• The Tragedy of
Othello, the Moor of
Venice is a tragic
play by William
Shakespeare, believed to
have been written in
approximately 1603, and
based on the Italian short
story Un Capitano
Moro ("A Moorish
Captain") by Cinthio, a
disciple of Boccaccio, first
published in 1565.
• The title-page of the first
quarto, published in 1622, states that the
play ‘hath beene diuerse times acted at
the Globe, and at the Black-Friers, by his
• Othello was played at court by the King’s
Men on 1 November 1604. The play was
given in Oxford in 1610. The title role was
originally played by Richard Burbage, with
Joseph Taylor as Iago.
• Othello was included among the plays in
the First Folio of Shakespeare's collected
plays. However, the version in the Folio is
rather different in length, and in wording:
as the editors of the Folger edition
explain: "The Folio play has about 160
lines that do not appear in the Quarto.
• Othello, the Moor: A
general in the Venetian
• Desdemona, Othello's wife
and daughter of Brabantio
• Iago, Othello's ensign and
• Cassio, Othello's lieutenant.
• Emilia, Iago's wife and
• Bianca, Cassio's girlfriend
• Brabantio, a Venetian
brother, and Desdemona's
• Roderigo, a dissolute
Venetian, in love with
• Duke of Venice, or the "Doge"
• Gratiano, Brabantio's brother
• Lodovico, Brabantio's kinsman
and Desdemona's cousin
• Montano, Othello's Venetian
predecessor in the
government of Cyprus
• Clown, a servant
• On a street in Venice, there is an
argument between Roderigo, a
nobleman, and Iago, a Captain in
the defense forces.
• Roderigo, in love with the noble
lady Desdemona, has paid large
sums of money to Iago, on the
understanding that Iago would
give her gifts from him and praise
him to her. Roderigo hopes to win
Desdemona's love and marry her.
• However, they now have news
that Desdemona has left the
house of her father, Brabantio, a
Senator, and eloped with
Othello, a Moor (an African) who
is a General in the defense forces.
• Roderigo fears he has lost both
his lady and his money.
• Iago reveals to Roderigo that it
is in his (Iago's) nature to plot
and tell lies to get what he
wants and that he has a plan.
• He hates Othello for
promoting Cassio to the
position of lieutenant, a
position that Iago wanted for
• Iago plans to bring about
Othello's downfall, and
Roderigo (he says) will have
• Although the title suggests that
Othello is the most important
character, Iago, as the archetypal
villain, has the most lines in the play.
• Throughout, Othello mistakenly
places his trust in Iago, who is
Othello’s close friend and confidant.
• Iago carefully weaves trap after trap
for Othello’s trusted aides, turning
him against them, and eventually
even turns Othello against his wife.
• Iago also plays Roderigo false; instead
of winning Desdemona for Roderigo,
he betrays him and murders him.
• But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
Iago, Act I, scene I
• My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful.
Othello, Act I, scene III
• She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd,
And I lov'd her that she did pity them.
Othello, Act I, scene III
• The robb'd that smiles, steals something from
He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.
Duke of Venice, Act I, scene III
• Thus do I ever make my fool my purse. Iago, Act
I, scene III
• If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have waken'd
death! Othello, Act II, scene I
• Knavery's plain face is never seen till us'd.
Iago, Act II, scene I
• Reputation is an idle and most false imposition;
oft got without merit and lost without
deserving. Iago, Act II, scene iii
• Men should be what they seem;
Or those that be not, would they might seem
none! Iago, Act III, scene iii
• O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. Iago, Act III, scene iii
• Put out the light, and then put out the light.
Othello, Act V, scene ii
• I kissed thee ere I killed thee, no way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss. Othello, Act
V, scene ii
The following fourteen points are a summation of a typical Shakespearean tragedy.
Tragedy is concerned primarily with one person – The tragic hero.
The story is essentially one of exceptional suffering and calamity leading to the death of the
hero. The suffering and calamity are, as a rule, unexpected and contrasted with previous
happiness and glory.
The tragedy involves a person of high estate. Therefore, his or her fate affects the welfare of
a whole nation or empire.
The hero undergoes a sudden reversal of fortune.
This reversal excites and arouses the emotions of pity and fear within the audience. The
reversal may frighten and awe, making viewers or readers of the play feel that man is blind
and helpless. The audience will regard the tragic hero as an individual who is up against an
overwhelming power that may treat him well for a short period of time, but will eventually
strike him down in his pride.
The tragic fate of the hero is often triggered by a tragic flaw in the hero’s character. The
hero contributes in some way, shape, or form to the disaster in which he perishes.
Shakespeare often introduces abnormal conditions of the mind (such as
insanity, somnambulism, or hallucinations).
Supernatural elements are often introduced as well.
Much of the plot seems to hinge on “chance” or “accident”.
Besides the outward conflict between individuals or groups of individuals, there is
also an inner conflict(s) and torment(s) within the soul of the tragic hero.
The tragic hero need not be an overwhelmingly “good” person, however, it is
necessary that he/she should contain so much greatness that in his/her fall the
audience may be vividly conscious of the individual’s potential for further success,
but also the temptation of human nature. Therefore, a Shakespearean tragedy is
never depressing because the audience can understand where the hero went
The central impression of the tragedy is one of waste.
The tragic world is one of action. Action is created when thoughts turn into reality.
Unfortunately for the tragic hero, their plans do not materialize as they may have
hoped and their actions ultimately lead to their own destruction.
The ultimate power in the tragic world is a moral order; more specifically, the
struggle between good and evil.
• The main reason behind Othello’s
ability to withstand the changes
in popular taste is that
Shakespeare used universal
human themes in the play.
• Racism, jealousy and love are
feelings that persist in human
society. Since these topics are the
crux of the storyline in
Othello, the play’s appeal remains
• Today’s audiences still find
Othello relevant. It is the ability of
a great piece of literature to
move audiences that makes it
• The force of Othello’s
story has inspired many
Verdi’s powerful opera
and several film and
• There have been, to date,
over 37 films made, the
first in 1908!
• Here’s a scene from the
1952 film where Othello
(played by Orson Welles),
kills his wife, Desdemona.
A Nutsy the Squirrel Production
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