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Ideas and issues in Othello

Deceptive nature of appearance and reality .................................................................................................................... 3
Fragility of trust ................................................................................................................................................................. 5
Manipulation..................................................................................................................................................................... 7
Power ................................................................................................................................................................................ 9
Race and racism/prejudice ............................................................................................................................................. 11
Order and chaos .............................................................................................................................................................. 13
Jealousy has the power to destroy ................................................................................................................................. 15
Gender - nature of women and men .............................................................................................................................. 17
Good and evil .................................................................................................................................................................. 19
Deceptive nature of appearance and reality
Reliance on what we see and what we are told
Honesty and deception
Believing in unfounded rumours
Pride and reputation
Judgements based on false assumptions

Fragility of trust
Foolish loyalty
Secrecy and misunderstanding
Gullibility and self-awareness

People with honest reputations manipulate

The power of language to shape thoughts
Power of reputation

Race and racism/prejudice

Outsider/ the other
The danger of isolation
Hatred is often skin deep

Order and chaos


Jealousy has the power to destroy

Love and sacrifice

Gender - nature of women and men

Manhood and honour
Womanhood and sexuality
Role of women

Good and evil

Light vs dark
Deceptive nature of appearance and reality
Reliance on what we see and what we are told
Honesty and deception
Believing in unfounded rumours
Pride and reputation
Judgements based on false assumptions

Content Context
characters, Michel de Montaigne a Renaissance philosopher best known for his work on
context, plot, scepticism. Montaigne believed that humans would never be able to see past the
elaboration on verisimilitude of appearance to the realities that lay behind
the issue In Venetian society- honesty was highly valued- and hence, if someone appeared to
have the qualities of honesty and loyalty they could potentially exploit this outward
perception of themselves for interior motives. Iago successfully does this, sabotaging
Othello and Desdemonas relationship.
Shakespeare communicates the unreliability of basing judgements on outward
appearance in the characters of Iago, who embodies the deceptive nature of outwardly
appearance. Iago proves that evil intentions can be masked a facade of honesty. He
adopts instant roles in the play- eg. advisor, confidante, with the appearance of an
honest man helping people. However, in reality he is only acting out of self-interest.
Dramatic Dramatic irony is frequently employed throughout the play in order to emphasise the
techniques significance of the disparity between appearance and reality as the audience often
Aristotelian know much more than certain characters, e.g. Othello says of Iago that he is a man of
tragedy honesty and trust even though the audience knows that Iago seeks to destroy
elements, time, Othello. E.g. Tis he. O brave Iago, honest and just, That hast such noble sense of thy
setting, friends wrong.
structure, Iago: Men should be what they seem; Or those that be not, would they might seen
Contrast in none!(Act2 Scene3) The dramatic irony highlights his deceptive nature.
scenes, props, Stage direction: IAGO from behind wounds CASSIO in the legs, exits. (Act 5 Scene 1)
soliloquys, Shows how two-faced he is with him coming from behind. (Act 5 Scene
asides, irony, Stage direction: IAGO offers to stab EMILIA. This stage direction is a key moment when
stage directions Iagos true character is revealed. (Act 5 Scene 2)
Iago: Men should be what they seem; those that be not, would they might seem
none! (Act 2 Scene 3) Dramatic technique as he is projecting a false image.
Iago: (Aside) O, you are well tuned now! But I'll set down the pegs that make this
music, As honest as I am.
Use asides to show how like Janus, Iago is manipulative and evil (his outward
appearance does not reflect his inner intentions). The very nature of the aside as a
dramatic technique is reflective of Iago's duplicitous character, one hand saying one
thing to people but actions go against this.
Language Iago: In following him, I follow but myself. The repetition of follow combined with
techniques the play on words highlights the discrepancy between the way that Iago acts compared
to his true intentions in following Othello
Iago: For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at.
Iago: I am not what I am. The paradox perfectly captures Iagos duplicitous, deceptive
and sinister nature.
Iago: Though I do hate him as I do hell's pains,
Yet, for necessity of present life,
I must show out a flag and sign of love,
Which is indeed but sign
The simile comparing Iagos hatred of Othello to a condemnation to hell effectively
illustrates how duplicitous Iago is and how it contrasts starkly to his outward
Brabantio: Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds/ By what you see
them act The apostrophe to all fathers highlights Brabantios desperation to warn
other fathers of the disparity between appearance and reality when it comes to their
Iago: By Janus I think no. (Act1 Scene2) The allusion to Janus is ironically appropriate
for Iago as he holds similar characteristics to Janus. Both Iago and Janus are two-faced
in nature and action.
Critics give a Harold Bloom Iago is masterful at manipulating appearances and making what is
general seen appear to corroborate his own words.
summary of the Norman Sanders - (Iago) He can, of course, do none of these things; but he has the
ideas and ability to do something much worse: he can make them seem to be true. This ensign
provide pithy does not show the flag of his real nature is the master stage director.
and concise Samuel Colerige- Virtue? a fig! Tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus . . . (can't
quotes help it? Nonsense. What we are is up to us garden scene- Act 1 Scene 3) This speech
comprises the passionless character of Iago. He is (Iago) a bold partisan of a truth, but
yet of a truth converted into a falsehood by the absence of all the necessary
modifications caused by the frail nature of man.
Fragility of trust
Foolish loyalty
Secrecy and misunderstanding
Gullibility and self-awareness

