Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of William Shakespeare’s Othello

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s five best-known and widely studied tragedies, along with Hamlet , Macbeth , King Lear , and Romeo and Juliet . But as is so often with a well-known text, we don’t know this one nearly as well as we think we do: Othello has more in it than jealousy, the ‘green-eyed monster’, and (implied) racial hatred.

These themes are central to the play’s power, but one of the triumphs of Othello , as the analysis below attempts to demonstrate, is how well Shakespeare weaves different themes and elements together at once. Before we analyse some of these themes, it might be worth recapping the plot of this great tragedy which has inspired everything from opera (Verdi’s Otello ) to a rock musical ( Catch My Soul , from the 1960s).

Othello : plot summary

The main action of the play takes place in Venice, as the play’s subtitle, The Moor of Venice , makes clear. Iago is ensign or flag-bearer to the great military general, Othello, who is a Moor (i.e. a north African Muslim). Iago expects to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant, but instead Othello passes him over in favour of Cassio. For this reason (at least he claims), Iago declares that he hates Othello and will wreak vengeance on both Othello and Cassio.

His first plot is to try to prevent Othello’s marriage to Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of Brabantio, by telling Brabantio that Othello and Desdemona have already slept together even though they are not married. Brabantio summons Othello before the court, but Othello convinces him that he and Desdemona have not yet lain together, and the two of them are married.

Next, in Cyprus on a military campaign, Iago gets Cassio drunk and arranges a brawl, which he makes sure Othello witnesses; Othello has to strip the recently promoted Cassio of his commission. Iago then sets about convincing Othello that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona; he tells Cassio to ask Desdemona to put in a good word for him with Othello so he might get his commission back (but with the result that Othello questions why his wife would want to plead for Cassio).

Iago, having got hold of a handkerchief of Desdemona’s, which she’d lost (a gift from Othello), hatches a plan to make Othello think his wife has been sleeping with Cassio. He hides the handkerchief in Cassio’s bedchamber and then tells Othello that Cassio has it.

When Othello asks Desdemona where her handkerchief is, she confesses that she has lost it; meanwhile, Cassio gives it to Bianca, his mistress, little realising that the handkerchief is part of Iago’s grand plan to implicate him in an imaginary affair.

Iago’s plan works, and Othello is convinced that there is something going on between Cassio and Desdemona. He tells Iago to kill Cassio, and he publicly strikes Desdemona, accusing her in front of everyone. Iago then tells Roderigo to kill Cassio, but Roderigo fails, so Iago kills him so nobody will find out about the plan.

Othello, consumed with jealousy, smothers Desdemona to death with a pillow, Emilia (Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid) tells Othello that she was the one who found the handkerchief and gave it to her husband; Iago kills her for revealing this, and Othello wounds Iago. Realising he has thrown away the life of an innocent woman he loved dearly, Othello kills himself publicly, Cassio is made governor of Cyprus, and Iago is taken off for punishment.

Othello : analysis

Othello is a play about sexual jealousy, and how one man can convince another man, who loves his wife dearly, that she has been unfaithful to him when she hasn’t. But Shakespeare does several very interesting, and artistically quite bold, things with this basic plot, and the characters he uses to tell the story.

First, he makes his hero noble, but unusually flawed. All heroes have a tragic flaw, of course: Macbeth’s is his ‘vaulting ambition’ , Hamlet’s is his habit of delaying or over-analysing (although the extent to which he actually delays can be questioned ), and so on. But Othello’s tragic flaw, his pride, is not simply noble or military pride concerned with doing the right thing (as a great military man might be expected to have), but a rather self-serving and self-regarding kind – indeed, self-regarding to the point of being self-destructive.

He is willing to believe his innocent wife has been unfaithful to him even though he is, to all intents and purposes, devoted to her. This makes him a more interesting tragic hero, in some ways, because he isn’t a spotless hero with one major blind spot: his blind spot is, in a sense, everyone else but himself.

Second, Shakespeare doesn’t make Iago, the villain, someone whose motives we can understand. Indeed, he goes out of his way to make Iago as inscrutable as possible. If the first rule of creative writing class is ‘show don’t tell’, the second or third rule may well be ‘make your characters’ motivations clear’.

Yet Shakespeare puts into Iago’s mouth several plausible ‘motives’ for wreaking the confusion and chaos that causes Othello’s downfall and Desdemona’s death, and in providing multiple motives, Iago emerges as ‘motiveless’, to use Coleridge’s famous description (Coleridge described Iago as being possessed of ‘ motiveless malignity ’). We cannot be sure why he is doing what he is doing.

But this does not mean that he is not being driven by anything. In Shakespeare’s source material for the play, a novella by the Italian author Cinthio, Iago is straightforwardly evil and devilish, intent on destroying Othello’s life, and with a clear motive. But Shakespeare’s Iago is more dangerous still: a human, with clearly human attributes and intellect, who nevertheless derives great pleasure from causing harm to others purely because … well, because it gives him pleasure.

Part of the genius of Shakespeare’s characterisation of Iago is that he makes him a convincing ensign to Othello, a loyal servant to the Moorish warrior, even while he is plotting Othello’s downfall. He is a villain, but a charming two-faced one. In Harold Goddard’s fine phrase, he is ‘a moral pyromaniac setting fire to all of reality’ (this phrase is quoted enthusiastically by Harold Bloom in his Shakespeare: The Invention Of The Human ).

Othello is also unlike many of Shakespeare’s other great tragedies, with the possible exception of Romeo and Juliet , in that its plot could easily have been co-opted for a comedy rather than a tragedy, where the confusion created by Iago’s plotting is resolved, the villain is punished, and the hero and heroine are reconciled to live happily ever after.

Compare, in this connection, Iago’s role in Othello with that of the villainous Don John in the earlier comedy, Much Ado about Nothing (a play we have analysed here ). Like Iago, Don John wants to wreck the (upcoming) marriage between Claudio and Hero, and sets about convincing Claudio that his bride-to-be cannot be trusted.

But in Much Ado , Hero’s fidelity is proved and Don John’s villainy is exposed, and we have a comedy. Much of Othello proceeds like a comedy that takes a very dark turn at the end, when it becomes apparent that Othello will not be reconciled with Desdemona, and that the sexual jealousy and suspicion he has been made to feel are too deep-rooted to be wiped out.

The whole thing is really, of course, Iago’s play, as many critics have observed: if Othello is the tragic lead in the drama, Iago is the stage-manager, director, and dramatist all wrapped up in one. Writers from Dickens to George R. R. Martin have often sorrowfully or gleefully talked of ‘killing off’ their own characters for the amusement of others; Iago wishes to ruin Othello’s marriage for his own amusement or, in Hazlitt’s phrase, ‘stabs men in the dark to prevent ennui ’.

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2 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of William Shakespeare’s Othello”

The racial issue is of paramount importance in this play. The only characters whose view of Othello is not distorted by racial stereotyping are Desdemona and Cassio. Desdemona’s dying words are an attempt to exculpate her husband, and Cassio’s first reaction on learning that he has been crippled thanks to Othello’s jealous suspicions is to exclaim “Dear General, I never gave you cause!” I find no evidence that Othello is a Muslim. We’re told that he was sold into slavery in his childhood; presumably he was raised as a Christian. The “Colour” issue would have been evident in the original performances, since the Moor would certainly have been played in blackface.

I had the great good fortune to see the 2007 production of Othello put on at the Donmar Warehouse with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role. It was a wonderful experience…

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A Comprehensive Guide to Analysing ‘Othello’ for English: Summary, Context, Themes & Characters

Shakespeare Othello

Are you studying Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ and are struggling to understand his writing, the themes and crafting an essay for your upcoming assessment? We’re here to help you with a simple summary of Othello, its key characters and context so you can formulate your own analysis!

PLUS, you’ll be getting a step-by-step analysis table (called a TEE Table ) as well as a sample paragraph so you can see what an extensive response looks like. 

So, let’s get into it and ace your essay on Othello! 

Summary of Othello Key Characters in Othello Context Themes Explored in Othello Essay Analysis of Othello

Summary of Othello

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, performed in five acts depicting the dramatic downfall of a hero as a result of racial prejudice, jealousy and pride.

The play is set in motion when an African General in the Venetian Army, Othello, passes over Iago , a senior officer in the Venetian Army who is under Othello’s command, to promote Michael Cassio as his chief lieutenant instead.

Driven by extreme hate and jealousy of Othello’s celebrated successes and his need for control, Iago is determined to destroy Othello and begins to plot Othello’s undoing through his wife, Desdemona, the daughter of an important Venetian senator, Brabantio. 

Othello and Iago

Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Brannagh as Othello and Iago in Oliver Parker’s 1995 ‘ Othello’

Iago firstly enlists Roderigo, Desdemona’s rejected lover, to inform Brabantio about Desdemona’s elopement to Othello, urging an enraged Brabantio to appeal to the Duke of Venice to have Othello punished for seducing Desdemona by witchcraft. However, Othello defends himself in front of Brabantio and his senators, Desdemona confirms that she is deeply in love with Othello , and that their marriage was not coerced.

Brabantio warns Othello that Desdemona will betray him , and says, “ Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father, and may thee,” to which Iago takes note as they leave Venice for Cyprus. 

Frith, William Powell, 1819-1909; Othello and Desdemona

After arriving in Cyprus and learning that the storm has destroyed the Turkish fleet, Othello commences a celebration with his army, while he leaves to consummate his marriage to Desdemona. Iago gets Cassio drunk, and persuades Roderigo to duel Cassio.

Montano tries to calm them down, but an inebriated Cassio proceeds to fight, injuring Montano in the process. Othello reappears, questions the men and blames Cassio for the feud, thus stripping him off his rank.

Cassio is distraught, however, Iago convinces him to plead to Desdemona to have Othello reinstate him. She succeeds. 

Iago begins to convince Othello of a false affair between Cassio and Desdemona. When Desdemona drops her handkerchief, Othello’s first gift to her, Emilia (Iago’s wife) gives it to Iago, unaware of his plans.

Persuaded by Iago’s false claims and planting seeds of doubt, Othello swears Desdemona and Cassio’s death, and promotes Iago as his lieutenant. 


Iago then plants Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s belongings, while ordering Othello to watch Cassio’s responses as Iago questions him from afar. While Iago questions Cassio about his affair with Bianca, a local courtesan, Othello is made to believe that the two men are talking about Desdemona.

