“Othello” is a play written by William Shakespeare around 1604. It's also known under another title “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice”. This is perhaps one of the most staged and read tragedies in the world. It presents a powerful feeling of love which results in a cruel obsession driven by jealousy. The text is famous for its gripping plot, rich language, and sad story. The story was actually inspired by another text – “A Moorish Captain” – published by Boccaccio’s student Cinthio. Such resemblance added more fire to the rumors that Shakespeare wasn't the true composer of his plays, however , even now there is not enough evidence to prove or contest such speculations. Therefore millions of readers around the world continue steadily to enjoy the rich and intense stories published by this famous English author.

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“Othello” Characters: List and Analysis

Othello is really a Moor, a dark-skinned general who occupies a high post in the Venetian army. Shakespeare never mentions where Othello was created, but presumably, he has African or Middle Eastern roots. The time of his character predates large-scale slave trades and racism that would are more common later, so calling Othello black in elements of the play shouldn’t confuse the reader. Othello is really a skilled warrior and a good man. His virtues convinced Venetian senators to approve of his marriage with Desdemona, even though she was much younger than him and her father wasn’t too thrilled about any of it. Deceived by one of his lieutenants, Othello kills his beloved wife in a jealous outrage.

Desdemona may be the daughter of a Venetian Senator, Brabantio. She was a desired bride for all men in Venice, but she fell so in love with Othello. By eloping with Othello, Desdemona demonstrated courage to resist her father and fight for her wishes. Despite her courage, the young girl is very delicate and tender, and in the hands of Desdemona, Othello finds the softness, kindness, and generosity that he couldn’t experience in the army. Desdemona is also very humble – she treats all people with respect and doesn’t discriminate based on class. The kind girl agrees to simply help Cassio make peace after their fight with Othello while understanding that her kindness towards Cassio will ignite Othello’s jealousy.

Cassio is just a loyal lieutenant in Othello’s army. That he doesn’t have much experience in the war, but he is able to win Othello’s trust. With his smooth and polite behavior, Cassio is the opposite of strict and direct Othello, but Othello appreciates their differences. However , when Iago convinces Othello that Cassio is having a secret affair with Desdemona, Othello starts to observe Cassio’s behavior, and because of their differences, the General finds more and more reasons to believe the lies in regards to the affair.

Iago could be the villain in the “Othello” play. That he fakes his friendship with Othello and causes his doubts and jealousy. Iago sets his sights for the high lieutenant post occupied by Michael Cassio, and therefore begins to attempt to compromise his rival in the eyes of the supervisor – General Othello. Iago could be the one who encourages Roderigo to expose Desdemona’s relationship with Othello to her father, hoping that the nobleman would not permit such a marriage.

Othello and Iago

Brabantio could be the Senator of Venice and the father of Desdemona. That he can’t genuinely believe that his young, pretty, and tender daughter can adore such a callous, dark-skinned Moor who is also much over the age of her. That he calls upon the council of senators, presided by the Duke of Venice, to punish Othello for dishonoring his daughter. But rather, the council validates the marriage of Othello and Desdemona.

Roderigo is really a soldier in the army who is partial to Desdemona. The young woman rejected his feelings towards her and that’s why Roderigo hates Othello considering him as his rival. He believed that Iago could help him get Desdemona back, but Iago uses Roderigo to instill Othello’s jealousy towards Cassio and tries to have Roderigo to kill Cassio. In the end, Roderigo manages to share with Cassio about Iago’s deeds which in turn help everybody begin to see the reality demonstrably.

Duke of Venice could be the ruler of the town. He's the one who grants Othello a lot of power and credibility when that he asks him to gather the army and protect Venice’s lands (Cyprus) from the Turkish attack. He is also the one who approves Othello’s marriage to Desdemona, ergo validating their feelings.

Senators are people of high positions in Venice. The reader first meets them during the council presided by the Duke of Venice. They approve the marriage of Desdemona and Othello, and they also send Othello to the war with the Turks over Cyprus. They represent the final authority of hawaii.

