a general in the service of Venice
lieutenant to Othello
a Venetian, suitor of Desdemona
Desdemona, Othello's wife
Iago's wife, lady-in-waiting to Desdemona
kinsman of Barbatio
citizen of Cyprus
a brother of Brabantio
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
Iago and Desdemona arrive on Cyprus
where they're welcomed by Cassio, a kind and good-looking man.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
favorite characters are Emilia and
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
Desdemona's love for Othello is one of the most beautiful proofs
that true love is forever.
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.