Theme of Obsession Over the Reputation in Othello and The Iron Lady

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Reputation is universally affected by the ideologies of one’s society. These ideologies are often the catalyst for discrimination, fuelling a desire for society to preserve the prevailing status quo. This is represented by Shakespeare in his renaissance tragedy Othello (1604) and in Phyllida Lloyd biopic film of The Iron Lady (2011). Both composers portray how a desired reputation will often divert an individual’s focus awry to their relationships, resulting in neglection and destruction.

Composers will often provide a glimpse into the lives of those struggling to uphold a reputation due to discrimination. Reputation being affected fundamentally by the ideologies of a society, makes it extremely hard for those who don’t fit into to the desired standard. The eponymous character in Shakespeare’s Othello exemplifies the struggle to withhold a respected reputation in the discriminative society, as Iago expresses to Desdemona’s Father, “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe.” Shakespeare metaphorically highlights the disrespect towards Othello as Iago is insulting him. By calling Othello an “old black ram”, it clearly reveals the source of hatred being his race.

The society belittled anyone outside of its ideal social and cultural norms. In Othello’s society, discrimination also effected women, as they were continually seen as the inferior gender and the property of men. Desdemona belonging to her Father is passed on to Othello through marriage, ‘The purchase made”. Here marriage is described as an act of purchase. A woman is bought by her husband, as a favor, and is expected to fulfill his sexual desires in return for the privilege. Women are given this reputation not by choice rather due to their society. Similarly, in The Iron Lady discrimination is a large part of Thatcher’s life. Being a female and a “grocers’ daughter” made it extremely hard for her to fit into the whole scene of the parliament, especially as she wasn’t respected by either the men she worked with or a portion of her society.

The composer uses a high camera angle to emphasize the contrast between Thatcher and her fellow parliamentarians. The composition of the masculine black suits against her pale blue dress highlights Thatchers isolation in the parliament as a female figure. Being a woman, and one that had a poor, non-educated upbringing means her reputation will always be regarded as lesser.

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Composers frequently explore how a desired reputation can negatively affect relationships. Everyone wants to be accepted into their society, and the desire to hold a respected reputation for some, means actions have to be taken. Shakespeare demonstrations this with the character Iago. Iago desires power so much so that he destroyed any relationship he could to obtain it. Iago believes if Cassio is out of the picture, he will easily gain Othello’s trust, therefor power. ‘I cannot believe. That he would steal away so guiltily, seeing you coming.’

Iago expresses this with high modality to help his manipulative story sound believable, he uses this moment to make Othello think that Cassio is stealing away because he is guilty of having an intimate talk with Othello’s wife. This isn’t the first time Iago attempts to destroy Cassio’s relationship with Othello, Iago also gets Cassio drunk, knowing “He’ll be as full of quarrel and offense, As my young mistress’ dog.” Iago uses this in his favour knowing very well that Cassio can get aggressive under the influence.

Likewise, in The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher has a strong desire to be in a powerful leadership position, this means spending a great deal of her time away from her family. Phyllida Lloyd represents the separation when Thatcher is driving away from her house and her children are running along the car getting further away into the distance. Her children are being viewed through the window, symbolising the disconnection Thatcher has to her family.

Gaining power for Thatcher proved to strain her relationship with her family, although maintaining power was just as difficult. In Thatchers meeting with her party, the pressure she is experiencing is seen on her face in a close up shot, her obsession to not loose leads to her to having an outburst. This obsession also weakens her relationship with the public, as they begin to doubt her choices. The desire for both of these characters to gain and maintain power inevitably leads broken relationships, whether it’s through intentional actions or just actions that lead to neglection.

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