Meanwhile, Bianca appears and accuses Cassio of gifting her with a second-hand item. Othello, still watching from afar, is enraged, and believes Iago’s claims that Desdemona had given this handkerchief to Cassio.

A hurt Othello resolves to kill Desdemona and Cassio with Iago’s help , and strikes Desdemona in front of visiting Venetian nobles. Roderigo, still upset, is urged by Iago to kill Cassio. 

Access Othello Downloadable Sample Paragraph and Examples of Essay Analysis here!


Roderigo pursues Cassio in the streets, and Cassio injures Roderigo. Meanwhile, Iago appears from the shadows and stabs Cassio from behind, wounding his leg.

In the night, Iago manages to hide his identity, and joins Lodovico and Gratiano when Cassio cries for help, thus appearing as unknowing of the scuffle. When Cassio identifies Roderigo as the attacker, Iago stabs him to prevent him from revealing the plan. 

Othello confronts Desdemona, and smothers her with a pillow. Emilia arrives, calling for help, to which the former governor Montano arrive with Gratiano and Iago. After Othello shows proof of the handkerchief, Emilia realises Iago’s plot and exposes him, whereupon he kills her.

Meanwhile, Othello realises Desdemona’s innocence and stabs Iago in revenge. Iago refuses to explain his motives and Lodovico apprehends Iago and Othello for the murders of both the women, but Othello commits suicide. Cassio arrives and is promoted as Othello’s successor, and punishes Iago justly. 

Key Characters in Othello

Othello As a competent and highly regarded serviceman of the Venetian Republic, Othello is the ‘Moorish’ General of the Venetian Army and the protagonist of our story. He elopes with Desdemona, and ultimately succumbs to Iago’s deceit, leading to his tragic death.  The audience follows Othello’s eventual downfall through the collapse of his own self-perception, as instigated and dominantly narrated by Iago. It is through Iago that the audience sees Othello’s eroding sense of self, calculating his moves to remind Othello that he is the ‘Moor’ and signifying his difference. Here, Othello’s own fears of himself of his age, his status and his race come to light, especially the fear of Desdemona’s infidelity which immediately leads him to farewell his soldierly career. He is referred to as “an old black ram” in comparison to Desdemona’s nature as a “white ewe” (I.i.88), ostracising him from the rest of society and thus making him an easy prey for Iago. Until the very late stages of the play, Othello’s agency is not singular, but instead is driven by Iago.  A Moor by James Northcote (1826) – Ira Alridge as the first Black actor in Britain to play Othello Sourced from Manchester Art Gallery However, Othello also positions himself as an outsider, which adds to his victimisation. Though Othello’s skill as a soldier and leader positions him as a great influence, it is still his exotic qualities that entice others such as Desdemona and Brabantio to him. As an eloquent speaker, the Duke mentions that ‘I think this tale would win my daughter too’ (I.iii.70). These qualities present him as an outsider, both in race and in eloquence, thus creating a cathartic ending for a hero falling prey to tragedy. 
Iago It is clear that Iago’s extreme jealousy and need to avenge Othello’s ‘wrongdoing’ engineers the plot for revenge. Here, Iago’s malicious intentions cultivate the entire scenario of revenge in the play, and thus, he is widely regarded as a ‘Machiavellian’ character (fro​​m Machiavelli’s 1532 political treatise The Prince ). He is cunning, cold, and concerned with personal gain over morality.  Charles Kemble as Iago in Othello, by Richard James Lane (1840) Sourced from National Portrait Gallery, London Iago cleverly distorts Othello’s reality of himself and the reality for the rest of the characters, creating an ambiguous and distrustful narrative that culminates in destruction . Firstly, Iago’s jealousy stems from his hatred for Othello’s success as an outsider in Venice . Othello occupies a difficult position and becomes the most fated soldier, despite his appearance in a European city. This charges Iago’s animalistic language towards Othello, regarding him as a ‘Barbary horse’ (1.i.113). Secondly, he resents Cassio’s rise to power (1.iii). Possessing an extraordinary power to manipulate, Iago’s jealousy acts as a catalyst to create a cycle of revenge and envy that loops in Othello and Roderigo to destruction. 

Context of Othello

The earliest recorded performance of Othello was in 1604, under the title The Moor of Venice , during the cusps of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Othello’s Mediterranean setting is significant as it presents an age of increasing European maritime power, and authority over the ocean was crucial for the politics in Mediterranean states.

This involved both Western powers (Spain, Portugal and Italy) as well as the Eastern Mediterranean empire of the Ottomans (modern day Turkey), who were in constant conflict over control of the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean seas.

While the first part of the play is set in Europe, Act II of the play is set in the small island of Cyprus , the site of Venetian and Ottoman rivalries. After the death of James II, Venice had full control of Cyprus, which proved strategic for Venetian Army to launch attacks against the Ottomans. Othello’s military successes are set within this conflict. 

Othello Castle

Othello’s Castle, North Cyprus

Sourced from Visit North Cyprus

Othello’s life story also reflects the mobility (including enforced) of lives across the Mediterranean. Othello is referred to as a ‘Moor’, signifying his racial difference from the rest of the — mostly white — European characters.

However, there is no clear concept of ‘Moor’, as the term can refer to an Arabian person from North Africa or a Southern Spanish person. This term is used today in quotations.

Though Othello’s race bridges the gap between his military service and war against the Muslim empire, Othello nevertheless succumbs to Iago’s words, increasingly becoming vulnerable about his status and heightening his insecurities. Iago plays on the cultural divide between black-and-white, ultimately fuelling Othello’s anxiety and the downfall of his status and his marriage.

Themes Explored in Othello

Below are some key ideas from Othello. These are great starting points for you to consider your arguments, thesis and topic sentences:

Racial Prejudice

  • Jealousy and revenge
  • Deception — appearance VS reality

The role of racial prejudice is imperative in Iago’s emotional and mental poisoning of Othello, driving him to the point of distrust and extreme isolation. Other characters already hold Desdemona and Othello’s marriage in disdain, such as Brabantio who warns that “Bond-slaves and pagans shall our statesman be” (1.i.98-99), putting them against the status quo and the present view of their world.

Iago only exacerbates Othello’s ingrained fears of ‘Moorish’ differences towards his position in the Army, his wife and his status in Venice, becoming a lethal weapon in Othello’s self-destruction.

This drives him to the point of isolation and self-hatred, where he trusts no one but Iago. Eventually, Othello begins to blame his complexion for allegedly depriving his wife of her good nature: ‘Her name, that was as fresh / As Dian’s visage, is now begrim’d and black / As mine own face’ (3.ii.386-8).

His inherent fears of his Moorish complexity and exotic characteristics tainting his wife consequently prompts his vulnerability towards his marriage, and his lack of self-reassurance unconsciously places him in a white perspective of his own blackness. Therefore, these ingrained perspectives of himself in society seal both the fates of himself and of Desdemona. 

Jealousy and Revenge

Iago’s jealousy drives him to deadly extremes to emotionally violate his alleged ‘oppressors’, and provokes the rest of his characters such as Roderigo, Bianca and Othello into ‘the green-eyed monster’ (3.iii.166).

Roderigo’s unrequited love for Desdemona makes him extremely jealous of Othello, and Bianca is jealous when she finds Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s lodgings. Iago provokes this jealousy on Othello with the handkerchief as ‘ocular proof’ (3.iii.360) of the infidelity, which has been passed from Desdemona, to Emilia and then to Bianca, drawing an implicit parallel between the innocent women and the men’s perception of women in marriage.

This consumes Othello the most, in which Iago’s extreme need for revenge fuels the strategically distorted narrative, confirms his suspicions and fulfils his expectations.

Deception — Appearance VS Reality

Iago’s power to manipulate allows him to plant seeds of doubt in Othello and other characters throughout the play. His success to quickly and cleverly manipulate Othello stems from the tales of perceived misogyny and view of female sexuality that is already shared among men.

Iago reminds Othello that Desdemona is a creature of deception, as she ‘did deceive her father, marrying you’ (3.iii.206), and that she will do so to him: ‘Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see; / She has deceived her father, and may thee’ (1.iii.292-3). 

Dramatic irony (the gap of knowledge between what the audience and the character knows) serves as a catharsis for the audience and provokes an emotional response in the tragedy. Here, Iago continues to finely calibrate a sense of torment in Othello’s imagination through his deceptive language as he tells Othello that Cassio lies ‘with [Desdemona], on her, as you will’ (4.i).

In doing so, he constantly plants mental images of uncertainty and instability in Othello, leaving Othello to connect and unknowingly create a flawed narrative that he believes to be true . Iago masks this deception as he merely justifies his actions by reflecting his victim’s own beliefs: ‘I told him what I thought and no more / Than what he found himself was apt and true’ (5.ii.176-77). 

In this way, he deflects blame from himself, and while he engineers the chaos, he does not become the fundamental source of Othello’s, Desdemona’s and Emilia’s deaths. 

Studying on the night before your exam? Make sure to use our exam prep routine for English here !

Essay Analysis: How to Analyse Othello in 3 Steps

Most students will begin to write their essay and their thesis without any supporting evidence, themes or analysis . You will need to equip yourself with the knowledge of your text before answering anything about it. 

Analysing a text, providing it with evidence and techniques may be easier than you think… it’s like a formula! We can say ‘a + b = c’. But what are these?

A = Evidence B = Technique C = Analysis

After knowing your text, you can build ideas from it, and start writing your thesis! So, let’s walk through on how to analyse Othello:

Step 1: Choosing your evidence (‘A’)

Choosing your evidence can be tough, because there are just so many good ones you can choose from! 

But you need to remember that you must choose evidence that supports your argument and answers the question . But how do we do that?

Let’s gather important pieces that we have seen throughout this article. Here is one we have chosen for you:

‘Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe’ (1.i.88-89)

Step 2: Identifying your technique(s) (‘B’)

This isn’t just about finding any old technique or using a technique that is fancy and hoping for the best! It’s about what best suits your evidence, your analysis, and subsequently, your answer to the question.

Techniques are what help composers convey the message to their audience and their readers. So, we need to identify a technique that will enable you to say something about your idea that’s interesting, and will contribute to your analysis of Othello. 

Try to focus on finding examples with techniques which unveil a deeper meaning like metaphors, similes, figurative language, connotations, symbolism and recurring motifs. Other techniques like alliteration and repetition are a bit harder to find a deeper meaning in!