Content Context:
characters, During Shakespeares time, questions about loyalty and national security, and the
context, plot, figure of the aging female monarch, were current in Elizabethan England.
elaboration on Blacks who were part of English society were largely exhibited as curiosities or used as
the issue slaves. Foreigners in general, and blacks and Jews specifically, were mistrusted merely
because they were perceived as a threat to the cultural homogeneity.
Venetian law required them to have a general not from Venice, which is why Othello
has the position
Humanist movement - study and promotion of human capacities and potential
Transition away from feudalist system - no real centralised state, but rather areas
controlled by nobles. Nobles with enough power become kings

Dramatic Iagos second soliloquy That Cassio loves her explores Iagos own jealous
techniques inclinations as well as his lack of trust for his wife and Othello
Aristotelian The handkerchief as a key prop is the embodiment of the fragility of trust. A normally
tragedy insignificant prop has the power to condemn Desdemona and act as proof of her
elements, time, infidelity for Othello.
setting, The first soliloquy of Othello on one hand reveals his blind trust and on the other hand
structure, it shows the seeds of suspicion about Desdemonas infidelity. We find how Othello
Contrast in becomes conscious of his advanced years, he is tempted to believe that wives of such
scenes, props, men cannot be faithful to their husbands.
soliloquys, Dramatic Irony is that in his first soliloquy, he clearly says I am not what I am which
asides, irony, sets the tone for the rest of his role " but every other character does not know this and
stage directions they only see the side of him he wants them to see, with no one ever really finding out
how two-faced he is until the very end
Irony: Thou dost conspire against thy friend, Iago - Othello
Irony: "She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee," (I.iii.293). He is suggesting that she
has therefore shown a potential for disloyalty.
Dramatic Irony: audience knows that Iago is a traitor and misleads Othello regarding
Desdemona's fidelity. The audience reads/watches in horror as Othello trusts Iago's
information and murders his wife. The result is one of the most heart wrenching scenes
ever written, since we witness "the fall of a proud, dignified man," and "the murder of
a graceful, loving woman" because of Iago's treachery.
Contrast between scene where Othello trusts Desdemona and her decisions but then
refuses to believe her after Iago manipulates him.
IRONY: Cassio, who has always given loyal and responsible service to his general
Othello gets hatred and violence in return; but silly Othello rewards the terribly evil
lago with love and trust in return to his betrayal. The grateful and humble gets an
injury, whereas the thankful and malicious gets respect. That irony is the cause of so
much tension to the audience, and is also one of the thematic issues of the play.