Montano could be the Governor of Cyprus. That he greets Othello, Iago, yet others when they arrive on the island. That he tries to dissolve the fight between Cassio and Roderigo and gets stabbed as a result. Othello then blames Cassio for Montano’s injury and strips him of his promotion. Montano recovers towards the conclusion of the play and helps catch Iago.

Emilia may be the wife of Iago. Unwittingly, she plays an important part in inflaming Othello’s jealousy – she takes the gift Othello gave Desdemona for their wedding and hands it to Iago, who in his turn ensures Cassio finds it. The irony of the play is in the fact that Desdemona confides in Emilia, and she tells Emilia about her worries regarding losing Othello’s trust and love. When Othello asks Emilia about the situation, she says that there are no signs of Desdemona’s involvement with Cassio:

Act IV, Scene II “I durst, my lord, to wager she's honest. Set down, my soul at stake: if you were to think other, remove your thought”

In the end, Emilia denounces her husband’s plan.

Lodovico and Gratiano get to Cyprus in the exact middle of the play to bring news from the Duke of Venice. Othello behaves rudely towards Desdemona in Lodovico’s presence, even though he's one of Desdemona’s cousins. When Emilia cries for help, the ambassadors come to find Desdemona dead, they then catch Iago and appoint Cassio the governor of Cyprus.

Bianca may be the beloved woman of Cassio. She doesn’t have a big role in the play and the reader meets her when Cassio gives her Desdemona’s handkerchief that he found earlier. Iago sets-up for Othello to overhear elements of Cassio’s conversations with Bianca. Iago also makes sure that Othello misinterprets this is of those conversations to confirm his jealousy further.

Othello Summary for Each Act

Othello Act 1 Summary

The very first act introduces Othello and Desdemona and consists of three scenes. A new and pretty Venetian noblewoman, Desdemona, secretly meets with Othello, the Moor of Venice, in the exact middle of the night. At precisely the same time, Iago and Roderigo tell Desdemona’s father about the meeting, hoping that the senator of Venice will stop their connection. Roderigo hates Othello if you are more successful with Desdemona. How does Iago hate Othello? – Not only is he more productive with Desdemona, but that he also holds a grudge as Othello didn’t appoint him lieutenant some time ago. Iago believes that he was cheated since Cassio, who obtained his desired position, does not deserve it, because he is:

Act I, Scene I “…forsooth, a great arithmetician, one Michael Cassio, a Florentine, a fellow nearly damn’d in a fair wife; that never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows, greater than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric…”

Iago induces Roderigo:

Act I, Scene I “Call up her father. Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight, proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen”

They wake up Brabantio, who doesn’t believe the men initially, but then realizes that his daughter isn’t at home. That he orders his servants to bring Othello to him:

Act I, Scene I “Strike on the tinder, ho! Give me a taper! Call up all my people! This accident is not unlike my dream: belief of it oppresses me already”

Brabantio and his servants enter a fight with Othello’s fellow warriors, but they get interrupted once the officers call Brabantio and Othello for an urgent council meeting. At the meeting, a sailor announces that: “The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes” (Act I, Scene III). The senators and the Duke of Venice think that the Turks want to occupy Cyprus, which, at the time, was a colony of Venice. Othello is tasked with protecting the island.

Brabantio tries to obtain justice for his daughter, claiming that the Moor kidnapped her. When Desdemona contests this type of version and tells him that she actually is in love with Othello, her father starts to trust that the Moor used witchcraft on her behalf:

Act I, Scene III “She is abused, stol’n from me, and corrupted by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks”
Desdemona

Othello says that Desdemona fell so in love with him when she heard the stories of all the battles he’d undergone. The Duke of Venice, and the senators present at the meeting, become convinced that the love of a couple is mutual and approve of their marriage. Desdemona then wants to choose her husband to the war. Roderigo falls in to despair after his plan fails, but Iago reassures him that it’s possible to separation their relationship while tarnishing Cassio’s reputation in the middle of the method.