We have identified 3 techniques in the quote above: zoomorphism, contrast and metaphor . 

It’s always great to try and find multiple techniques in your quotes as it allows you to take your analysis up a notch!

Step 3: Writing your analysis (‘C’)

When you write the analysis for your essay on Othello, it is important to always focus on what the effect of the technique is . One of the worst things you can do when writing analysis is technique labelling. Technique labelling would look like this:

The zoomorphism between “black ram… tupping [your] white ewe” shows how Iago wants Brabantio to see Othello’s elopement to Desdemona, contrasting his physical appearance and nature to hers. 

Instead, we need to flesh out how those techniques get us to our point . Firstly, Iago’s language is important as he uses zoomorphism to reduce Othello and Desdemona into animals.

Secondly, the contrast between the “black ram” and “white ewe” is important to signify the binary oppositions between Othello and Desdemona.

Lastly, the use of the metaphor of animals is important as it depicts that Othello and Desdemona’s behaviour is greatly looked down upon, especially in a Venetian society. 

So, if we include that in our essay analysis of Othello, this would look like…

Iago’s cries to Brabantio that “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe” (1.i.88-89), using zoomorphism to reduce Othello and Desdemona’s wildly radical behaviour into animals. The contrast between the “black ram” and the “white ewe” signifies the binary oppositions between Othello and Desdemona, and is a metaphor for their disapproved marriage against social norms and the racial prejudice pervading their Venetian society.

Need some help with your essay analysis of other texts aside from Othello?

Check out other texts we’ve created guides for below:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Run Lola Run
  • The Great Gatsby
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Book Thief
  • The Tempest
  • Blade Runner
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Mrs Dalloway

We’ve also got articles specifically on plays by Shakespeare which you can have a read through below:

  • King Richard III
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Much Ado About Nothing

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Camille Chin is your certified Art of Smart Veteran! Starting as a student at Art of Smart herself, she felt passionate about helping students boost their academic confidence so that they can achieve and reach their full potential in their studies. She currently studies Law and Arts – English at Macquarie University, and loves volunteer firefighting, reading and watching musical theatre in her spare time.

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Othello, also titled The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, is a tragic play written by William Shakespeare in 1603 (as accepted by most scholars). The play was first staged on November 1st, 1604 and 1st published in 1622 by Thomas Walkley. The idea of comes from Italian writer’s play The Moorish Captain, published in 1565. Shakespeare molded the play and fit it according to his own age and place.

Othello by William Shakespeare Summary

The plan of Brabanzio backfires. The Senate and the duke are on the side of Othello and shows sympathy toward him. Othello is given a chance to defend himself. He explains that he doesn’t marry Desdemona through witchcraft but impressed her through his stories of travels and adventures in wars. The duke seems to be convincing with Othello’s explanation.

Moreover, he warns Roderigo of that “someone” and claims him to be Cassio. Iago, at the same time, directs Roderigo to have a fight with Cassio at the celebration by disgracing him. To ruin Othello, the 1st step should be to eliminate Cassio from Othello’s life, says Iago in isolation.

This creates a misunderstanding once more and Othello’s suspicions were confirmed. The scene catches fire when Bianca herself enters with the handkerchief chiding Cassio for making her a copy of it for him and he received it as a token of love given by some other woman. Desdemona also enters and gives Othello a letter from Venice. Othello is called back to home and instructed to appoint Cassio in place of him. This makes Othello super angry and strikes Desdemona.

Soon Othello wounds Desdemona, she cries out claiming that she has committed a suicide. Emilia returns hearing the cries and asks Othello that what happened. He tells her that he has killed Desdemona for her faithfulness that was brought into attention by Iago.

Themes in Othello

Love and the discordancy of military heroism.

As Othello was a soldier, we see throughout the play that his married life is much affected. Just as he gets married, he is sent to Cyprus. In Cyprus when he tries to enjoy his marriage, an emergency alarm is rung in the whole town, though the matter was not that serious. We see that he asks for “fit disposition” for his wife.

Othello, consider that his success in love is just because he is a successful soldier, as he wins Desdemona’s heart by telling him the stories of wars, military travels, etc.

The Danger of Isolation

More importantly, Othello is considered a man from another nation and is subject to isolation because of his physical appearance and the color of his skin. Iago manipulates the distance among character to achieve his cunning plans.

Othello Characters Analysis

Duke of venice, othello literary analysis.

The contracting trajectory of the play suggests that deleterious sentiments like distrust put a sensitive choke hold on an individual, throttling their capability to think undoubtedly and therefore averting them from performing rationally. The play distinctions the grounds in which Othello is self-assured and influential, such as the external world of an encounter, with the internal spaces in which he is less confident and able to be effortlessly operated.

The pessimism of Iago sets the platform for the suspicious tone in the second half of the play. When Othello progressively drops in Iago’s influence, just like Iago, he too instigates to speak wary remarks that boom Iago’s skeptical worldview. Othello, not only starts referring to the falseness and unfaithfulness of women but also calls Desdemona a “whore” on her face. His growing uncertainty echoes an all-consuming obsession that strengthens the fervors of distrust.

As he develops progressively paranoid, he inclines into a close to schizophrenic misperception. In an instant of no reason, he suggests that nature would devote herself is such a surveillance passion without some directions. Othello claims that he would not feel so intensely bothered if nothing had actually occurred amid Cassio and Desdemona. Consequently, since he does feel troubled, the custody of infidelity must be well started. Othello who usually is so rational, eloquent, and self-possessed, here employs a disordered reason that platforms the tone of fear that surpasses the play.

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Essays on Othello

🎭💔✍️ othello essay: dive into the drama.

Othello, the magnificent Shakespearean tragedy, is like a rollercoaster ride of emotions! 😱💔 Exploring this timeless masterpiece in an essay can unlock a world of insights and ignite your imagination 🔥. By delving into the depths of Othello's themes, characters, and plot twists, you can unravel the complexities of human nature and society. It's an opportunity to showcase your analytical skills and showcase your love for literature. So, buckle up and embark on an Othello essay adventure!

Othello Essay Topics 📝

Othello argumentative essay 🤔💬.

An argumentative essay on Othello requires you to take a stance and defend it with solid evidence from the play. Some intriguing topics to consider:

  • Is Othello a victim of racism or his own insecurities?
  • Did Iago's evil nature drive Othello to his tragic downfall?
  • Should Desdemona be held responsible for her fate?

Othello Cause and Effect Essay 🌪️🤯

In a cause and effect essay, you'll explore the ripple effects of certain actions or events in Othello. Here are some captivating topics to ponder:

  • The consequences of Iago's manipulation on Othello's relationships.
  • How jealousy leads to destruction in Othello's world.
  • The impact of societal norms on Othello's tragic fate.

Othello Opinion Essay 🗣️😮

Opinion essays allow you to express your personal viewpoint on specific aspects of Othello. Here are some thought-provoking topics to spark your imagination:

  • Is Othello's jealousy justified or exaggerated?
  • Should Othello have trusted Desdemona despite the rumors?
  • What role does gender play in the tragedy of Othello?

Othello Informative Essay 📚📖

Informative essays aim to educate readers about various aspects of Othello. Here are some enlightening topics to enlighten your audience:

  • The historical context of Othello: Shakespeare's portrayal of race and society.
  • The symbolism of the handkerchief in Othello and its significance.
  • The evolution of Othello's character throughout the play.

Othello Essay Example 📑

Othello thesis statement examples 📜💡.

Here are a few thesis statement examples to inspire your Othello essay:

  • Thesis: Othello's tragic downfall is a result of his vulnerability to manipulation by Iago due to his insecurities about his race and age.
  • Thesis: The handkerchief symbolizes trust, fidelity, and betrayal in Othello, highlighting the fragility of relationships.
  • Thesis: Othello's jealousy is fueled by societal expectations and gender roles, leading to the tragedy that unfolds.

Othello Essay Introduction Examples 🌟

Here are some introduction paragraph examples for your Othello essay:

  • Introduction: Othello, a play filled with love, deception, and revenge...
  • Introduction: In the realm of Shakespearean tragedies, Othello stands as a poignant exploration of love, jealousy, and the destructive power of manipulation. As we venture into the depths of this timeless masterpiece, we are transported to a world where trust is fragile, and motives are concealed. Othello's journey, from a celebrated Moorish general to a tragic figure consumed by jealousy, invites us to contemplate the complexities of human emotion and the consequences of unchecked suspicion.
  • Introduction: Othello, the Moor of Venice, is a character whose name echoes through the annals of literary history. In our exploration of Othello's tragic tale, we confront issues of race, trust, and the corrosive force of jealousy. As we delve into this gripping narrative, we are challenged to dissect the motives of its characters and the underlying themes that continue to resonate in today's society.

Othello Essay Conclusion Examples 🔚📝

Here are some conclusion paragraph examples for your Othello essay:

  • Conclusion: As we bid farewell to the tragic world of Othello, we are left with a profound exploration of human nature, jealousy, and the consequences of deceit. Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece continues to captivate and haunt our hearts, reminding us of the enduring power of storytelling.
  • Conclusion: In the final act of Othello, we witness the devastating aftermath of jealousy and manipulation. The tragic downfall of Othello, Desdemona, and others serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the destructive potential of unchecked emotions. As we bid farewell to this tale of love and betrayal, let us carry forward the lessons learned from the characters' fates, recognizing the enduring relevance of Shakespeare's exploration of the human condition.
  • Conclusion: Othello, a masterpiece of tragedy, leaves an indelible mark on our understanding of human nature. Through the twists and turns of its plot, we are confronted with the consequences of jealousy and deceit. As our journey through this timeless work comes to a close, let us reflect on the enduring power of literature to illuminate the complexities of the human soul and the fragility of trust.

The Victim of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello

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Comparing and Contrasting Desdemona and Othello

"othello" and "o": comparing themes of jealousy and power, the jealousy in othello: literary analysis, misogyny in othello by william shakespeare, let us write you an essay from scratch.

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Othello: Desdemona as a Representation of Power and Possession

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The Power of Jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello

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1603, William Shakespeare

Play; Tragedy

Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Michael Cassio, Emilia, Roderigo, Bianca, Brabanzio, Duke of Venice, Montano, Lodovico, Graziano, Clown

The play is primarily based on a story from an Italian novella called "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio. Shakespeare took inspiration from this source material and adapted it into his own version, adding depth and complexity to the characters and exploring themes of jealousy, betrayal, and manipulation.