Language Brabantio: O treason of the blood! The exclaimed dialogue emphasises how betrayed
techniques Brabantio feels
Oxymoron:I think that my wife be honest, and think she is not - Othello
Motif of the Willow song:the song seems to represent a melancholy and resigned
acceptance of her alienation from Othellos affections, and singing it leads her to
question Emilia about the nature and practice of infidelity.
Critics give a See W. H. Auden The Joker in the Pack
summary of the While the Moor bears the nightly colour of suspicion and deceit only on his visage,
ideas and Iago is black within. He haunts Othello like his evil genius - August Wilhelm Schlegel
provide pithy Robert Watson writes that, "In suspecting that his wife has been unfaithful, Othello
and concise only demonstrates his own lack of faith. This domestic paradox carries over to the
quotes secondary, allegorical level of the play, where the marriage between Othello and
Desdemona represents the passionate but troubled marriage between the sinner's soul
and its Savior" (Watson).
People with honest reputations manipulate

Content Context:
characters, The character of the individual ends up being of great importance to Shakespeare, who
context, plot, manipulates how the audience will respond to each one.1
elaboration on Iago is viewed by the characters of the play as trustworthy, and dependable, however
the issue he has a hidden agenda which will affect all their lives. He achieves his goal of
manipulating his victims by gaining their trust and appearing as a good person that only
wants to help other people, however, each time his victim feels as though their bond
has become closer, in reality, Iago is only becoming closer to achieving his goal of
Iago corrupts Othello by taking advantage of his hamartia which is jealousy.
Dramatic Shakespeare often uses asides for Iago to reflect his conniving, scheming, manipulative
techniques and villainous ways, e.g. [Aside] O, you are well tuned now! But / I'll set down the
Aristotelian pegs that make this music, / As honest as I am.
tragedy Iagos soliloquies also create a connection between him and the audience, allowing
elements, time, them to see into his mind, his thoughts, and how he plans to manipulate, overall a
setting, small insight into his nature and character
structure, Handkerchief prop: In the beginning of the play the handkerchief symbolises the love
Contrast in that Othello has for Desdemona. Then Iago plants the handkerchief on Cassio and
scenes, props, manipulates its meaning into that of unfaithfulness.
asides, irony,
stage directions
Language Iago: You shall mark
techniques Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
That doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Wears out his time much like his master's ass
For nought but provender, and when he's old, cashiered.
The simile and animal imagery highlights the way that Iago plans to manipulate and
take control over Othello
Iago: In following him, I follow but myself. The repetition of follow combined with
the play on words is evidence of Iagos intention to manipulate Othello
Iagos soliloquy (pg45): And will as tenderly be led by the nose As asses are.
o Animal imagery combined with the simile show his view of humans as mere
animals and how he plans to manipulate them as they are so brainless he can
lead them by the nose
Act 4 Scene 1: Work on, My medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught;
o Interlude when Othello falls into the trance
o Recurring motif of poison highlights the control Iago has over Othello, calling
poison medicine creates irony
Iago [aside]: He takes her by the palm: ay, well said, whisper: with as little a web as
this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio
The animal imagery and metaphor of a web and a fly show how Iago plans to
manipulate Cassio and the overall situation - taking advantage of the opportunity
before him: Cassios desire for his old station back, Desdemonas good-hearted nature
Iago: Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost
without deserving
Ironic since Iago has a reputation for being honest which he takes advantage of
regularly; uses Cassios moment of weakness to manipulate him and offer suggestions

Othello: exchange me for a goat, When I shall turn the business of my soul
To such exsufflicate and blown surmises, matching thy inference.
Here we can see evidence of the effects of Iagos manipulation of Othellos insecurities
as Othello starts to adopt some of Iagos idiomatic language (animal imagery, etc.).
Note that this is very common with Iago as he relentlessly takes advantage of others
weaknesses and insecurities (e.g. pushing Cassio to drink)
Othello: it comes oer my memory As doth the raven oer the infected house Boding
to all--he had my handkerchief
Simile and animal imagery adopted from Iago highlights how crucial this handkerchief
is, more significance is attached to the handkerchief than it deserves - a direct result of
Iagos manipulation
Lie with her...O devil! this break in Othellos language as he responds in verse is also
physically visible as his response is littered with dashes, exclamations - result of Iagos
Critics give a A.C. Bradley: For his [Othellos] opinion of Iago was the opinion of practically everyone who
general knew him: and that opinion was that Iago was before all things honest, his very faults being
summary of the those of excess in honesty. This being so, even if Othello had not been trustful and simple, it
ideas and would have been quite unnatural in him to be unmoved by the warnings of so honest a friend,
provide pithy warnings offered with extreme reluctance and manifestly from a sense of friends duty.
and concise
The power of language to shape thoughts
Power of reputation