Othello Act 2 Summary

Montano, the governor of Cyprus, greets the warriors that arrive from Venice. Othello informs every one that the Turkish army was destroyed by the ocean storm. They plan a big celebration party. Iago begins to convince Roderigo that Desdemona is falling in love with Cassio:

Act II, Scene I “… very nature will instruct her inside it and compel her for some second choice. Now, sir, this granted, - since it is the most pregnant and unforced position – who stands so eminent in the degree of the fortune as Cassio does? ”

Iago also induces Roderigo to begin a fight with Cassio during the party:

Act II, Scene I “.. you find some occasion to anger Cassio, either by speaking too loud, or tainting his discipline; or from the other course you please”

Iago gets Cassio drunk after which goes to check into his guards. Roderigo, dressed as a guard, picks a fight with Cassio. Montano tries to pull them apart and gets stabbed. Othello finds out in regards to the fight, blames Cassio if you are too hot-headed and strips him of his high position in the army. Iago implies that Cassio should seek Othello's forgiveness through his wife, Desdemona.

Othello Act 3 Summary

Cassio asks Desdemona to convince Othello to go back his title. Desdemona agrees:

Act III, Scene III “O, that’s a genuine fellow. Usually do not doubt, Cassio, but I'll have my lord and you also again as friendly as you were”

Desdemona starts to share with you Cassio with Othello and mentions his good characteristics and virtues, and Iago uses it to plant a seed of jealousy in Othello. Iago says how essential it is to really have the family honor, and mentions that Desdemona once lied to her father to be with the man she liked:

Act III, Scene III “Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on… what damned minutes tells that he o’er who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves! ”

Using this point on Shakespeare’s Othello becomes obsessed; blinded by jealousy, the person is not able to distinguish reality from the fake picture Iago has painted for him. To further fuel the suspicion, Iago recruits his wife to help Desdemona lose her wedding gift – an embroidered handkerchief. Emilia didn’t know what Iago’s plan was – she simply found the handkerchief on the floor and gave it to her husband. Iago then arranges for Cassio to find the handkerchief, though the latter doesn’t know whose it's. Othello gets upset when his wife can’t find his gift, but Desdemona still doesn’t notice how jealous her husband is and continues to lobby her husband for Cassio’s forgiveness.

Othello Act 4 Summary

Cassio gives the handkerchief to his lover, Bianca. Iago encourages Othello to secretly pay attention to the conversation of both lovers. Once the suspicious Othello hears them talk about the handkerchief, that he loses his doubt and becomes dead sure that Cassio is associated with his wife. Iago adds more fuel to the fire by claiming that he’s seen the handkerchief and it is, actually , the very same one Othello gave his wife for their wedding:

Act IV, Scene I “Yours by this hand: and also to see how that he prizes the foolish woman your wife! She gave it him, and he hath given it his whore”

The Moors play intensifies when Othello orders Iago to kill Cassio. He himself discusses with Iago the easiest method to kill his disrespectful wife:

Act IV, Scene I “Get me some poison, Iago; this night; I’ll perhaps not expostulate with her, lest her human anatomy and beauty unprovided my mind again: this night, Iago”

And Iago keeps leading Othello towards committing the crime:

Act IV, Scene I “Do it with poison, strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated”

The ambassadors from Venice arrive, including Desdemona’s cousin Lodovico, and they notice how agitated Othello is becoming.

Othello comes into Desdemona’s room. That he talks to Emilia briefly and she reassures him there are no reasons to believe that his wife has been unfaithful. Othello orders Emilia to leave and accuses Desdemona of cheating on him. Iago convinces Roderigo that the special commission from Venice plans to produce Cassio the typical. With that, Othello and Desdemona will leave Cyprus and Roderigo will never begin to see the woman that he loves again. Iago convinces Roderigo that the only way to correct the situation is always to kill Cassio:

Act IV, Scene II “… he switches into Mauritania and takes away with him the fair Desdemona, unless his abode be lingered here by some accident: wherein non could be so determinate as the removing of Cassio”
Othello and Desdemona

Othello Act 5 Summary

Roderigo and Iago meet Cassio in the street during the night. Roderigo tries to kill Cassio, but Cassio’s armor saves him. Iago then manages to wound Cassio without being detected. Cassio cries for help, Lodovico and Gratiano arrived at his rescue, then Bianca. Soon Iago appears as himself, condemns Roderigo for hurting Cassio, and kills Roderigo.