In the tragic play "Othello" by William Shakespeare , the story follows the powerful and respected Moorish general, Othello. Othello secretly marries Desdemona, a Venetian woman, despite objections from her father, Brabantio. Othello's ensign, Iago, harboring deep resentment and jealousy, manipulates events to destroy Othello's life. Iago plants seeds of doubt in Othello's mind, insinuating that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with his lieutenant, Cassio. Consumed by jealousy, Othello becomes increasingly suspicious and tormented by his thoughts. Iago's cunning manipulations lead Othello to believe in the alleged affair, pushing him into a spiral of rage and despair. Othello's doubts intensify, leading him to confront Desdemona and ultimately strangle her in a fit of madness. Upon discovering the truth and Iago's treachery, Othello takes his own life in a moment of devastating realization. The play concludes with Iago's exposure and punishment for his deceitful actions.

The play "Othello" by William Shakespeare is set in the late 16th century, primarily in the city of Venice and later on the island of Cyprus. Venice, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, serves as the initial backdrop for the story. Its opulent palaces, canals, and bustling streets create an atmosphere of grandeur and sophistication. The Venetian setting reflects the cultural diversity of the time, with characters from various backgrounds and ethnicities. As the plot progresses, the setting shifts to the island of Cyprus, where Othello is stationed with his troops. Cyprus offers a contrasting environment to Venice, characterized by its remote and isolated nature. The island's rugged landscape and military camp create a tense and confined atmosphere, amplifying the dramatic events that unfold. Both settings play a significant role in the play's themes and conflicts. Venice represents the veneer of civilization and societal expectations, while Cyprus represents the raw emotions, passions, and darker aspects of human nature. The contrasting settings highlight the clash between appearances and reality, order and chaos, and ultimately contribute to the tragedy that unfolds in "Othello."

1. Jealousy and Betrayal: The theme of jealousy lies at the heart of the play, as Iago manipulates Othello's trust and fuels his insecurities, leading to tragic consequences. Betrayal is also explored as characters deceive one another for personal gain, highlighting the destructive power of envy and deceit. 2. Racism and Prejudice: Othello, a Moorish general, faces discrimination and racial prejudice throughout the play. Shakespeare examines the destructive effects of racism, as Othello's character is systematically undermined and ultimately destroyed by the racist assumptions and stereotypes held by others. 3. Appearance versus Reality: The theme of appearance versus reality is prevalent as characters wear masks of virtue and honesty while concealing their true intentions. Othello's tragic downfall is a result of his inability to discern truth from falsehood, emphasizing the dangers of misjudgment and manipulation. 4. Love and Obsession: The play explores various forms of love, from passionate romance to obsessive possessiveness. The intense love between Othello and Desdemona is contrasted with Iago's twisted obsession with destroying their happiness, shedding light on the complexities of human relationships. 5. Gender and Power: Shakespeare examines gender dynamics and the societal expectations placed upon women. Desdemona's character challenges traditional gender roles, while Emilia, Iago's wife, highlights the subjugation of women and the consequences of male dominance.

1. Imagery: Shakespeare skillfully uses vivid imagery to create powerful visual and sensory impressions. For example, in Act 1, Scene 1, Iago describes Othello and Desdemona's elopement as "an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe," employing the contrasting images of a black ram and a white ewe to convey the scandalous nature of their relationship. 2. Soliloquy: Soliloquies allow characters to express their inner thoughts and feelings to the audience. One notable example is Othello's soliloquy in Act 5, Scene 2, where he reflects on his decision to kill Desdemona, saying, "It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul," revealing his internal struggle and justifying his actions. 3. Foreshadowing: Shakespeare employs foreshadowing to hint at future events and build tension. In Act 3, Scene 3, Desdemona tells Othello, "The heavens forbid / But that our loves and comforts should increase / Even as our days do grow," foreshadowing the impending tragedy and the deterioration of their relationship. 4. Irony: Irony is used to create a contrast between what is expected and what actually occurs. For instance, when Iago says, "I am not what I am," in Act 1, Scene 1, it is an ironic statement, as he presents himself as trustworthy while plotting Othello's downfall. 5. Symbolism: Shakespeare employs symbolism to convey deeper meanings. The handkerchief, a symbol of fidelity, becomes a significant object in the play. Its loss and subsequent manipulation by Iago symbolize the erosion of trust and the unraveling of Othello's marriage.

In 1995, director Oliver Parker released a film adaptation of "Othello" starring Laurence Fishburne as the titular character. Fishburne's portrayal emphasized Othello's dignity and inner conflict, earning critical acclaim. Another notable film adaptation is Orson Welles' 1952 version, where Welles himself took on the role of Othello, showcasing his powerful presence on screen. "Othello" continues to be performed on stage worldwide. Notable theatrical productions include the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2015 production, featuring Hugh Quarshie as Othello, and the 2007 Broadway revival, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role, receiving critical acclaim for their compelling interpretations. Othello's character has also been explored in literary adaptations and reimaginings. For example, in 2001, author Sena Jeter Naslund wrote the novel "Ahab's Wife," where she includes a fictional encounter between Othello and the protagonist. These adaptations offer different perspectives and delve into the complexity of Othello's character. Othello's story has inspired numerous musical compositions. One notable example is the opera "Otello" by Giuseppe Verdi, which premiered in 1887. Verdi's powerful music captures the intense emotions of the characters and brings Othello's tragic tale to life.

1. Literary Influence: "Othello" has had a profound influence on subsequent works of literature. Its exploration of themes such as jealousy, betrayal, and the destructive power of manipulation has inspired countless writers. For example, Toni Morrison's novel "A Mercy" draws parallels to "Othello" in its exploration of race and power dynamics. The play's tragic elements and psychological depth have also influenced works like James Joyce's "Ulysses" and D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love." 2. Psychological Exploration: Othello's tragic descent into jealousy and manipulation has made the play a subject of psychological analysis. The character's inner conflict and the manipulation he falls victim to offer rich material for the study of human psychology, particularly in relation to themes of trust, self-doubt, and the destructive nature of unchecked emotions. 3. Social Commentary: "Othello" addresses issues of race, identity, and prejudice, making it a powerful tool for social commentary. The play's examination of racial stereotypes and the destructive consequences of discrimination still resonate today. Othello's position as a black man in a predominantly white society has been explored and analyzed in the context of race relations, colonialism, and social injustice. 4. Performance and Theater: "Othello" has had a lasting impact on the world of theater and performance. The character of Othello presents a unique and complex role for actors, requiring both physical presence and emotional depth. The play's themes and dramatic tension continue to captivate audiences, leading to numerous adaptations, productions, and reinterpretations on stage. 5. Language and Imagery: Shakespeare's masterful use of language and vivid imagery in "Othello" has had a lasting impact on the English language. Phrases like "green-eyed monster" and "the beast with two backs" have become part of the cultural lexicon. The play's powerful speeches and soliloquies have been studied, quoted, and admired for their beauty and poetic expression.

1. "Othello" is believed to have been first performed around 1604. While the exact date is unknown, it is widely believed to have premiered at the Court of King James I in London. The play was met with great success and has since become one of Shakespeare's most acclaimed tragedies. 2. "Othello" has contributed several phrases and expressions to the English language. One notable example is the term "the green-eyed monster," used to describe jealousy. This phrase has become a popular way to convey the destructive nature of envy. Additionally, the phrase "wear my heart upon my sleeve" originates from the play, referring to openly displaying one's emotions. 3. Traditionally, the character of Othello has been played by a white actor in blackface makeup. This casting practice has faced criticism and controversy over the years, as it perpetuates racial stereotypes and limits opportunities for actors of color. In recent times, there has been a growing movement towards authentic casting, with actors of African descent portraying the role to offer a more nuanced and authentic representation of Othello's racial identity.

"Othello" remains a timeless and significant work in literature, making it an important subject for essays and academic discussions. Shakespeare's masterful exploration of themes such as jealousy, deception, race, and power continues to resonate with audiences across generations. The character of Othello, a Moorish general in a predominantly white society, raises critical questions about racism, discrimination, and the manipulation of prejudices. Additionally, the play delves into the destructive nature of jealousy and how it can lead to tragic consequences. Writing an essay about "Othello" allows scholars to analyze the complexity of characters like Iago, whose malevolent machinations drive the plot. It offers opportunities to discuss the portrayal of women in the play and the theme of women's agency in a patriarchal society. Furthermore, exploring the play's language, literary devices, and poetic techniques showcases Shakespeare's genius as a playwright. By grappling with the moral dilemmas and psychological depth of the characters, an essay on "Othello" opens doors to deeper insights into human nature, society, and the enduring power of Shakespeare's storytelling.

"She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them. This only is the witchcraft I have used." "I kissed thee ere I killed thee — no way but this, killing myself to die upon a kiss" "Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial" "Men in rage strike those that wish them best" "But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at: I am not what I am"

1. Chandler, M. (1987). The Othello effect. Human development, 30(3), 137-159. ( 2. Shakespeare, W. (2019). othello. In One-Hour Shakespeare (pp. 231-302). Routledge. ( 3. Neill, M. (1989). Unproper beds: Race, adultery, and the hideous in Othello. Shakespeare Quarterly, 40(4), 383-412. ( 4 . Neely, C. T. (1977). Women and Men in" Othello";" what should such a fool/Do with so good a woman?". Shakespeare Studies, 10, 133. ( 5. Cipriani, G., Vedovello, M., Nuti, A., & Di Fiorino, A. (2012). Dangerous passion: Othello syndrome and dementia. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 66(6), 467-473. ( 6. Siegel, P. N. (1953). The Damnation of Othello. PMLA, 68(5), 1068-1078. ( 7. Poulson, C., Duncan, J., & Massie, M. (2005). “I Am Not What I Am”–Destructive Emotions in an Organizational Hierarchy: The Case of Othello and Iago. In The Effect of Affect in Organizational Settings (Vol. 1, pp. 211-240). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ( 8. Bristol, M. D. (1990). Charivari and the Comedy of Abjection in" Othello". Renaissance Drama, 21, 3-21. ( 9. Nowottny, W. (1954). Justice and love in Othello. University of Toronto Quarterly, 21(4), 330-344. ( 10. Braden, W. S. (1990). The Properties of" Othello,". Philosophy and Literature, 14(1), 186-187. (

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short essay about othello

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Discussion Questions

Why do you think Shakespeare chose to write Othello as a Moor and Desdemona as a Venetian? How do their respective races affect the plot? Support your answer with evidence.