Content Context:
characters, During Shakespeares time Queen Elizabeth was coming to the end of her reign as
context, plot, queen but with no heir apparent the country was in turmoil due to the uncertainty of
elaboration on its future as a great empire. This is reflected in the play, with Shakespeare portraying
the issue power as tenuous and transitory, but it is the corruption of power that Shakespeare
draws on most in Othello
Machiavellis influence on Shakespeare can be seen through the character and
machinations of Iago
Throughout the play, we see Othello gradually lose power (seen by captaincy position)
as Iago gains it, through both language and Othellos emotional outburst.
Elizabethan society was largely 'based on birth and blood and there were limited
opportunities for advancement, especially for those on a lower social scale.
Dramatic Props/Motif: It was a handkerchief, an antique token my father gave my mother.;
techniques This prop rapidly gains power throughout the play, so much so that Othello deems it
Aristotelian worthy evidence against Desdomona, despite the extremely circumstantial evidence.
tragedy The power attained by the handkerchief is able to manipulate Othello and his emotions
elements, time, Peripeteia: Act 3 Scene 3; Othello loses the power in the narrative, as witnessed by
setting, numerous dramatic techniques, which show Othello and Iago, for a moment become
structure, equal, before Iago gains the power in the scene through his ability to harness the
Contrast in power of language for his own machinations. The following depict this:
scenes, props, Stage directions: Othello kneels and Iago kneels.; this is used to show the brief
soliloquys, equality in terms of power between the two characters, before they both rise.
asides, irony, However, Iago is now art thou my lieutenant, and thus gains power he had not
stage directions previously had
Language Hyperbole: If you do find me foul in her report? The trust, the office do I hold of you,
techniques not only take away, but let your sentence Even dall upon my life Initially Othello
submits uses the power of language in order to prove in innocence before the court.
This juxtaposes against the paradoxical language used later
Sharp and paradoxical dialogue: By the world, I think my wife be honest and think she
is not. I think that thou art just and think thou art not. The shift in the eloquence of his
speech highlights his descent in power
Othellos final Soliloquy: Anaphora: Of one that loved not wisely, but too well/Of one
not easily jealous but, bring wrought-The listing of Othellos good qualities as an
attempts to change his narrative reflects the power of reputation; even as he readys
himself to die, his primary concern is his legacy and that of his reputation.
Othellos final Soliloquy: Paradox: An honourable murderer, if you will; power of
Animal Imagery: Iago's claim that Othello will be "Tenderly be led by the nose...as asses
are," depicts Othello's vulnerability due to him extreme emotions and jealousy and
highlights Iago's confidence of his power over Othello.
Symbolism: It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock; Represents the power of
Critics give a A.C Bradley: Believes that any man in the high position of power as Othello would have
general succumb to the Machiavellian traits of Iago, and be made wildly jealous
summary of the F.R Leavis: Othello is...the victim of Iagos intellectual superiority
ideas and J. Putnam: Othello has become mad with rage and jealousy and Iago tries to redirect
provide pithy these powerfully strong emotions in false images, which he constructs.
and concise Neil Heims: But disappointment at the loss of the lieutenancy supplied the touch of
quotes lively resentment that was required to overcome these obstacles; and the prospect of
satisfying the sense of power by mastering Othello through an intricate and hazardous
intrigue now became irresistible, and Iagos longing to satisfy the sense of power is, I
think, the strongest of the forces that drive him on.
Andrew Hadfield: By virtue of his manipulative power and his superior knowledge and
control over the action, which we share, we are implicated in his machinations and the
cultural values they imply. Iago is a cultural hyperbole; he does not oppose cultural
norms so much as hyperbolize them.
Race and racism/prejudice
Outsider/ the other
The danger of isolation
Hatred is often skin deep

