Ų MAIN CHARACTERS:
Othello, a general in the service of Venice
Cassio, lieutenant to Othello
Iago, Othello's ancient
Roderigo, a Venetian, suitor of Desdemona
Desdemona, Othello's wife
Brabantio, Desdemona's father
Emilia, Iago's wife, lady-in-waiting to Desdemona
Lodovico, kinsman of Barbatio
Montano, citizen of Cyprus
Bianca, a courtesan (mistress to Cassio)
At the opening of the play, Iago and Roderigo are engaged in a conversation about Othello who has just eloped with Desdemona who has refused Roderigo's offer of marriage. We learn from Iago's words that he hates his general Othello and Othello's lieutenant, Cassio. He advises Roderigo to inform Brabantio of his daughter's elopement. Brabantio doesn't approve the marriage between Othello and his daughter but the Duke consents to the marriage after Desdemona's words, also because he needs Othello's help to fight the Turks in Cyprus. In the end Desdemona and Iago leave for Cyprus and Roderigo joins the expedition to pursue Desdemona's courtship.
Iago and Desdemona arrive on Cyprus where they're welcomed by Cassio, a kind and good-looking man.
Othello lieutenant's courtesy suggests a terrible plan to Iago: he will discredit Cassio and Desdemona and he will work a revenge against Othello, who is suspected, in Iago's mind, to have been Emilia's lover. Moreover he takes advantage of Roderigo's love for Desdemona to commit his revenge.
During the night the Turks' ships were defeated by a storm, so when Othello arrives on Cyprus, he can proclaim a general feast to celebrate the victory.
Iago contrives to get Cassio drunk and involves him in a such barbarous brawl with Roderigo that Othello discharges him immediately. Next, Iago advises Cassio to go in Desdemona's suit to speak about his situation and he orders his wife, Emilia, to prepare an interview, because after a conversation with Othello, she could help him to have his job.
This act is the key of the play, Iago puts in practice his perfidious project: he insinuates in Othello the doubt that his wife is unfaithful and that she has a relation with Cassio. And when Desdemona promises to serve Cassio's cause, more she is persistent, more Othello become jealous, but he wants some proofs . So Iago decides to show the Moor what he wanted; thanks to his unaware wife he obtains a napkin which Othello had given to Desdemona as a wedding present and he puts it in Cassio's house.
Othello's suspicions are confirmed when he sees Cassio holding the napkin, that he had found in his house. Othello thinks of his wife as a "fair devil" and has appointed Iago his new lieutenant in place of Cassio. Although Iago's plan is making rapid progress, Roderigo is still impatient for Desdemona's favors, which Iago has promised to secure for him. At Iago's suggestion, Roderigo agrees to kill his rival in love, Cassio, but he wounds Roderigo and Iago intervenes in the dark, hits Cassio and kills Roderigo.
Now maddened by jealousy, Othello smothers Desdemona in her bed. Emilia arrives in time to hear the last words of Desdemona ("A guiltless death I die"), it's too late to save her. Emilia learns that Othello has murdered his wife. When she hears of Iago's accusations against Desdemona, she discovers the truth. Emilia cries for help, and when Montano, Gratiano and Iago respond to her cries, she implicates her husband in the murder's plan. Iago hits Emilia with a knife, and she lies down to die. In the final action of the play, Iago is captured but refuses to speak. Othello wounds Iago and then kills himself. The injured Cassio is appointed governor of Cyprus and Iago is imprisoned.
Shakespeare's tragedies are normally characterized by a predominant tragic hero that is, in this case, Othello. His dominance is in part obscured at first by the presence of Iago who starts the course of tragic action, but in terms of emotional crisis, moral sense, Othello himself is at the center of all the themes.
JEALOUSY. It is the theme universally associated with Othello. Frequently the word means suspicion. In Othello it has the meaning of "sexual jealousy", in fact the Moor suspects that Desdemona is Cassio's secret lover and this obsessive suspicion creates in our tragic hero a lot of very intense emotional crisis. Othello's real nature is different from his public image of dignity and self-control, in fact his character is quite the opposite: he's a passionate man and he's also very impulsive. These characteristics, that he tries to hide, come out when he becomes jealous.
LOVE. In this tragedy there are two types of love: the love between Othello and Desdemona and the love between Desdemona and Emilia or between Cassio and Othello. The first type of love is the cause of the entire tragedy, it is a strong love based at first on respect and faithfulness, but during the tragedy it evolves and becomes fatal for both the lovers. The second type of love is between two friends and it is based on affection and also faithfulness. Othello and Cassio's love is destroyed by Iago's plan while Emilia's love for Desdemona is the key to destroy Iago's revenge because she confesses all the truth, her love for Othello's wife is so strong that she betrays her husband.
REVENGE. This is the feeling that animates all characters in their extreme actions. It's connected with honour because when people are wounded in their soul they need a revenge and they want to produce the same pains to whom has hurt them , in fact Othello decides to kill Desdemona that is his only love, and Iago to make Othello crazy for jealousy.
OTHELLO'S FALL. The contrast between the hero's apparent security and the sudden disaster that owns him is considered the essence of tragedy. At first Othello is superior to common men, he's on a more exalted level, but in the end he falls from his perfect world made of valor, strength and real love to the world of ordinary men made of dilemmas and tragedies.