In Act I, the Venetian Senate asks Othello to defend Cyprus against the Turks. All of the play’s major characters sail to Cyprus, but a storm stops the Turkish fleet in Act II, eliminating the reason for Othello’s journey to Cyprus. Why do you think Shakespeare moved the action of the play to Cyprus, rather than leave his characters in Venice?

Which character does Iago have the easiest time manipulating, and why might some characters be more susceptible to his manipulation than others?

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short essay about othello

Othello , tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare , written in 1603–04 and published in 1622 in a quarto edition from a transcript of an authorial manuscript. The text published in the First Folio of 1623 seems to have been based on a version revised by Shakespeare himself that sticks close to the original almost line by line but introduces numerous substitutions of words and phrases, as though Shakespeare copied it over himself and rewrote as he copied. The play derives its plot from Giambattista Giraldi ’s De gli Hecatommithi (1565), which Shakespeare appears to have known in the Italian original; it was available to him in French but had not been translated into English.

short essay about othello

The play is set in motion when Othello , a heroic black general in the service of Venice, appoints Cassio and not Iago as his chief lieutenant. Jealous of Othello’s success and envious of Cassio, Iago plots Othello’s downfall by falsely implicating Othello’s wife, Desdemona , and Cassio in a love affair. With the unwitting aid of Emilia, his wife, and the willing help of Roderigo, a fellow malcontent, Iago carries out his plan.

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Making use of a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona and found by Emilia when Othello has unwittingly dropped it, Iago persuades Othello that Desdemona has given the handkerchief to Cassio as a love token . Iago also induces Othello to eavesdrop on a conversation between himself and Cassio that is in fact about Cassio’s mistress, Bianca, but which Othello is led to believe concerns Cassio’s infatuation with Desdemona. These slender “proofs” confirm what Othello has been all too inclined to believe—that, as an older black man, he is no longer attractive to his young white Venetian wife. Overcome with jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona. When he learns from Emilia, too late, that his wife is blameless, he asks to be remembered as one who “loved not wisely but too well” and kills himself.

For a discussion of this play within the context of Shakespeare’s life and works, see William Shakespeare: The tragedies .

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Othello: The Moor of Venice

Synopsis and plot overview of shakespeare's othello: the moor of venice.

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TL;DR (may contain spoilers): Iago manipulates literally everyone. Othello gets really jealous. (Almost) everyone dies.

Othello Summary

Iago is furious about being overlooked for promotion and plots to take revenge against his General: Othello, the Moor of Venice. Iago manipulates Othello into believing his wife Desdemona is unfaithful, stirring Othello's jealousy. Othello allows jealousy to consume him, murders Desdemona, and then kills himself.

  • Read our Othello character summaries

More detail: 3 minute read

Before Othello begins, Roderigo has been pursuing Desdemona, a Venetian noblewoman. One night, he hears from his soldier friend, Iago, that Desdemona has secretly married his General, the Moorish Othello. Iago bears a grudge against Othello for overlooking Iago for a lieutenant position. Instead, Othello chose Michael Cassio, leaving Iago only at the low rank of ensign. Iago urges Roderigo to continue his pursuit of Desdemona. He knows Senator Brabantio, Desdemona's father, will dislike having Othello as a son-in-law. So late at night, Iago and Roderigo wake Brabantio and tell him the news of Desdemona. Brabantio angrily summons the militia to arrest Othello. At that moment, officers arrive to summon Brabantio to an urgent meeting of the Senate. The Senate is concerned about the imminent threat of a Turkish invasion fleet on Cyprus. Full of fury, Brabantio goes to the council.  

Othello Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999. A  black Othello wears an embroidered jacket and a brown gown with broad black and thin white stripes. He stand with his right arm across his body, gesturing rejection; his expression is disdainful.

Brabantio interrupts the council, claiming vengeance against Othello. Othello is already there because he has just been put in command of the forces to repel the Turks. Othello explains how his stories of military prowess have helped him earn Desdemona's love (good storytelling is the most important trait in a companion, after all). Afterwards, Desdemona is called to reinforce the tale and defend her marriage. Following Desdemona's defence, her father disowns her, and she chooses to go with Othello on his campaign. She plans to travel in the care of Lieutenant Cassio and with Emilia, Iago's wife.

In Cyprus, Montano, the governor of Cyprus, and his soldiers greet Cassio, Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia as they disembark. Othello soon arrives with news that storms at sea have dispersed the Turkish fleet. A night of celebration is proclaimed. Roderigo confesses doubts about his potential to woo Desdemona, but Iago assures him that there is hope. He urges Roderigo to challenge Cassio to a duel that night, since (as Iago claims) Desdemona is actually falling in love with him. When the night comes, Iago gets Cassio drunk, and Roderigo incites his anger. Montano, the governor, is stabbed during his attempt to contain Cassio. Othello is angered by the fight and blames Cassio, stripping him of his recently conferred officer status. 

1846 Othello Playbill featuring Ira Aldridge. The bill proclaims that this is for a "farewell benefit of the African Roscius", and advertises a "farewell poetic address", an appearance by Miss Emmeline Montague, and the melodrama Karea or Three Fingered Jack, as well as Othello.

The next day, Iago convinces Cassio to ask Desdemona for help in regaining his post. When Cassio asks, Desdemona innocently agrees. Meanwhile, Iago has sown seeds of jealousy in Othello’s mind, suggesting that Desdemona is overfond of Cassio. With no reason to suspect Iago of bad intentions, Othello begins to watch his wife. Othello becomes angry when Desdemona cannot find the first gift (a handkerchief) he had ever given her. The handkerchief is embroidered with strawberries and especially important to Othello. But Desdemona had not lost the handkerchief. Iago had instructed Emilia, his wife, to take it. Iago then hid the handkerchief where Cassio would find it. When Desdemona urges her husband to reconsider Cassio’s demotion, Othello gets jealous and suspects her of infidelity.  

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster — Othello, Act 3 Scene 3

Iago continues to inflame this jealousy. He encourages Othello to listen in on, and misinterpret, part of a conversation between Cassio and his mistress, Bianca. Cassio and Bianca discuss how Cassio obtained the embroidered handkerchief that he then gives to Bianca to copy. Othello’s agitation at what he hears brings on an epileptic fit. After recovering, he orders Iago to kill Cassio. Desdemona cannot understand Othello's change of attitude towards her. Othello even strikes her in the presence of her relative, Lodovico, who has arrived as an ambassador from Venice. As she prepares for bed, she talks with Emilia, singing to relieve the distress she feels at losing the trust of her husband. 

Othello Royal Shakespeare Company Othello, 1961. On a staircase Othello, flanked by a number of nobles on his left and soldiers on his right, approaches Desdemona, dressed in white standing alone at the foot of the steps. Her maids (in red) are some paces behind her.

Meanwhile, Roderigo has begun to suspect Iago is not quite the friend he seems. Still Iago persuades him to attack Cassio that night (again, to be able to court Desdemona). In the fight that ensues, Iago goes undetected and wounds Cassio. He then enters again as himself to accuse and kill Roderigo for the act of wounding Cassio. 

Othello comes to his sleeping wife's bedroom to murder her as punishment for her supposed adultery. He smothers her with a pillow as she asserts her innocence. Emilia alerts the household, causing Iago and others to come to the scene. Othello defends himself, mentioning the handkerchief as evidence. Emilia realises what has happened and betrays Iago‘s plots against Othello. Iago, reacting to his wife's accusations, stabs and kills her. Iago is arrested and sent to trial after Othello wounds him (he doesn't even die). Othello, facing the inevitability of his own trial, uses a hidden weapon to commit suicide. The play ends with Cassio reinstated and placed in command as Governor of Cyprus.

For additional reading, see our blogs on Othello

Learn more of Shakespeare's famous angry sayings from Othello and other plays: Shakespeare Quotes on Anger

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Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Drama Criticism › Analysis of William Shakespeare’s Othello

Analysis of William Shakespeare’s Othello

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 25, 2020 • ( 0 )

Of all Shakespeare’s tragedies . . . Othello is the most painfully exciting and the most terrible. From the moment when the temptation of the hero begins, the reader’s heart and mind are held in a vice, experiencing the extremes of pity and fear, sympathy and repulsion, sickening hope and dreadful expectation. Evil is displayed before him, not indeed with the profusion found in King Lear, but forming, as it were, the soul of a single character, and united with an intellectual superiority so great that he watches its advance fascinated and appalled. He sees it, in itself almost irresistible, aided at every step by fortunate accidents and the innocent mistakes of its victims. He seems to breathe an atmosphere as fateful as that of King Lear , but more confined and oppressive, the darkness not of night but of a close-shut murderous room. His imagination is excited to intense activity, but it is the activity of concentration rather than dilation.

—A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy

Between William Shakespeare’s most expansive and philosophical tragedies— Hamlet and King Lear —is Othello, his most constricted and heart-breaking play. Othello is a train wreck that the audience horrifyingly witnesses, helpless to prevent or look away. If Hamlet is a tragedy about youth, and Lear concerns old age, Othello is a family or domestic tragedy of a middle-aged man in which the fate of kingdoms and the cosmos that hangs in the balance in Hamlet and Lear contracts to the private world of a marriage’s destruction. Following his anatomizing of the painfully introspective intellectual Hamlet, Shakespeare, at the height of his ability to probe human nature and to dramatize it in action and language, treats Hamlet’s temperamental opposite—the man of action. Othello is decisive, confident, and secure in his identity, duty, and place in the world. By the end of the play, he has brought down his world around him with the relentless force that made him a great general turned inward, destroying both what he loved best in another and in himself. That such a man should fall so far and so fast gives the play an almost unbearable momentum. That such a man should unravel so completely, ushered by jealousy and hatred into a bestial worldview that cancels any claims of human virtue and self-less devotion, shocks and horrifies. Othello is generally regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest stage play, the closest he would ever come to conforming to the constrained rules of Aristotelian tragedy. The intensity  and  focus  of  Othello   is  unalleviated  by  subplots,  comic  relief,  or  any  mitigation  or  consolation  for  the  deterioration  of  the  “noble  Moor”  and  his  collapse into murder and suicide. At the center of the play’s intrigue is Shakespeare’s most sinister and formidable conceptions of evil in Iago, whose motives and the wellspring of his villainy continue to haunt audiences and critics alike. Indeed, the psychological resonances of the drama, along with its provocative racial and gender themes, have caused Othello, perhaps more than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, to reverberate the loudest with current audiences and commentators. As scholar Edward Pechter has argued, “During the past twenty-five years or so, Othello has become the Shakespearean tragedy of choice, replacing King Lear in the way Lear had earlier replaced Hamlet as the play that speaks most directly and powerfully to current interests.”


