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Who lives and who dies in Othello? Who struggles the most with the outcomes of Iago’s manipulations? These and other questions about the play are answered on this page. Click on the links to read the full versions.

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❓ Othello Q&A

The climax of Othello occurs at the end of act 3, scene 3. Here, Othello starts fully believing Iago. The Moor kneels in front of the villain and promises himself to get revenge. From now on, Othello is consumed by the idea of killing Desdemona.

While exploring Othello, the readers will definitely see many unfamiliar words. One of them is a cuckold. This word was frequently used in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In Shakespeare’s Othello, the word cuckold represents the fear of the main character of his wife’s betrayal.

There are multiple examples of sexism in Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. They include the way the story’s female characters are treated and referred to by men.

The handkerchief in Shakespeare’s Othello belongs to Desdemona, Othello’s wife. This accessory is an example of rich symbolism in Shakespeare’s writings. It has a lot of various meanings that change throughout the play. From a symbol of loyalty, it became a symbol of betrayal, utter confusion, conspiracy, and death.

The Willow Song tells the audience what is going to come further in the tragedy. This ballad is about a woman who is loyal to her lover despite his cruelty. Desdemona sings this song a few moments before Othello murders her. Therefore, Shakespeare depicts Desdemona’s tragic destiny.

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Shakespeare uses in Othello are allusion, symbolism, dramatic irony, and metaphor. These literary devices help the author to emphasize the central conflicts of the story. Moreover, they depict the themes of jealousy, compromised morality, and appearance vs. reality in a more vivid way.

Jealousy is the primary plot-driving force in Shakespeare’s Othello. Throughout the plot development, numerous characters experience this feeling. Iago’s personal and professional jealousy plays a crucial role in the play’s progress. Besides, Othello, Bianca, and Roderigo also face jealousy.

Othello is the only black-skinned character in the play. His unusual appearance becomes a reason for social prejudice. As a result, Othello faces numerous offenses from Iago, Brabantio, Roderigo. Moreover, Shakespeare raises the problem of interracial marriage in the play.

William Shakespeare is believed to have written his tragedy Othello between 1603 and 1604. Actually, it is impossible to determine the exact year. So, scholars use the date of Othello’s first performance as the main evidence for their educated guess.

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Many scholars believe that Othello is based on another piece of art. The play reflects the Italian work, Un Capitano Moro (A Moorish Captain), written by Giraldi Cinthio. Both stories are about marital betrayal and extreme jealousy.

There are several symbolic items and events in Othello. The main ones are:

  • the handkerchief – love and betrayal
  • green color – jealousy
  • the Willow Song – grief, death.

Othello’s final speech serves as a reestablishment of the character’s status of a tragic hero. He is obsessed with his reputation. Thus, he desires to portray his actions positively and receive respect from people. In general, the soliloquy reveals Othello’s feelings and portrays that social status is essential for him.

In the play, the phrase “the green-eyed monster” referrers to jealousy. In Act 3, Scene 3, while trying to make Othello envious, Iago uses this phrase. The villain plants the seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s betrayal.

Some of the most colorful metaphors in Othello come from the antagonist – Iago. He compares Othello to an old black ram, Desdemona to a white ewe. Iago even calls the act of and the love between Othello and Desdemona using metaphor.

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Iago is widely known as one of the most dangerous Shakespeare’s villains. He commits evil acts and provokes others by creating conflicts. Iago is a master manipulator as he uses Othello’s naivety and insecurities to destroy him and others on his way.

In Othello Act 4, scene 3, there are three examples of foreshadowing:

  • The rough speech of Othello and Desdemona’s obedience serve as a prerequisite for an upcoming disaster.
  • The choice of wedding sheets indicated future horror.
  • Desdemona’s ‘Willow song,’ which predicts her death.

Bianca is Cassio’s lover, who plays an essential role in the play’s tragic development. She participates in Iago’s scheme against her will, helping Othello believe that Desdemona is dishonest. In love with Cassio, Bianca is jealous of him, suspecting him of cheating.

These are Othello’s words to Iago in Act 3, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello. The meaning of this phrase is that Othello is stronger than his jealousy of Desdemona. These words refer to Othello’s belief in Desdemona’s faithfulness.

Being the most dangerous Shakespeare’s villain, Iago hurts a lot of characters. The most vulnerable Iago’s victim is Othello. Taking advantage of Othello’s naivety, Iago convinces him of his wife’s betrayal. To make his position stronger, the villain presents physical evidence – Desdemona’s handkerchief.

The term “Moor” is used by Shakespeare to separate Othello from other characters according to his culture and race. Moreover, the word Moor highlights the issue of racial prejudice in the play.

The full title of the play Othello by William Shakespeare is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Written in 1603, this piece of literature impresses a lot of readers even nowadays. The play tells a tragic tells story of the Moor Othello and his loyal wife, Desdemona.

Being an iconic piece of art, Othello covers numerous topics. However, there are three key motifs that play a crucial role in the plot development. They are

  • jealousy
  • the desire for power
  • the envy of a rival’s position.

Othello is originally from Africa, so he is a black-skinned man. In the play, he is often referred to as the Moor – a representative of an African race. Othello’s distinctive appearance becomes the reason for one of the conflicts – racial prejudice.