Content Context:
characters, During Elizabethan times a fear of foreigners allowed for racist views to develop.2
context, plot, Queen Elizabeth issued two edicts in 1599 ad 1601 that the great number of Negars
elaboration on and Blackamoors be discharged out of Her Majestys dominions
the issue Religious leaders such as Church fathers St Jerome and St. Agustine linked blackness to
Dark skinned people were stereotyped to be irresponsible and lustful
According to Elizabethan traveller, John Lok Negroes are a people f beastly living,
without God, law, religion, or commonwealth
Dramatic Setting: There are two principal locations, Venice and Cyprus, but gradually our
techniques attention becomes fixed on a single bedroom, creating a feeling of claustrophobia that
Aristotelian is unique in Shakespeare's tragedies. The outer world becomes insignificant as Othello
tragedy becomes monomaniacal, obsessed with a single concern. This emphasises the feeling
elements, time, of isolation and otherness within the play.
setting, Soliloquy: Othello: Haply, for I am black/And have not those soft parts of
structure, conversation/That chamberers have, or for I am declined/Into the vale of yearsyet
Contrast in thats not much/Shes gone, I am abused. Othellos soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 3
scenes, props, highlights the drastic deterioration of character evoked by Iagos manipulation and
soliloquys, constant pricking at Othellos racial insecurity. Shakespeare uses soliloquys commonly
asides, irony, to develop his characters in dept.
stage directions
Language Roderigo: What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe if he can carryt thus! The
techniques synecdoche of thick-lips singles out the prominent characteristic that highlights
Othellos foreignness and the racism prevalent in the context of the play.
Iago: Even now, now, very now, an old black ram/ is tupping your white ewe. The
crass and vulgar animal imagery, combined with the juxtaposition between black and
white, as well as the metaphor serve to convey Iagos immorality and the way that he
can easily manipulate language in order to elicit a reaction from his victims. The quote
is also a blatant depiction of the racism that pervaded society at the time.
Iago: Because we come to do you service and you think no we are ruffians, you'll have
your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you'll have your nephews neigh to you,
you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans. The use of prose as well as
the animal imagery and metaphors comparing Othello to an African horse again
portray Iagos racism and unrefined speech
Iago: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making
the beast with two backs. The dysphemism in calling Othello and Desdemonas
lovemaking to a beast with two backs not only depict Iagos vulgarity but also his
treatment of Othello and Desdemonas love- it is almost as if he cannot comprehend
love in any sense and perverts and seeks to destroy any form of it in his life
Duke: If virtue no delighted beauty lack,/ Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.
The paradox of fair and black highlights the underlying racism in the statement.
Black in Dukes statement has a dual meaning of both Othellos race and meaning
ugly. The rhyming couplet further reinforces this notion through the words black
and lack, implying that Othellos skin is the sole cause of all his misfortune.
Othello: Her name, that was as fresh/As Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black/As
mine own face. Othello internalizes the racial ideologies of the people in Venice as
well as the disparities between him and Desdemona. Through the simile of Dians
visage he explicitly references Roman goddess Diane, who was seen as a symbol of

the pale moon and of chastity. Othello feels as if Desdemonas once pure and white
reputation has been besmirched due to her sexual infidelity, thus comparing her now
ruined name to his own black face.

Critics give a Edward Said comments on how the West has created a dichotomy between actuality of
general the East and the occidents romantic notion of the orient. He also says even as Europe
summary of the moved itself outwards, its sense of cultural sense was fortified.
ideas and W.E.B Du Boise comments on how Othello has two halves of his personality; a
provide pithy European and an African. two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two
and concise warring ideals in one dark body
quotes Ana Calvo describes Iago as Fully cognizant of the disruptive potential of Othellos two
warring ideals, Iago is going to build a tragedy of Othellos on his schizophrenic
Order and chaos

Content Context:
characters, Elizabethan belief in the great chain of being is relevant here. Any attempt to break the
context, plot, chain of being would upset the established order and bring about universal disorder.3
elaboration on The play depicts a Venetian state, which believes it represents Christian order against
the issue the threat of Turkish Infidels. At the same time, Brabantio believes his idea of Venetian
order has been disrupted by the black man, Othello

