Animal Imagery in Othello

The animal imagery is very interesting in Shakespeare’s play, Othello. It is used multiple times throughout the play, just like there are multiple references to plants. By doing so, this makes it seem like the laws of nature are ruling instead of the laws of government. An example of animal imagery is when Iago called Othello “A barbary horse,” and “an old black ram.” “Barbary horse” is an insult that Iago says a lot, but even without saying it directly to Othello, Shakespeare’s original Jaacobean audience would have realized that Iago was talking to a Moor. Othello and Desdemona are often referred to by animal imagery to portray the relationship between the two. There is also a racial connotation to the insults Iago gives Othello specifically. He tries to make Othello seem perverted and lustful. To reduce Othello, he compares Othello’s actions to the actions of animals over and over again in the play. In Act 2 Scene 3, Iago calls Desdemona a “Sport for Jove.” A Jove is a mythical creature that took the form of other animals to have sex with young, pretty females. This reiterates Iago’s scorn for Othello and Desdemona. “Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as said as wolves in pride and fools as gross as ignorance made drunk,” (iii.iii.400-401).

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