APPEARANCE. This theme is the cause of the entire tragedy. The character that mostly personifies this theme is the villain Iago because he tries to create in other characters' minds a wrong vision of reality.
Othello becomes "slave of appearance": he judges Iago to be honest , to be a faithful man because he's very ingenuous and he believes in every single world that Iago says; moreover he judges Desdemona and his best friend Cassio guilty and when he kills his love he thinks he's doing the right thing, in fact the appearance created by Iago is, in this tragedy, more important than love and friendship.
Othello. He is a successful professional soldier who fights for the powerful Venice, he's not a Venetian citizen but he's an Arab (a man of a different background from that of the Venetians), Othello tells us that his entire experience is military. He has lived in camps, he has learnt the art of war and this is the only world that he knows, moreover he has traveled in mysterious lands. One important fact we know about Othello is that he possesses a "public image" of great dignity. The Venetian senate approved of him for his valour and his self-control.
Othello is a very romantic figure and he has suffered a lot of pain in his life: when Desdemona hears about his troubles and his adventures she falls in love with him; Othello's black skin is not a problem for her because love is stronger than racism and prejudice. They get married and they're very happy but this love is destroyed by Iago, because Othello's great sense of honour permits to Iago to manipulate him.
Othello's jealousy lets us to know the real character of Othello, in fact he's a very passionate and impulsive man: he kills his wife without asking her explanation about Cassio, besides this terrible jealousy take him to the level of ordinary people: he is no more the strong and brave man that everybody knows but he becomes a mad, weak and destroyed husband.
Iago. Everyone associates Iago with the word "evil", the typical character that Shakespeare takes from Classical tragedies and we can compare him to the latin "servus" that creates all the intrigues. Iago is a villain and he's expert in the manipulation of the innocents' mind. Behind Iago's actions there are only the workings of his dark mind but his revenge is based on human and real facts: Iago is very upset for promotion in favor of Cassio and he thinks that Othello had had a relationship with his wife, Emilia.
Iago's mind is sick and disturbed, he's a very vindictive man and he doesn't search public glory, the only thing he wants is revenge.
His exceptional self-control permits him to operate his plan; he doesn't have problems to kill Roderigo or to wound his wife, so we can say that he's a man of no scruples, insensitive and maybe he doesn't even have a heart or it might be that he makes his plot only because he's consumed by the doubt of his wife's unfaithfulness.
Desdemona. We know, from Othello's words, that she is a beautiful and gentle woman and for this reason she's the object of desire of all men that know her (Othello, Roderigo, Iago, Cassio). As the daughter of a member of the Venetian oligarchy, she had an exceptional education based on literary and not based on war like her husband, in this aspect of life the two lovers are the opposite (Shakespeare points out this fact also in the colour of their skin). Desdemona is a romantic figure, like Othello. She's an innocent woman and she would do everything for his lover, in fact at the beginning she marries Othello without her father's consent, Desdemona's love is such a strong sentiment that she marries him even if he's an Arab man (We can found this theme also in other Shakespeare's plays for example Juliet and Romeo). We can deduct from this action that she is a young lady without prejudices and that she's not interested to marry a rich man, but her true love.
Iago, obviously, destroys her life, and when Othello kills her, she says that she will always be faithful to her husband and that she will love him forever.
Emilia. Emilia's role is less important than Desdemona, Othello and Iago's but thanks to her in the end Othello can discover the truth. She fights against injustice even if she has to betray his husband and die.
Cassio. He's Othello's lieutenant. He's a very kind person and the stereotype of good soldier. He's got right principles like loyalty to Othello and respect for Desdemona.
The Othello's date of composition is between 1603 and 1604 but it was published for the first time only in 1622, the second edition was published in 1623 and it has about 170 more verses than the first edition. This tragedy is based only on the seventh short story of the third decade of Hecatommithi written by Gian Battista Giraldi Cinthio (1565) which was translated only in French by Chappuys in 1584.
Shakespeare didn't know French or Italian, so he knew this novel indirectly (maybe thanks to a narration) and for this reason there are a lot of differences between the tragedy and the novel.
"Othello" is one of the most famous Shakespeare's tragedies.
It speaks about love, jealousy and revenge, three different feelings that are part of every human being. This tragedy taught me a lot of useful things: firstly it taught me that love is stronger than distance, than prejudice, than hate and than death, Desdemona loved Othello so much that she frustrated her family, she married him even if he was a black man. I also learnt from Othello behavior that jealousy can destroy a man and change him into a violent and mad person.
In the end I learnt from the worst person of all the tragedy, Iago, how bad can be a human being for revenge: he kills one of his best friends and his wife and he destroy two lovers.
My favorite characters are Emilia and Desdemona.
Emilia is Iago's wife but she's the opposite: she's faithful to her mistress and she loves more her mistress than her husband in fact, at the end of the tragedy she confesses the truth betraying his husband. I think she's a very fantastic woman because she dies for the truth.
Desdemona is also one of my favourite character because she believes in love, actually even if her lover kills her, she loves him in the same way.
Desdemona's love for Othello is one of the most beautiful proofs that true love is forever.
I think that Shakespeare is able to create, in every tragedy, a magic atmosphere that capture the attention of every reader. He's the best writer of all times.
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