Dramatic Time moves very quickly in the play, adding to the dramatic tension and heightening
techniques the sense of chaos within the play. The illusion of time passing by quickly also adds to
Aristotelian the sense of claustrophobia within the play and the disparity between chaos and order
tragedy is magnified
elements, time, The stage direction in Act IV Scene I epitomises Othellos descent into savagery due to
setting, his overwhelming feelings of jealousy: [Falls in a trance] The chaos that surrounds
structure, and consumes Othello reaches an apogee in the stage direction.
Contrast in Also in Act IV Scene II (35), Othello uses prose when in a state of mental chaos, which
scenes, props, Shakespeare uses in a state of frenzy or mental unsoundness. The disjointed thoughts
soliloquys, reflect his mental chaos, inability to speak as elegantly as before, change in character.
asides, irony, The lack of connection in language parallels his descent into his mental chaos
stage directions Act I Scene III where the senators are talking about the external overarching chaos in
Venice at war with the Turks parallels the internal chaos of Othello and adds to the
claustrophobic feel of the play.
Mentions of the storm in the openings of Act II also foreshadow the chaos and disorder
to eventually fall on the play.

Language Brabantio: Where didst thou see her? O unhappy girl!

techniques With the Moor, say'st thou? Who would be a father?
How didst thou know 'twas she? O she deceives me
Past thought! What said she to you? Get more tapers,
Raise all my kindred. Are they married, think you?
The series of rhetorical questions and disjointed sentences convey the disturbance
caused to Brabantio upon discovering his daughters betrayal.

Brabantio: Cannot but feele this wrong, as 'twere their owne:

For if such Actions may haue passage free,
Bond-slaues, and Pagans shall our Statesmen be.
Hyperbole where Brabantio exaggerates by saying if villains like Othello were to go
free, then Venice may as well be ruled by pagans and criminals

Othello (Act III Scene III): Pride, Pompe, and Circumstance of glorious Warre:
And O you mortall Engines, whose rude throates
Th' immortall Ioues dread Clamours, counterfet,
Farewell: Othello's Occupation's gone
Epistrophe and repetition of farewell. Othellos language also becomes noticeably
erratic and non-poetic, showing the breakdown of his character and the peak of his
internal chaos

Iago: I know not that, but such a handkerchief--/I am sure it was your wife's--did I
today/See Cassio wipe his beard with" (III.iii.496-498). At this, Othello becomes
extremely enraged and promises to kill Desdemona and Cassio. This just shows to see

how quickly and easily one can be eaten away by jealousy--and how manipulation,
when played correctly, can cause Disorder in its purest form

If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality,
the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous
conclusions. But we have reason to cool our raging motions (1.3.318-21).
This statement goes along with Othellos internal conflict between order and disorder:
it goes to show that Shakespeares presentation of order and chaos in his play is largely
embodied as inner tension within his characters as they attempt to stifle the more
savage side of human nature: while Roderigo suffers from this tension from the
beginning of the play as he fights to control his lust for Desdemona, Othello later slips
into the chaos of human emotion in suspicion of his wifes adultery.

Critics give a Jonathan Miller (1986) He creates disorder, disrupts harmony, essentially deconstructs
general creation and reverses its progress of evolution and enlightenment, back to hell and chaos
summary of the again. (Talking about Iagos character)
ideas and
provide pithy Nicholas Potter - Othello uses his authority to impose order upon chaos.
and concise
quotes F.R. Leavis - The tragedy is inherent in the Othello-Desdemona relation, and Iago is a
mechanism necessary for precipitating tragedy in a dramatic action
A bit about Iago as a catalyst for the onset of chaos and disorder although Leavis states that the
union of Desdemona and Othello was bound to result in tragedy and chaos anyway. Iago
speeds up the onset of the action.

F.R. Leavis It is a super coup de theatre. As with that double force, a cup de theatre is it is a
peculiarly right ending to the tragedy of Othello
Jealousy has the power to destroy
Love and sacrifice