Shakespeare derived his plot from Giraldi Cinthio’s “Tale of the Moor,” in the story collection Hecatommithi (1565), reshaping Cinthio’s sensational tale of jealousy, intrigue, and murder in several key ways. In Cinthio’s story, Alfiero, the scheming ensign, lusts after the Moor’s wife, named Disdemona, and after she spurns his advances, Alfiero seeks vengeance by accusing her of adultery with Cassio,  the  Moor’s  lieutenant.  Alfiero,  like  Iago,  similarly  arouses  the  Moor’s  suspicions by stealing Disdemona’s handkerchief and planting it in Cassio’s bed-room. However, the Moor and Alfiero join forces to kill Disdemona, beating her  to  death  with  a  stocking  filled  with  sand  before  pulling  down  the  ceiling  on her dead body to conceal the crime as an accident. The Moor is eventually captured,  tortured,  and  slain  by  Disdemona’s  relatives,  while  the  ensign  dies  during torture for another crime. What is striking about Shakespeare’s alteration of Cinthio’s grisly tale of murder and villainy is the shift of emphasis to the provocation for the murder, the ennobling of Othello as a figure of great stature and dignity to underscore his self-destruction, and the complication of motive for  the  ensign’s  actions.  Cinthio’s  version  of  Iago  is  conventionally  driven  by  jealousy  of  a  superior  and  lust  for  his  wife.  Iago’s  motivation  is  anything  but  explainable in conventional terms. Dramatically, Shakespeare turns the focus of the play from the shocking crime to its causes and psychic significance, trans-forming Cinthio’s intrigue story of vile murder into one of the greatest dramatic meditations on the nature of love and its destruction.

What  makes  Othello  so  unique  structurally  (and  painful  to  witness)  is  that  it  is  a  tragedy  built  on  a  comic  foundation.  The  first  two  acts  of  the  play  enact  the  standard  pattern  of  Shakespeare’s  romantic  comedies.  The  young Venetian noblewoman, Desdemona, has eloped with the middle-aged Othello, the military commander of the armed forces of Venice. Their union is opposed by Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, and by a rival for Desdemona, Roderigo,  who  in  the  play’s  opening  scenes  are  both  provoked  against Othello  by  Iago.  Desdemona  and  Othello,  therefore,  face  the  usual  challenges of the lovers in a Shakespearean comedy who must contend with the forces of authority, custom, and circumstances allied against their union. The romantic climax comes in the trial scene of act 1, in which Othello success-fully defends himself before the Venetian senate against Brabantio’s charge that  Othello  has  beguiled  his  daughter,  “stol’n  from  me,  and  corrupted  /  By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks.” Calmly and courteously Othello recounts how, despite the differences of age, race, and background, he won Desdemona’s heart by recounting the stories of his exotic life and adventures: “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, / And I loved her that she did pity them.” Wonder at Othello’s heroic adventures and compassion for her sympathy have brought the two opposites together—the young, inexperienced  Venetian  woman  and  the  brave,  experienced  outsider.  Desdemona finally, dramatically appears before the senate to support Othello’s account of their courtship and to balance her obligation to her father and now to her husband based on the claims of love:

My noble father, I do perceive here a divided duty: To you I am bound for life and education; My life and education both do learn me How to respect you; you are the lord of duty; I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband; And so much duty as my mother show’d To you, preferring you before her father, So much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor, my lord.

Both Desdemona and Othello defy by their words and gestures the calumnies heaped upon them by Roderigo and Brabantio and vindicate the imperatives of the heart over parental authority and custom. As in a typical Shakespearean comedy, love, tested, triumphs over all opposition.

Vindicated by the duke of Venice and the senate, Othello, accompanied by Desdemona, takes up his military duties in the face of a threatened Turkish invasion, and the lovers are given a triumphal wedding-like procession and marriage ceremony when they disembark on Cyprus. The storm that divides the Venetian fleet also disperses the Turkish threat and clears the way for the lovers’ happy  reunion  and  peaceful  enjoyment  of  their  married  state.  First  Cassio lands to deliver the news of Othello’s marriage and, like the best man, supplies glowing praise for the groom and his bride; next Desdemona, accompanied by Iago and his wife, Emilia, enters but must await news of the fate of Othello’s ship. Finally, Othello arrives giving him the opportunity to renew his marriage vows to 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 wind blow till they have wakened death, And let the labouring barque 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 content so absolute That not another comfort like to this Succeeds in unknown fate.

The scene crowns love triumphant. The formerly self-sufficient Othello has now  staked  his  life  to  his  faith  in  Desdemona  and  their  union,  and  she  has  done the same. The fulfillment of the wedding night that should come at the climax of the comedy is relocated to act 2, with the aftermath of the courtship and the wedding now taking  center  stage.  Having triumphantly bested  the  social and natural forces aligned against them, having staked all to the devotion of the other, Desdemona and Othello will not be left to live happily ever after, and the tragedy will grow out of the conditions that made the comedy. Othello, unlike the other Shakespearean comedies, adds three more acts to the romantic drama, shifting from comic affirmation to tragic negation.

Iago  reviews  Othello’s  performance  as  a  lover  by  stating,  “O,  you  are  well tuned now, / But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music.” Iago will now orchestrate discord and disharmony based on a life philosophy totally opposed to the ennobling and selfless concept of love demonstrated by the newlyweds. As Iago asserts to Roderigo, “Virtue? A fig!” Self-interest is all that  matters,  and  love  is  “merely  a lust  of  the  blood  and  a  permission  of  the will.” Othello and Desdemona cannot possibly remain devoted to each other, and, as Iago concludes, “If sanctimony and a frail vow betwixt an err-ing barbarian and a super-subtle Venetian be not too hard for my wits, and all the tribe of hell, thou shalt enjoy her.” The problem of Iago’s motivation to destroy Othello and Desdemona is not that he has too few motives but too many. He offers throughout the play multiple justifi cations for his intrigue: He has been passed over in favor of Cassio; he suspects the Moor and Cassio with his wife, Emilia; he is envious of Cassio’s open nature; and he is desirous of Desdemona himself. No single motive is relied on for long, and the gap  between  cause  and  effect,  between  the  pettiness  of  Iago’s  grudges  and  the monstrousness of his behavior, prompted Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a memorable phrase to characterize Iago’s “motiveless malignity.” There is in Iago a zest for villainy and a delight in destruction, driven more by his hatred and  contempt  for  any  who  oppose  his  conception  of  jungle  law  than  by  a  conventional  naturalistic  explanation  based  on  jealousy  or  envy.  Moreover, Shakespeare, by deliberately clouding the issue of Iago’s motive, finds ever more sinister threats in such a character’s apparently bottomless and unmerited hatred and capacity for evil.

Iago will direct the remainder of the play, constructing Othello’s down-fall out of the flimsiest evidence and playing on the strengths and weaknesses of Othello’s nature and the doubts that erode Othello’s faith in Desdemona. Act 3, one of the wonders of the stage, anatomizes Othello’s psychic descent from  perfect  contentment  in  his  new  wife  to  complete  loathing,  from  a  worldview  in  which  everything  is  as  it  appears  to  one  in  which  nothing  is  as it seems. Iago leads Othello to suspect that love and devotion are shams disguising the basest of animalistic  instincts.  Misled  by  the  handkerchief,  his  love  token  to  Desdemona,  that  Iago  has  planted  in  Cassio’s  room  and  by a partially overheard conversation between Iago and Cassio, Othello, by the end of act 3, forsakes his wife and engages himself in a perverse version of the marriage ceremony of act 2 to Iago. As the pair kneels together, they exchange vows:

Iago: Witness you ever-burning lights above, You elements that clip us round about, Witness that here Iago doth give up The execution of his wit, hands, heart To wronged Othello’s service. Let him command, And to obey shall be in me remorse, What bloody business ever.

Othello: I greet thy love, Not with vain thanks, but with acceptance bounteous, And will upon the instant put thee to’t. Within these three days let me hear thee say That Cassio’s not alive.

Iago: My friend is dead. ’Tis done at your request; but let her live.

Othello: Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her, damn her! Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw To furnish me with some swift means of death For the fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant.

Iago: I am your own for ever.

This scene has suggested to some critics that Iago’s true motivation for destroying the marriage of Desdemona and Othello is a repressed homosexual love for Othello. An equal case can be made that Iago here completes his role as Vice, borrowed from the medieval morality plays, sealing the Faustian bargain for Othello’s soul in this mock or black marriage scene.

The play moves relentlessly from here to catastrophe as Othello delivers justice to those he is convinced have wronged him. As he attempts to carry out  his  execution  of  Desdemona,  she  for  the  first  time  realizes  his  charges  against her and his utter delusion. Ignoring her appeals for mercy and avowals of innocence, Othello smothers her moments before Emilia arrives with the proof of  Desdemona’s  innocence  and  Iago’s  villainy.  Othello  must  now  face  the  realization  of  what  he  has  done.  He turns  to  Iago,  who  has  been  brought before him to know the reason for his actions. Iago replies: “Demand me  nothing;  what  you  know,  you  know:  /  From  this  time  forth  I  never  will  speak  word.”  By  Iago’s  exiting  the  stage,  closing  access  to  his  motives,  the  focus remains firmly on Othello, not as Iago’s victim, but as his own. His final speech mixes together the acknowledgment of what he was and what he has become, who he is and how he would like to be remembered:

I have done the state some service, and they know’t. No more of that. I pray you, in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak Of one that loved not wisely but too well, Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought, Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand, Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe.

Consistent with his role as guardian of order in the state, Othello carries out his own execution, by analogy judging his act as a violation reflected by Venice’s savage enemy:

And say besides, that in Aleppo once, Where a malignant and a turban’d Turk Beat a Venetian and tradu’d the state, I took by th’ throat the circumcisèd dog, And smote him—thus.

