable to heart and what she felt was right. He let Iago talk him into believing that was a lying harlot disguised as an honest, godly woman. Othello realizes the error of his actions a little too late. He realizes that maybe he shouldn't of held his own honour in such high esteem, but perhaps instead he should have listen to his wife. Ignoring Desdemona's honest nature let to Othello taking both of their lives.

Evolving Cassio

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Honest Iago

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"When my outward action doth demonstrate the native act and figure of my heart in complement extern, tis not long after but I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at; I am not what I am" (Iago: 1.1.60-65)
This image is a demonstration of how Iago treats his relationships with other people. He acts nice to their face and makes them think that has their best interest at heart, but in reality he is planning to destroy or use them. This image links to the quote because it shows how Iago treats his agreement/deal with Roderigo.
Iago is a shifty character who uses the weaknesses of others to achieve his goals. He straight up tells Roderigo that "I am not what I am". Honesty doesn't matter to Iago at all. He does whatever it takes to get what he wants. "I wear my heart upon my sleeve" he says, telling Roderigo that his mission to separate Othello and Desdemona is worth every risk to him. "When my outward action" demonstrate the "figure of my heart… tis not long after…" Iago predicts that the day he is found out to be manipulative and dishonest is the day that it will all end. He is putting his true self in the open and pushing aside any hint of a conscience that he might have. Iago sacrifices every ounce of his honesty and morality to get the revenge he thinks he deserves.
"Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have the lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is bestial" (Cassio 2.3.251-253)
Cassio suggests that because of his drunken actions he has 'reverse evolved' back into the animal he originally was. This image shows a man turning into an ape. This is how I imagine Cassio feels when he says, "what remains is bestial". He has given up his "immortal part" and has become the mortal animal that was ruled his body.
Reputation is very important to Cassio and up to this point he has proven to have a good one. In a moment of weakness and calculated manipulation from Iago, he takes to the drink that he is highly intolerant of. Iago sets the whole thing up so that Cassio will lose his title as Lieutenant. "The immortal part of [him]self" his been lost and Cassio is searching for a way to regain his honour. Honesty is important to Cassio. It is what has gotten him this far. For him to be seen as anything but a stand-up, honest guy is equal to becoming an animal. "What remains is bestial" he says. What remains of him is the carcass of a man taken over by animal instinct. His honesty and honour is what has kept him a human. His reputation is lost and his life as a human has ended.