Content Context:
characters, In Shakespeares time, Elizabethans viewed Moors as prone to jealousy to passion.
context, plot, Moors were commonly stereotyped as sexually overactive, prone to jealousy and
elaboration on generally wicked.[1]
the issue Jealousy is seen as Othellos tragic flaw from which everything follows. He is consumed
by jealousy to an extent that evokes evil and satanic possession.
Dramatic Iagos second soliloquy That Cassio loves her explores Iagos own jealous
techniques inclinations
Aristotelian In Iagos second soliloquy: Doth, like a poisonous mineral, the simile will lead into
tragedy the motif of poison that is seen throughout the play.
elements, time, The stage direction in Act IV epitomises Othellos descent into savagery due to his
setting, overwhelming feelings of jealousy: [Falls in a trance]
structure, Iagos soliloquy Act III Scene IV I will in Cassios lodging explores Iagos plan in
Contrast in further developing the jealousy he has already planted in Othellos mind.
scenes, props, Iagos soliloquy: But with a little act upon the blood. Burn like the mines of Sulphur. I
soliloquys, did say so simile highlights how Iago will be able to exploit Othellos jealousy with the
asides, irony, handkerchief handkerchief, develops the motif of the handkerchief as a symbol of
stage directions jealousy
[Striking her] The use of stage directions shows the significant tension which has come
through to the climax. It is a concrete indication of Othellos attitudes and actions to
show the severity of his change, enabling him to strike her in front of officials. This
significant action has been caused by Othello's uncontrollable jealousy, hence showing
its power to destroy
Handkerchief analysis: the prop of the handkerchief has gained so much
representation and led him to kill his wife. The heightened sense of the power of a
prop, demonstrate the fragility of trust for Desdemona from Othello. He is an
extremely jealous character and it is his own sense of fragility is what lead him to
Othello: It was a handkerchief, an antique token ordinary props are given a sense of
power, shows how jealousy again is portrayed as being fragile and can lead to
Language "They met so near with their lips that their breaths embraced together. Villanous
techniques thoughts, Roderigo!" This hyperbole is able to plant a visual image in Roderigo's mind.
The personification of breath makes Cassio and Desdemona's relationship seem more
scandalous than it actually is. It can be seen that Iago is able to appeal to Roderigo's
'pathos' (emotional comments can create trouble)
"My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream" Iago's third soliloquy shows how his
plan of manipulation will work out perfectly in the end. Through the use of a metaphor
and rhyming couplet relates to his ability to create chaos when necessary
"I stand accountant for as great a sin, but partly led to diet my revenge" the
personification of revenge shows that he only loves Desdemona as she is able to be
used to fuel his revenge and doesn't love her sexually. Quote links to vengeance and
"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the
meat it feeds on; that cuckold..." Shakespeare introduces idea of jealousy, which is
Othellos hamartia. Finally blurts out what he has been thinking, as if it benefits
Othello. Shakespeare introduces idea of jealousy, which is Othellos
hamartia. Apostrophe: reference to abstract entity of jealousy. Metaphor comparing
jealousy to monster that ridicules its victims. Visual imagery as well.
"I'll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; And on the proof, there is no more but
this,--Away at once with love or jealousy!" Initially Othello is skeptical of Desdemona's
faithfulness. He feels that Iago cannot make him jealous and still believes Desdemona
is pure and loyal. Othello will only doubt Cassio when backed up by evidence and
proof. His doubt to trust is an example of characterisation. He wants proof and Iago
will have to deliver it.
"O, blood, blood, blood! Repetition and metonymy for revenge.
Critics give a Jealousy is a tyrannical language which manipulates the world to suit its own ends, an
general absolutist law which bends the evidence in its own interests Terry Eagleton,
summary of the Nothing, from William Shakespeare (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 6470
ideas and From about the middle of the play, the handkerchief comes to dominate the
provide pithy trajectory of Othellos jealousy, and its symbolic status is underlined from the moment
and concise of its loss Thomas Rymer.
quotes Jealousy is seen as a tragic flaw from which everything follows. Othello is seen to be
possessed and transformed by jealousy in a way which evokes the idea of evil and
satanic possession Axel Kruse
The green-eyed monster - The monstrous birth which is performed in Act 3 Scene 3
is defined precisely as that Othello is a prey to jealousy which is like a monster. The two
key speeches stress the proverbial image of jealousy as a monster and elaborate it in
ways which are summation of the theme of self-destructive weakness. Axel Kruse
Gender - nature of women and men
Manhood and honour
Womanhood and sexuality
Role of women

