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Syntax in Othello

Syntax Examples in Othello:

Act III - Scene III


"I think my wife be honest, and think she is not; I think that thou art just, and think thou art not...."   (Act III - Scene III)

In this couplet, Othello admits to the nuanced nature of his trust in others. In this moment he cannot decide whether Desdemona is faithful and Iago dishonest, or if Desdemona is faithless and Iago honest. Shakespeare structures this phrase to encompass both realities. The audience, of course, knows well which line of thinking is accurate.

"He's a soldier; and for one to say a soldier lies, is stab- bing...."   (Act III - Scene IV)

As the play’s action escalates, the clown appears again to provide comic relief. In this exchange, he builds puns on the dual definitions of “to lie.” The central idea is that the clown would be lying if he claimed to know Cassio’s location—where Cassio lies. Even in tragedies such as Othello, Shakespeare always includes touches of light humor.

"Justice..."   (Act V - Scene II)

This is an example of enjambment. The preceding line runs into the following one without giving the speaker a logical place to take a breath. Notice how Othello inhales deeply after he says, "I'll smell it [Desdemona's fragrant breath] on the tree." Then the next line is crammed with words which force the actor to expell all his breath before coming to "Justice to break her sword," so that his voice will almost automatically crack as he has to struggle not to inhale, as if he is bursting into tears at the thought of administering "justice" to his wife. The words intentionally calculated to force the actor to use up all his breath in one line include "O," "balmy," "breath," "dost," "almost," and "persuade." The actor would probably choke on the word "Justice" and then inhale before continuing with "to break her sword."

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