Othello is a tragic hero because of the wrong decision he makes that leads to his downfall. He is virtuous. Yet, he gets tricked by the villain of the story. As a result, Othello is blinded by his jealousy and mistreats his wife.

The showdown between Iago and Othello is one of the central issues of Shakespeare’s play. There are two core reasons for Iago’s hate towards Othello:

  • career issues
  • personal offenses.

Othello kills his wife Desdemona as a result of a delicate plot designed by Iago. When he becomes overwhelmed with jealousy, he plans to kill her while she is asleep. However, she wakes up and tries to explain her innocence. Othello, unable to control his anger, smothers Desdemona with a pillow.

Iago speaks ill of Venetian women. He highlights their frequent adultery and the ability to be deceptive. He specifies that the Venetian husbands are often unaware of their wives’ love affairs. By doing this, Iago creates further suspicion in Othello about Desdemona’s loyalty.

In Act 2, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago gets Michael Cassio drunk. This provokes a fight between him and Roderigo. Montano tries to break it up, but Cassio wounds him. As a result, Cassio’s reputation is ruined. Othello loses trust in him and strips him of his officer’s rank.

At the end of Othello, Iago is alive after surviving Othello’s attack. Cassio places Iago under arrest and subjects him to torture. Does Iago survive the torture? It is up to the reader’s fantasy.

Montano is an honorable gentleman who leads Cyprus prior to Othello’s arrival at the island. He raises awareness among Venetians about the upcoming Turkish invasion of Cyprus. In the play, he is a positive character since he doesn’t provoke any intrigues.

The Clown in Othello plays several roles apart from the one of comic relief. However, one of his memorable lines relates directly to comedy. As the Clown comments on the musicians’ playing manner, he says, “Thereby hangs a tail.” Thus, the clown compares the music to the sound of flatulence.

Brabantio is one of the secondary characters of Othello. He is a noble Venetian senator and Desdemona’s father. The readers first meet him in act 1, scene 1. Here, Iago and Roderigo tell him that Desdemona secretly married Othello.

“It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul.” There are the words that Othello says to Desdemona before smothering her for her alleged infidelity. “It is the cause” is the reminder of her infidelity, even if he cannot say the word out loud.

Desdemona dies in the last scene of Shakespeare’s Othello. The Moor arrives at her chamber, intent on serving as both judge, jury, and executioner. He asks Desdemona if she prayed before bed, and urges her to confess her sins. The man then smothers his wife with a pillow.

Desdemona is a daughter of a powerful Venetian politician. She became a wife of a general in the Venetian army, and her relationship was healthy and loving. In contrast, Emilia is from a middle-class family, married to an abusive officer, Iago. She has much more life experience than Desdemona.

In the tragedy, the phrase shows Iago’s hate towards Othello. It reflects his strong desire to destroy the character because of a personal conflict between the two. However, when projected on reality, the quote is an indication of racism.

Iago said to Montano. He was referring to Cassio’s excellence, highlighting it. He could not help but admire his military achievements, even though he despised the man. As a soldier on the field, he is good enough to be Caesar’s right hand.

Roderigo’s rage at Cassio is a part of Iago’s evil plan. He intends to disgrace Cassio in front of Othello. His incompetent behavior can lead to his dismissal from the lieutenant’s position. The lack of trust in Cassio can also make him suspicious regarding his relationship with Desdemona.

One of Iago’s distinguishing features is the desire to achieve high status. It is the desire to get the next post that prompts Iago to hate Cassio. He was appointed as a lieutenant instead of Iago. The villain is trying to discredit his rival in the eyes of his superiors.

In the fourth act, Desdemona and Emilia demonstrate a trusting relationship. The maid does not question Desdemona’s loyalty to Othello and actively protects her in front of others.

Iago agrees to help Roderigo to find an approach to Desdemona. However, he never fulfills his promises, using Roderigo to destroy Cassio’s reputation and career. Besides, the villain takes the jewelry from naive Rogerio but doesn’t give it to Desdemona. He manipulates Rogerio to satisfy his plan and enrich himself.

Othello dies at the end of the play by committing suicide. The character stabs himself with a dagger out of an immense feeling of guilt. The reason for his death is jealousy and, as a result, a faulty murder of his wife, Desdemona.

Othello kills his wife Desdemona when he believes that she was unfaithful to him. Then, he commits suicide. Iago kills his wife Emilia after she tells everyone that Desdemona was innocent. Finally, Iago also kills Rodrigo after the latter fails to murder Cassio.

The question of whether Othello is a positive or negative figure is rather controversial. On the one hand, he is a noble soldier and a careful Desdemona’s husband. On the other hand, he is too naive and insecure. Being predisposed to Iago’s trickery, Othello loses his mind.

Michael Cassio, or simply Cassio, is one of Florentine’s soldiers in the Venice army. In the beginning, Othello promotes him to chief lieutenant. He is a man of gentle manners and is primarily focused on theoretical learning. Because of his rapid promotion, Cassio has a hater – Iago.

Shakspeare’s Othello is a multifaceted piece of art that addresses numerous social issues. Othello is the first black-skinned character in English literature. Therefore, one of the most vivid themes of the play is racial prejudice.

Thanks for reading our answers! If you’re looking for more details about the play, check the Othello study guide via the links below.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Q&A." June 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/questions/.

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