Othello: More (but not Moor) readability

At the beginning of the week, I discussed the readability of Othello’s major speeches. We see a decline from a not-so-untalented (but certainly not “rude of speech”) speaker to a broken man, with only the barest hint of an attempt to regain narrative flourish. A few days after that, I posted a diagram that showed all the speeches by Othello (greater than 10 lines in length), and noted an outlier to this trend. No, I’m not going to focus on that speech today.

No. Instead I want to add something to the graphic, a vital something, I think: Iago’s major speeches…

Scatter graph of speeches longer than 10 lines by both Othello and Iago [click to enlarge]
Scatter graph of speeches longer than 10 lines by both Othello and Iago [click to enlarge]
In the graphic above, the red squares represent Iago’s speeches that are longer than 10 lines, the blue Othello’s. The closer to the top of the graphic, the higher the reading grade level. I’ve delineated the act and scene divisions, and have grouped Iago’s speeches to Roderigo, Othello’s to Desdemona, as well as Iago’s with Othello. A square’s width is representative of its speech’s length (the larger the square, the longer the speech). If a square has a white center, then it’s a soliloquy; if the center is slightly opaque, then it’s an extended aside.

The graphic makes clear some interesting points:

  • like Othello, Iago has an outlier speech that is his most complex speech by far (for Iago, it’s the last “joke” performance at the Cyprus harbor as they wait for Othello)
  • both speakers have a downward trend in reading grade level over the course of the play
  • Othello has only one speech with a reading grade level higher than 15, while Iago has three; Iago has only one speech with a reading grade level lower than 5, while Othello has five
  • while Othello’s major speeches are spread fairly evenly throughout the play, Iago’s major speeches are front-loaded (thus, making his final statement of silence the perfect ending)

In that earlier post, I referred to Iago as “the master verbal manipulator” as I saw him as not only Othello’s corrupter and tormentor, but also the cause of Othello’s linguistic downfall. It’s interesting that not only is he all that, but that his verbal complexity is consistently higher than that of the Moor.

Not sure if this is apropos of anything in particular or of note, but it is kind of interesting…

Comment?