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Story, Plot, and Symbolism of “Othello” Film Essay

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2022


The movie Othello staring Lawrence Fishbourne is an incredible presentation of the Shakespearian tales of deceit, jealousy, and envy. The movie narrates the life circumstance of general Othello, who is the only African in the Venetian army. Othello meets, falls in love, and finally marries a noblewoman Desdemona played by Irene Jacob, within a short period. As Othello takes up the responsibility of halting the military invasion of Cyprus, lieutenant Iago hatches a plan to scuttle Othello’s marriage, given his deeply felt resentment towards the military general. The role of Iago, performed by Kenneth Branagh, presents the character of an individual consumed by jealousy and self-love following his implementation of a plot targeted to tarnish the reputation of Desdemona in the eyes of her husband (Othello, 1995). Towards the end of the film, Othello is consumed by regret and rage as he reminisces on his wife’s alleged infidelity.

Background Story

The movie narrates the exploits of Othello, Iago, and Desdemona, who are the central characters in the film cast on an ancient theme. The actions of Iago in his pursuit of revenge on Othello best exemplify the features of a tragedy. The movie’s director Oliver Parker employed the blend of race, given his choice of cast members. This helped to enhance the gravity of the conflict told in the story. The union between Othello and Desdemona is fought from various quarters, including her parents (Othello, 1995). The film is staged in an ancient setup that includes the use of crude weapons during warfare coupled with the choice of ancient costumes.

Point of Attack

The movie’s point of attack is Othello’s decision to overlook Iago for a promotion to the position of Lieutenant in favor of Cassio. Consequently, Iago harbors a feeling of resentment towards his general, and he eventually decides to pursue revenge. As Iago executes his devious plot, Othello becomes excessively engulfed in rage and jealousy that leads him to kill his innocent wife. Upon realizing his errors in judgment, Othello decides to end his life out of guilt and shame.

The Plot

The movie’s storyline is characterized by several twists and turns that highlight the writer’s application of suspense to enhance its ability to capture the attention of audiences. At the beginning of the story, the writer advances the statute of Othello as a largely successful military general who serves the Venetian army with distinction (Othello, 1995). Othello similarly falls in love with Desdemona and decides to marry her in secret. Their marriage, however, turns sour as Iago manages to convince Othello of his wife’s infidelity. The movie takes a tragic turn as Othello kills Desdemona and eventually takes his own life.

Turning points

The first turning point in the movie is Iago’s decision to pursue revenge against Othello for what he thought was the latter’s blatant disregard of his military potential. The importance of Iago’s decision in defining the direction of the movie is best exemplified by the gravity of its consequences. Because of Iago’s actions, Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio suffer significantly as the movie unfolds. The second turning point in the movie emerges as Othello falls victim to the trap set up by Iago (Othello, 1995). Othello transforms from a loving and caring husband to a resentful and vindictive person obsessed with his wife’s alleged infidelity.


Iago’s fabrication of evidence by presenting the handkerchief as proof of Desdemona’s infidelity serves to worsen the situation for the couple and results in great tragedy. Symbolism emerges distinctively in the play in light of the director’s attempt to capture the concepts of love and betrayal. Othello becomes increasingly judgmental of Desdemona, given his increased infatuation with religion. His view toward Iago as the play draws to a close is similarly symbolic as he learns the truth about his situation (Othello, 1995). Othello and Desdemona’s consummation of their union is symbolic for many reasons.


The sex scene makes it difficult for Desdemona to assert her innocence towards the end of the movie because it would be impractical to play the virginity card. Secondly, the scene similarly influences the method Othello decides to use to kill his wife. The sex scene also qualifies as the climax of the movie, given Othello and Desdemona’s expression of happiness and contentment as their relationship flourishes (Othello, 1995). However, the subsequent scene that highlighted Iago’s trickery and conniving tendencies also helps to enhance the movie’s visual appeal among audiences.

The Protagonist

Othello, who also emerges as the movie’s main protagonist, fronts the demeanor of a deeply troubled individual towards the end of the film. The director’s infusion of flashbacks to highlight Othello’s fear of adultery is compelling. Othello cannot stand the thought of his wife with another man, and he lives in a state of constant worry. As such, his flaws result in the crumbling of his marriage and his demise.

The Antagonist

Iago emerges as the key antagonist following his constant manipulation of Cassio and Othello to achieve his selfish interests. The character of Iago best exemplifies the personification of an antagonist since all his actions are actively geared towards harming Othello (Othello, 1995). While he fronts the appearance of a concerned friend keen to help his friend, Iago’s actions, however, reek of wickedness. At the same time, both Othello and Desdemona emerge as chess pieces whose fate is in the hands of Iago.

The Through Line

Through his prophetic foresight of future events, Iago is capable of manipulating the other characters to achieve his objectives. As such, the theme of betrayal and revenge emerges as the movie’s through-line, given their input in informing developments in all the scenes. In the beginning, Iago feels betrayed by both Cassio and Othello and feels the need to revenge (Othello, 1995). Consequently, the running concept in the movie is the pursuit of revenge as a means of settling personal scores, as is evident in the actions of both Othello and Iago.

The Theme

The movie’s main theme is that of treachery following the sustained acts of deceit adopted by Iago against Othello. The theme similarly emerges in the actions of Othello against his innocent wife Desdemona. While betrayal and revenge emerge prominently in the film, the actions that accompany these feelings are treacherous in nature. The tragic end of the movie with the death of Othello and Desdemona coupled with the fate of Iago accentuates the thematic significance of treachery in the movie.


The most prominent characters in the movie include Othello, Desdemona, and Iago, given their enhanced visibility. Additionally, Cassio, Roderigo, and Emilia are of significant importance given their contribution to the movie’s theme. For instance, Emilia enlightens Othello about the treacherous acts of Iago in a scene that significantly alters the movie’s direction (Othello, 1995). Other supporting characters include Montano, Lodovico, and Bianca, whose input in advancing the director’s thoughts and perceptions remains significant.


In conclusion, despite the fact that Oliver Parker’s production made a slight deviation from the original play by Shakespeare concerning its inclusion of other scenes, his casting decisions enhanced the film’s delivery. The movie’s storyline is direct and easy to grasp among audiences of diverse intellectual backgrounds. Additionally, the use of symbolism in various instances also helped to advance the movie’s central theme. Despite being a tragedy, the movie is very entertaining and is similarly informative.

Work Cited

Othello. Directed by Oliver Parker, performance by Lawrence Fishbourne, Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995.

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