Content Context:
characters, Shakespeare establishes ideas in relation to a womens virtue and purity and the
context, plot, subordinate position of women in Elizabethan times. Women were not allowed to be
elaboration on their own person and were treated as possessions of the men in their lives, with little
the issue autonomy
During the time of William Shakespeare, the majority of women had very limited rights
in England. Despite the fact that England was ruled by a female monarch for over four
decades, most women had little power over the direction of their lives. Most writings
about the life of the family during this time in history centred around the traditional
patriarchal paradigm--that of "domination and submission." Just as the kingdom was
ruled by a monarch, the father and head of the household ruled over his wife and
children. Women were denied formal educations, the opportunity to hold office, and
also guarded against speaking out too freely in fear of being labelled as a "scold." Such
women were considered a threat to the public, and were corrected with such
punishments as public humiliation and abuse.4
Although women did endure such limits on their political and social rights, they did
have extended to them greater economic freedom. Single women were able to "inherit
land, make a will, sign a contract, and possess property . . . without a male guardian . .
."(10). Unfortunately, such rights dissolved with marriage. History shows as well that
many daughters were heirs to a father's property, if there were no male heir, despite
the tradition of primogeniture. Wives as well could find themselves in charge of a large
estate after the death of a husband, until an eldest son was old enough to do so.5
Dramatic The willow song sung by Desdemona- reflection of her own life/situation, despite
techniques realising that Othello has changed, Desdemona still chooses to fulfill the role of a
Aristotelian obedient wife
tragedy Act 3: We see Desdemona from Othellos perspective (imagined mistreatment) Act 4:
elements, time, shifts perspective, see men and their mistreatment of women through the eyes of
setting, Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia
structure, Change in perspective: Innocent Othello victimised by cruel Iago -> Innocent
Contrast in Desdemona victimised by cruel Othello
scenes, props, Act 3: moral strength in Desdemonas character magnifies Othello and Iagos masculine
soliloquys, impulses of insecurity and misogyny
asides, irony, Emilias soliloquy But I do think it is their husbands' faults If wives do fall
stage directions
Language Let husbands know Their wives have sense like them: they see, and smell, And have
techniques their palates both for sweet and sour As husbands have.- Simile, by comparing the
men and women the quote expresses the feminist idea of equality between the
And have not we affections, Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?- Rhetorical
question, depicts Emilia questioning the role of women in their society. By emphasising
the similarities between the needs of men and women an impression of balance and
equality within relationships is created.
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- Repetition of of one, simile of like that base Indian. The repetition
emphasises the importance of honour to Othello- even after murdering his wife he still
speaks of honour and wishes to die with honour. Othello also compares himself to

Indians, this most likely refers to the Indians in the New World commonly known as
savages in England. This comparison makes Othello a savage who threw Desdemona
Reputation, reputation, reputation!- repetition of reputation emphasises the
importance reputation, to Cassio it is his reputation which defines his manhood and
Characterisation of Iago - often accusing Bianca of whoring - see female sexuality as a
Critics give a Evelyn Gajowski Their attitudes and feelings toward the men in their lives,
general moreover, sharpen the focus on male treatment of women
summary of the Evelyn Gajowski generalised problem inherent in the female condition, a daughters
ideas and duty to her father when it must, on her maturity, be divided with a wifes duty to
provide pithy her husband.
and concise Evelyn Gajowski Female integrity is inflected instead in the moral excellence
quotes Evelyn Gajowski Women in Othello are, as the arc of the tragic action emphasises,
what men make them.
Evelyn Gajowski - Although Emilia voices the precise corrective to Iagos misogyny, the
attitude that has the potential to prevent catastrophe, it has no chance of reaching and
affecting the deluded hero until its too late.
Good and evil
Light vs dark

Content Context:
characters, Elizabethans associated blackness with moral corruption, citing examples from
context, plot, Christian theology to support the view that whiteness was the sign of purity, just as
elaboration on blackness indicated sin.
the issue
elements, time,
Contrast in
scenes, props,
asides, irony,
stage directions
Language Iago: Make after him, poison his delight. The antithetical notions of poison and
techniques delight highlight the susceptibility of good turning to evil in the play
Iago: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making
the beast with two backs. The dysphemism in calling Othello and Desdemonas
lovemaking to a beast with two backs not only depict Iagos vulgarity but also his
treatment of Othello and Desdemonas love- it is almost as if he cannot comprehend
love in any sense and perverts and seeks to destroy any form of it in his life
Critics give a
summary of the
ideas and
provide pithy
and concise

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