Othello, likewise, has “tradu’d the state” and has changed from noble and valiant Othello to a beast, with the passion that ennobled him shown as corrosive and demeaning. He carries out his own execution for a violation that threatens social and psychic order. For the onlookers on stage, the final tableau of the dead Desdemona and Othello “poisons sight” and provokes the command to “Let it be hid.” The witnesses on stage cannot compute rationally what has occurred nor why, but the audience has been given a privileged view of the battle between good and evil worked out in the private recesses of a bedroom and a human soul.

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by William Shakespeare

Othello essay questions.

How is Othello's race a factor in the play?

Othello ascends to the rank of the Venetian military, a city - much like Elizabethan England when the play was written - rife with racism. A general in the army, Othello holds a distinguished place in the Duke's court due to his victories in battle, but not an equal one. He suffers barbs and preconceived notions, yet Othello is esteemed and wins the love of the daughter of a nobleman. However, Brabantio is enraged by Othello's marriage to Desdemona and claims Othello used magic to compel her to run to his "sooty bosom". Race is a factor in the tragedy both in those who seek to destroy Othello, and the victims of the schemes - Othello and Desdemona. Perhaps the most pernicious form of race as an instrument of division is Othello's own view of himself as an outsider, which makes him more susceptible to Iago's plan.

How does Shakespeare's use of language reveal character?

Often Shakespeare uses verse lines written in iambic pentameter to illustrate nobility. It is illustrative of Iago's duplicitous nature that he tends to speak in verse when he is with Othello and in prose for his soliloquies. One way in which Iago is a master in manipulation is his tendency to use Othello's own words to disguise his active role of instigator and make it seem that any dark thought came not from him but Othello's own mind. Othello's speech is very sophisticated at the beginning of the play, and in his soliloquy at the close of Act V, but when he is consumed with jealous rage, his eloquence falters. Shakespeare uses dialogue to convey the innerworkings of his characters.

Othello is often called a tragic hero. Discuss his heroic qualities as well as his flaws which lead to his demise.

At the beginning of the play Othello is presented as an honorable man of noble stature and high position. In the end it is his misguided attempt to maintain that honor which brings about his, and Desdemona's, demise. However, Othello is not simply the victim of a plot. Iago is able to engineer Othello's downfall in part because of Othello's own insecurities. His pride blinds him to his weaknesses, and he puts his faith in Iago over the word of his love, Desdemona. Othello is obsessed with his reputation, and ends up killing his wife to save face. Only to a flawed man would murder seem like a solution to a problem of reputation. Othello is spurred on by lies and misrepresentations, but he brings about his own undoing.

What motives, stated and implied, does Iago have for taking revenge on Othello?

Iago's stated reason for taking revenge on Othello is that he has been passed over for Cassio's post. But is this enough for him to "hate the Moor"? It is clear that he is jealous of Othello's ascension in the court and successful wooing of Desdemona. Othello's race and status as an outsider also seems to fuel this rage, as well as the rumor that Othello has slept with Iago's wife, Emilia. None of these motivations, however, seem to add up to inspire the violence that unfolds. Iago remains one of the most purely evil of Shakespeare's villains.

Discuss how loyalty is presented as a positive and a negative quality throughout the play.

Othello's lack of loyalty is what incites Iago's plan for revenge. Iago's ability to fool Othello that he is loyal while secretly plotting his demise is what makes his revenge effective. It is Othello's belief in Desdemona's lack of loyalty that seals their fates. In these ways loyalty, when misconstrued, can be dangerous. However Desdemona's loyalty to Othello even in her death and Othello's loyalty to her once his mistake is revealed are seen as ennobling aspects of their characters.

Compare and contrast the jealousy of Othello to that of Iago.

One major theme in Othello is revenge - Iago's revenge on Othello and Othello's revenge on Desdemona. They both believe death will bring justice. Iago's revenge is cooler, plotted out over time where Othello's is an act of heartbroken passion. Iago wears his lack of morals as a badge of honor where it is Othello's moral code that leads to his tragic end.

Although Othello is the title character in what way is Iago the main character?

Often in Shakespeare's plays such as Hamlet or King Lear , the title character is the main character and protagonist. In Othello this is not the case. Iago has almost 20% more lines than Othello, and has more asides with the audience. While it is Othello's decisions and actions that provide the dramatic structure for the play, it is Iago who sets in motion those decisions and spurs him to action. Othello is the tragic figure of the play, along with Desdemona, and it his characteristics that lend itself to most of the themes - jealousy, race, trust. However, Iago is the character who drives the plot.

How does Desdemona's dying assertion that she killed herself effect how you see her character?

From a modern feminist viewpoint Desdemona may be judged harshly for answering Emilia, when she asked who has mortally attacked her, "nobody; I myself. Farewell." Furthermore, she seemed resigned to her fate at the hands of her husband. While contemporary audiences may interpret these actions as unfathomable, they highlight the goodness of her character. Desdemona is described by others in the play with words that symbolize goodness - light, white, fair, delicate, alabaster. By the end of the play, Desdemona begins to symbolize goodness itself, so her reaction to her murder becomes another element in Othello's tragic end. Desdemona still loves Othello, though he is mistaken, and she goes to her death professing her husband's reputation. A modern audience may wish for a response that is less melodramatic, but that is not the world that Shakespeare has created in this play.

In what ways do Othello's suicide strengthen or undermine his heroism?

Though suicide is not usually the chosen end for a heroic figure, it is Othello's only escape from the crimes he has committed. Though the victim of Iago's trickery, Othello is still the author of his own demise. For Desdemona's death to be answered by anything less than his own would have felt false.

Describe how Othello's pride leads to his fall.

At the beginning of the play Othello is proud of himself and his achievements, but when Iago looks to punish Othello for his perceived slight, it is his pride that he preys upon. The belief that Desdemona has tainted his honor ignites Othello's rage, but it is his pride that blinds him to the fact that the evidence of her acts are lies invented not by a loyal friend but an enemy bent on his destruction.

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Othello Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Othello is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

what attributers of the green eyed monster jealousy are made painful apparent as the scene progresses

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster in this scene. In Act 3 scene 3 Othello pretty much displays his jealousy,

desdemonas speech here confirms the masterly nature of iagos plot with what words does she assure cassio that she will do her best to get him reinstated

What is your question here?

why does othello ignore the cries for help?

Othello is hurdling towards self-destruction: sadly, by the deaths of people closest to him. Like tragic heroes such as Macbeth, Othello's senses are dull to tragedy and screams of terror. Roderigo and Cassio fight, and both are injured; Othello...

Study Guide for Othello

Othello study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Othello
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Essays for Othello

Othello essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Othello by William Shakespeare.

  • Iago and Edmund: The Silence and Complexity of Evil
  • Unity in Shakespeare's Tragedies
  • Inevitability and the Nature of Shakespeare's Tragedies
  • Witchy Women: Female Magic and Otherness in Western Literature
  • Racism in Othello

Lesson Plan for Othello

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Othello
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
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E-Text of Othello

Othello e-text contains the full text of Othello by William Shakespeare.

  • List of Characters

Wikipedia Entries for Othello

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short essay about othello

The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay

  • To find inspiration for your paper and overcome writer’s block
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Critical analysis, works cited.

The Tragedy of Othello is a powerful piece of art written by William Shakespeare. The tragedy is well-known around the world. If you are assigned to write critical analysis of Othello, check this essay example to learn more about the drama, and its characters.

The stage directions in the Tragedy of Othello are realistic. The drama is based on the three characters namely Othello, Lago, and Desdemona. However, the directions are based on the modest approach to a drama that is located in two diverse worlds known as the Venice and Cyprus.

Given that the play had no subplot, the play directions tend to budge in terms of place, time, and action once the theme is shifted to Cyprus. The stage directions are the realistic forms of domestic tragedy. However, it does not require supernatural instructions to hook the audience.

The language used to give directions to the audience is natural and restrained. The dialogue reflects the reality of a society that is under pressure from the usual hassles of life. The dialogue simply involves a husband, wife, and a scoundrel. This is a short critical analysis examining the play from multiple perspectives. That is, how I experience it as a silent reader and as a text for public performance.

The drama is ahead of its time. The play presents the audience with a tragic hero of color. The dialogue sounds natural and does not involve the provocation of laughter in the audience. The imagination of the audience is captured by the fact that the drama involves interracial marriage that was unfathomable in those days.

Further, the drama involves a bed in which murder is eventually committed. The murder is committed on stage. The dialogue is made very realistic by the presence of the villain who appears to possess more lines than the disastrous hero. All the meetings were bold, contentious, and very modern.

The characters in Othello are acting like normal people pursuing everyday undertakings. Othello becomes the victim of a domestic calamity. He is the victim to an envious monster of jealousy (Langis 61). He finds it hard to adjust to the marital existence having been in the armed forces for long. In fact, he turns out to be a chauvinist and protective. Although he is good in the military, he is bad at home. Othello appears to be an awful husband. The play shows that Othello is always imploring for a brawl. Just like Simpson, he murders the wife after being informed that she has been cheating on him.

Typically, this would be the reaction of a husband convinced that the wife has been cheating on him. Such incidents have been happening in the society. Thus, this appears as the main theme of incompatibility in the armed forces of heroism and love in the drama. That s, it involves the risk of isolation. The killing of Desdemona is an evidence of the frustration that Othello is going through after being cheated and convinced by Lago to trust that his wife was cheating on him.

Lago cannot convince the audience in whatever he says given that the audiences have insight into his character though it is not evident to the actors. He pretends to be morally upright so that his intention of ensuring the downfall of Othello is well covered. By planting the handkerchief in Casio’s house, it is an indication of conspiracy between him and the wife (Lankey 6).

The stage businesses are illustrations of what take place in real life. The visual plainness displayed on the stage according to the stage directions focuses directly on the actors and a fascinating account of retaliation, gullibility, and jealousy. The catastrophic downfall of the noble warrior is a common phenomenon in many societies plagued by jealousy and vengeance. Lago at times hilariously expresses his intentions for the murderous abhorrence of Othello.

By acting as a director and producer in charge of staging the tragedy of the Othello, I would ensure the actors bring out the rhetoric of the drama. However, before the action of the drama, Brabantion had been kind to the Moor (Horman 112). He allowed Othello and his daughter to discuss more about him since he was mesmerized by his slave stories. Upon the revelation that the Desdemona had eloped with Othello, his feeling altered abruptly.