Meanwhile, Othello enters the chambers of his wife. Desdemona’s words that she loves only him can’t cope with to Othello in his outrage and he starts to strangle her with a pillow. When Emilia bangs on the doors, he finishes his wife off with a dagger. Emilia enters to hear Desdemona’s last words:

Act V, Scene II “O, falsely, falsely murdered!”

Emilia calls for help and Iago, Montano, Gratiano, and others come. Othello defends his crime by discussing his wife’s unfaithfulness and justifies it with the handkerchief story. That is when Emilia realizes the role her husband had played in this tragedy. Emilia tells Othello that she is the main one who found the handkerchief and gave it to Iago:

Act V, Scene II “O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak’st of I found by fortune and present my husband”

Exposed, Iago stabs Emilia and runs away. Othello realizes that he’s been fooled and begins drowning in despair. The officers and ambassadors bring Iago and wounded Cassio in. Cassio tells the noblemen every thing Roderigo had told him before dying in regards to Iago’s cunning dealings. Othello attacks Iago after which kills himself. Desdemona and Othello lie dead together on their family bed. Cassio recovers and is then appointed governor of Cyprus. He is tasked with executing justice on Iago.

Othello Themes and Main Topics

Good vs. evil is just a key theme in “Othello”. The main dilemma of the protagonist is to distinguish who is loyal and who're traitors. The dramatic ending of the play is caused by Iago’s mischievous scheming, who had only pretended to be Othello’s friend.

Appearance vs. reality is another theme that is contingent upon the last one. Out from the desire to be promoted, Iago fakes the appearance that Desdemona is unfaithful to her husband. The play has a tragic end, but inaddition it brings justice – Iago’s sly actions are exposed and the fact of all of the manipulation becomes clear.

Race can be an obvious theme as the protagonist of the story is dark-skinned. Sometimes he is even referred to as black: “Your son-in-law is far more fair than black” (Act I, Scene III). The theme of the story doesn’t have any such thing to do with racism, but it stresses how judgmental society was at that time. The characters are proud of their positions in the army, and they are also proud of their origins, as ancestry had had great influence on one’s status and power. Othello stresses his noble bloodline:

Act I, Scene II “I shall promulgate – I fetch my entire life and being from men of royal siege, and my demerits may speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune as this I've reach’d”

Pride is really a theme that reflects just how much characters in the play value high social status; they make an effort to have public acknowledgment and the trust of their people. From the beginning of the play, Iago demonstrates his obsession with pride:

Act I, Scene I “I know my price, I'm worth no worse a location: but that he; as loving his own pride and purposes, evades them, with a bombast circumstance horribly stuff’d with epithets of war”

Magic is just a theme that portrays how Shakespeare’s characters explain things happening for them. For example , Brabantio believes that Othello uses magic to win the love of his daughter. Othello partly believes this kind of theory:

Act I, Scene III “Of my whole course of love, what drugs, what charms, what configuration and what mighty magic, for such proceeding I'm charged withal, I won his daughter”

Order vs. chaos can be an evident theme, since a lot of people on the list of characters in the “Othello” play are from military backgrounds. Iago can be an ensign, Cassio is a lieutenant, and Othello is a general. They serve the state and their duty is to follow orders and ensure that the others obey those orders. But Iago breaks his promise to serve the state – by succumbing to his malicious aspirations, he brings a lot of chaos to his country.

Self-knowledge is one of Shakespeare’s themes by which he demonstrates how much people depend on external circumstances. Othello acts on the opinions and words of other folks to make up his mind about his wife. Maybe if he previously looked deep inside of himself and around him more carefully, he'd have pointed out that reality was different than how Iago had portrayed it. His revelation came too late.

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