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Sample passage analysis on a speech in Othello, following the criteria of my passage analysis

assignment. Word Count: 1,284

Othello and Desdemonas Reunion (and Parting)

Othello's greeting to Desdemona (II.i.181-191) after they have been reunited in Cyprus is
one of the greatest outpourings of love a young wife could hope to hear. On their wedding night,
Desdemona and Othello have been suddenly forced to part. The Venetians are at war with the
Turks, and Othello, as captain of the Venetian forces must hurry off to Cyprus to defend the
island from invasion. But rather than wait at home for Othello, Desdemona asks to accompany
her husband to Cyprus. They set off in separate ships; a storm arises so deadly that it sinks the
Turkish fleet. Desdemona's ship arrives safely, and she nervously awaits Othello. When he lands
a bit later, the newlyweds are overjoyed at their reunion. Sadly, this is one of their last peaceful
moments together, for Iago will soon poison Othello's mind and soul and turn the Moor against
Desdemona. This passage gives us a glimpse into Othello's own deeply passionate heart and
helps us understand how painful his fall from happiness will be. Underneath all the joy of this
speech lies an uneasy foreshadowing of the tragic events to come that sets up the audience to
question Othellos goodness.
Othello's greeting begins in awe and ends in doubt. First, he is both amazed and
overjoyed to see Desdemona:
It gives me wonder great as my content
To see you here before me. O my soul's joy!
If after every tempest come such calms
May the winds blow till they have wakened death.
And let the laboring bark climb hills of seas
Olympus-high, and duck again as low
As hell's from heaven. If it were now to die
Twere now to be most happy.For I fear
My soul hath her content so absolute
That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.

This speech employs two major motifs that give us insight into both Othello and the two
most import people in his life: Desdemona and Iago.
The first major motif contrasts tempests with calm. Describing the now-passing storm
Othello uses the words: tempest, winds, blow, death, a laboring bark (or boat), and hills of seas.
It makes sense for Othello to refer to his separation from Desdemona as a "tempest," since they
have indeed just weathered one. But we also gain insight into what Othello must feel like
without Desdemona's calming love. The words he associates with his wife are a direct contrast to
the storm: wonder, content, joy, calm, and comfort (used twice). Desdemona brings peace to
Othello's turbulent soul.
We also see a measure of Othello's physical bravery here; he is, after all, a great warrior.
He declares he'd be willing to undergo storms that literally tossed him on hills of seas/Olympus
high (the home of the gods) and as deep and low as hells [depths] if the joy of reuniting with
Desdemona awaited him at the other end. But once again, if we look at the storm and calm as
mirrors of Othello's own emotional spectrum, we see that he is a man of intense, passionate
feeling. There is nothing tight, closed, or repressed about Othello. These images imply that his
life lacks the more modest and stable middle ground. He also easily uses hyperbole or gross
exaggeration to describe himself, comparing his emotions to oceans, hurricanes, and the reaches
of heaven and hell.
So, if Othello has just met his wife of one night, and is, no doubt, anticipating the
wedding bed, why does he seem to be thinking about heaven, hell, fear and death? Perhaps he's
using these terms lightly, but we, the audience, are uneasy, knowing what's to come. This second
motif of heaven vs. hell forces us to consider angelic Desdemona's unfailing and unconditional
love and devilish Iago's unfailing, unconditional hate. It is not an accident that Othello has called

Desdemona his "soul's" joy; she is almost a spiritual object of worship. (After all, he has sworn,
My life upon her faith (I.iii.289)!) She is the one fixed element in his life, for after every
tempest come such calms. With her in his life he can tackle any hardship the world throws at
him. Unfortunately, however, like the "laboring bark", Othello's emotional journey will take him
from heaven (Olympus high) to as low as hell. Unfortunately for Othello, the troubles he
will encounter will not be entirely earthly. Desdemonas counterpart is Iago, who believes in a
divinity of hell (II.iii.340).
Despite his happiness, he anticipates gloom and displays insecurity. He mentions death
twice: challenging the winds to waken death and contemplating his own death (if it were now
to die). A third (indirect) reference to death appears near the end of the speech when he says
not another comfort like to this /succeeds in unknown fate. Nothing, in heaven presumably,
could match this feeling of calm, which is quite a boast. Othello also speaks in extremes that
display his insecurity. Phrases and words like great as my content every most Olympushigh hells from heaven so absolute not another seem like hyperbole. Of course, means to
compliment Desdemona, but this also belies the insecurity of this moment.
What we learn about Othello here is not his ardent love for Desdemonawe know this
from Act Ibut the fact that he has stopped paying accurate attention to reality. His diction
suggests this: he speaks in ifs (If after every tempest, if it were now to die) and
may (may the wind blow), which present only hypotheticals. He thinks of the future,
rather than savoring the present. This might be another reason why he so quickly buys into Iagos
guile and deception And, oddly enough this future is one full of strife and struggle.
The calm of Act II lasts all too briefly. The night of this reunion with Desdemona is full of
revelry, but also conflict. Cassio attacks both Roderigo and Montano, and the next day Iago
manages to turn Othello against Desdemona for good. There is a terrible irony when Othello

claims he would be happiest if he died after his reunion with Desdemona . He's right; he would
have been better off if this had been his last moment on earth, because he would never have
doubted Desdemona, and he would never have lost that great calm and content he so marvels.
Ultimately, Iago destroys Othello by destroying his calm. Once Othello begins to
question and doubt Desdemona, he cannot rest easy; he is driven wild by his "itch" to know.
And, in fact, this speech anticipates a passage in IV.ii, where, once again, Othello claims he
could bear the most horrible physical and emotional tortures if he were secure in the knowledge
of Desdemona's love:
Had it pleased heaven
To try me with affliction, had they rained
All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steeped me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes,
I should have found in some place of my soul
A drop of patience. (IV.ii.46-52)
This later passage mirrors his reunion speech to Desdemona, but presents a twist. He now
experiences a storm in his lifehe doubts Desdemonas honesty; however, heaven does not try
Othello with affliction. The very manipulative and cunning Iago, an agent of hell if ever there
were one, takes on that task. But knowing that this moment is literally the last moment of true
love and calm in the play, and knowing what will eventually become of both Othello and
Desdemona, makes their joyous reunion almost too painful for the audience to bear.