He started wondering where he would find and arrest him. However, the rhetoric does not come out clearly even when he is called a thief in the street. Instead, Othello is accused of abusing Desdemona. In deep rhetoric, Brabantio states that his house is not a grange. This meant that he does not keep horses. In fact, this is founded on the fact that the daughter had eloped with a man of color. I would insist that the actors should bring out the rhetoric clearly to sensitize the audience about racism.

Numerous elements would probably catch my attention as a critic of the play. The geographical symbolism represented by the two locations of the play would be important. For instance, Venice is represented by Lago while Cyprus represented by Desdemona. Othello represents the third location called Turks.

This emerged upon considering that the location was only mentioned as a war zone with the other two characters. Venice was at the time of writing the play one of the most influential and cosmopolitan European cities. Indeed, it is symbolic of the white Christian European morals.

The Senate and the Duke ran the city. These were symbols of power and order. On the contrary, Cyprus is very unpredictable and natural. It was isolated from the colonial government. Besides, it is an armed forces premeditated target for both Turks and Venetians. The island is very symbolic of Desdemona. There is struggle to dominate her between Othello and Lago.

Othello involves a variety of actors. In fact, actors such as Othello, Lago and Desdemona dominate the play. In the play, the setting incorporates jealousy and gullibility while such traits rule the society. The short critical analysis examines the play from multiple perspectives. That is, how I experience it as a silent reader, and how I experience it as a text for public performance.

Horman, Sidney . When the Theater Turns to Itself: The Aesthetic Metaphor in Shakespeare, Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981. Print.

Langis, Park. Passion, Prudence, and Virtue in Shakespeare Drama, West Newton: Continuum, 2007. Print.

Lankey, Julie. Othello , Cambridge City, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Print.

  • Play’s Plot Explored
  • Act 1 Scene 1
  • Act 1 Scene 2
  • Act 1 Scene 3
  • Act 2 Scenes 1-2
  • Act 2 Scene 3
  • Act‌ ‌3‌ ‌Scenes‌ ‌1-2
  • Act‌ ‌3‌ ‌Scene‌ ‌3
  • Act 3 Scene 4
  • Act‌ ‌4‌ ‌Scene‌ ‌1
  • Act 4 Scene 2
  • Act‌ ‌4‌ ‌Scene‌ ‌3
  • Act‌ ‌5‌ ‌Scene‌ ‌1
  • Act 5 Scene 2
  • Characters Analysis
  • Important Quotes
  • Essay Topics & Examples
  • William Shakespeare
  • The Downfall of Othello
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IvyPanda. (2018, December 19). The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay.

"The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay." IvyPanda , 19 Dec. 2018,

IvyPanda . (2018) 'The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay'. 19 December.

IvyPanda . 2018. "The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay." December 19, 2018.

1. IvyPanda . "The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay." December 19, 2018.


IvyPanda . "The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay." December 19, 2018.

short essay about othello

William Shakespeare

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In Venice, Roderigo complains to Iago that, despite the money he's given Iago to help him woo Desdemona , she's eloped with the Moorish general Othello . Iago responds that he too hates Othello, for whom he works as a standard-bearer: Othello chose Cassio , rather than Iago, to be his lieutenant. The two men go to the home of Desdemona's father, the senator Brabantio , and rouse him with graphic descriptions of his daughter having sex with the Moor. Brabantio, enraged, interrupts Othello as he receives an urgent message from the Duke of Venice , and accompanies Othello see the Duke. In front of the Duke, Brabantio accuses Othello of having used magic to seduce Desdemona. Othello responds that it was stories of his exciting life history and military bravery that won Desdemona. When summoned, Desdemona supports Othello's story. Brabantio grudgingly blesses the newlyweds. The Duke then sends Othello to lead a fleet of Venetians to defend Cyprus from a Turkish attack. Desdemona accompanies him. Iago reassures Roderigo that he will still win Desdemona in the end, then privately admits that he's just using Roderigo for money while he plots his own revenge.

When the Venetians arrive in Cyprus, the governor Montano reports that a storm at sea has drowned the Turkish fleet, eliminating the military threat. Iago quickly hatches a plan to make Othello believe that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with either Cassio or Roderigo. That night, while Othello and Desdemona go to bed to consummate their marriage, Iago succeeds in getting Cassio drunk. He then goads Roderigo into provoking Cassio, starting a brawl. Disgusted, Othello demotes Cassio.

Meanwhile, Iago convinces Desdemona to try to get Othello to reinstate Cassio. Iago then uses Desdemona's requests that he be merciful to Cassio to make Othello suspect that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio. Othello, takes the bait, repeatedly praising Iago for his honesty. Later, when Desdemona accidentally drops a handkerchief that Othello had given to her as a love-token, Emilia gives it to Iago, who had long asked her to steal it for him. Iago then plants it in Cassio's room.

Othello, upset, demands that Iago show him proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago responds that he has heard Cassio fantasize lewdly about Desdemona in his sleep and that he has seen Cassio wipe his mouth with Desdemona's handkerchief. Othello promotes Iago to the status of lieutenant and orders him to kill Cassio within three days. Othello then goes to Desdemona's room, and asks her for the handkerchief. Desdemona, who had been searching for the handkerchief, admits she can't find it. Othello storms off. Meanwhile, Cassio's mistress, the prostitute Bianca , comes to his quarters. Cassio asks her to make a copy of a handkerchief he's recently found in his room, because he admires it.

Iago continues to spur Othello's jealousy. When he reports that Cassio has admitted to sleeping with Desdemona, Othello falls into an epileptic fit. Iago urges Othello to hide while he questions Cassio about Desdemona. In fact, he asks Cassio about Bianca, causing Cassio to laugh. Watching from afar, Othello grows increasingly furious. Then, Bianca shows up, and throws Desdemona's handkerchief at Cassio, accusing him of having it from another whore. After Cassio and Bianca leave, Iago easily persuades Othello to kill Desdemona. Iago promises to take care of Cassio himself. He then convinces Roderigo that if Cassio were to die, Othello would have to remain in Cyprus, leaving Desdemona in Venice for Roderigo. Iago instructs Roderigo to wait outside Bianca's house that night and kill Cassio when he leaves.

That night, Iago sets Roderigo up to kill Cassio as planned. When Cassio exits Bianca's house, Roderigo attacks him; both are wounded. Overhearing Roderigo's cries for help, Othello believes that Cassio is dead and is impressed by Iago's loyalty. Meanwhile, Iago goes to Bianca's; finding Cassio wounded, he stabs Roderigo, killing him (and thus assuring that his secret will not be revealed). Iago then calls the others, including Bianca, whom he arrests, accusing her of having conspired with Roderigo. While this is going on, Othello arrives at Desdemona's chamber. Enchanted by her beauty, he nonetheless resists her pleas to spare her life, and he smothers her with a pillow. Emilia arrives to tell Othello that Roderigo is dead and Cassio alive, when she hears Desdemona's dying cries.

When Emilia demands why Othello has killed Desdemona, Othello explains how Iago proved to him that Desdemona slept with Cassio. As Montano, Iago, and Gratiano , a relative of Brabantio's all arrive, Emilia accuses Iago of lying and explains that she stole this from Desdemona at her husband's behest. Othello attacks Iago. In the uproar, Iago stabs and kills Emilia, then flees. Montano and Gratiano disarm Othello, then chase down Iago. When he is dragged back in their custody, Othello wounds him before being disarmed again. Letters found on Roderigo's corpse reveal the full extent of Iago's plots; he himself refuses to explain himself. Othello draws a hidden dagger and, after a speech, kills himself.

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The Psychological Complexity in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

This essay about Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” examines the psychological depth and literary techniques used to convey themes of guilt and madness. Through the unreliable first-person narration, Poe explores the fragile boundary between sanity and insanity. The story’s tension is meticulously crafted, highlighting the protagonist’s descent into paranoia and the haunting consequences of his actions, ultimately showcasing Poe’s mastery in psychological horror and narrative technique.

How it works

Edgar Allan Poe, renowned for his chilling tales of mystery and suspense, intricately weaves a compelling narrative in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Initially published in 1843, this short story plunges deep into the psyche of an unnamed protagonist as he grapples with his descent into madness and fixation.

The story unfolds through the eyes of a narrator who vehemently insists on his sanity while recounting a heinous act of murder. His fixation centers on the old man’s vulture-like eye, which he perceives as malevolent and must be obliterated.

This obsession becomes the focal point around which the narrator’s sanity teeters, showcasing Poe’s skill in exploring the fragile boundary between reason and insanity.

At its heart, the narrative delves into themes of guilt and its profound psychological impact on the narrator. Despite his adamant claims of sanity, his overwhelming guilt manifests in auditory hallucinations—a persistent thumping, which he attributes to the old man’s heart even after his demise. This auditory hallucination becomes a palpable symbol of the narrator’s guilt, haunting him until he can no longer contain his confession. Thus, the story serves as a haunting exploration of the psychological weight of guilt and the inevitable consequences of one’s actions.

Poe employs various literary devices to heighten the suspense and psychological complexity of the narrative. The unreliable narrator introduces an element of doubt, leaving readers to question the truth of his tale and emphasizing the subjective nature of reality. The use of first-person narrative creates an intimate bond between the narrator and the audience, drawing readers into the vortex of his disturbed mind and creating an atmosphere steeped in psychological terror.

Beyond its psychological depth, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is celebrated for its concise storytelling and thematic richness. Poe’s meticulous attention to detail—from the narrator’s meticulous planning to his spiral into paranoia—demonstrates his mastery in building tension and evoking a sense of impending dread. Each sentence propels the unraveling of the narrator’s psyche, underscoring the importance of every word in shaping the story’s chilling impact.

Moreover, the enduring allure of the tale lies in its exploration of timeless themes such as guilt, madness, and the complexities of human nature. Poe’s depiction of the narrator’s inner turmoil resonates through the ages, compelling readers and scholars alike to confront the darker aspects of human consciousness and the haunting repercussions of unchecked obsession.

In essence, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” stands as a testament to the author’s prowess in psychological horror and narrative technique. Through its examination of guilt, madness, and the unpredictable nature of perception, the story continues to captivate audiences, urging them to contemplate the unsettling truths that lurk beneath the surface of human existence.


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