Shakespeare’s Othello is an extraordinary play that incorporates a huge variety of themes and symbols. You can find examples of allusions and imagery that are intriguing to analyze.That’s why our team prepared this list! Check our topics and choose one to write an outstanding Othello essay.
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We suggest you the following ideas:
- Elaborate on religious symbolism.
What hell & heaven imagery is present in “Othello”? Explain how Desdemona can be compared to the Virgin Mary; how both Othello and Iago are associated with the Devil. Describe Othello’s “fall from grace.”
- Explore the deception and bending the reality.
Who doesn’t lie in the play and why? Who does? Comment on various types of deception that are apparent in “Othello”: from lying out of love to manipulating through trickery.
- Talk about Othello’s weaknesses.
What character traits or views do you consider crucial for the plot? How does Iago use Othello’s weaknesses against him? Mention how Othello’s feelings and mood change throughout the play due to his flaws.
- Comment on Iago’s manipulations.
Who does Iago control? How and why does he create his web of lies? Add how Iago views himself as a director of his play. Who is hurt due to his lies and actions?
- Examine Emilia’s lines in Act 4, Scene 3.
What does she say about marriage and infidelity? Why is her speech about womanhood considered a feminist one? Elaborate on whether such thoughts were common for Shakespeare’s period and why the author decided to include them in the play.
- Compare Desdemona and Bianca.
How are the women often contrasted in the play? How does the critical contrast, Desdemona’s virtue vs. Bianca’s sexual freedom, affect men’s attitude towards the respective women? Explore how both characters are more complex than the characteristics above.
- Analyze the topic of redemption in “Othello.”
Who found redemption by the end of the play? For whom is it unattainable? Explain the journey of a tragic hero in terms of his downfall and the necessity of redemption.
- Elaborate on Iago’s motivation.
Why does he start his play within “Othello”? What motivates him to control, hurt, and even murder other characters? Explain why there are many possible reasons as Iago may hide the whole truth even from the audience.
- Discuss heroism in “Othello.”
Whose actions may be considered heroic? Who sincerely tries to act like a hero? Speculate on whether Iago may desire to be viewed as a heroic figure. Does Othello show heroism?
- Talk about Cassio’s character.
What do we know about his flaws and strength? Mention his problem with alcohol and attitude towards Bianca. How does the end of the play change his character? Add how this change may be the reason for his happy ending and success.
- Explore the villain of the play.
Who can be considered the main antagonist? Comment on a few characters in the play who act as villains, including the main one, Othello.
- Analyze the conflict of passion and love in “Othello.”
What does Othello feel towards Desdemona? Which of the emotions prevails? Explain why his actions and words are easy to interpret as passion, while his suicide may prove that he was in love with Desdemona.
- Comment on the central conflict.
When does it arise in the plot? Why did Shakespeare introduce the conflict later in the play? Explain how every event from this moment leads to a catastrophe. How is it both natural and staged by the villain?
- Examine the irony in “Othello.”
What type of irony is present in the play? For what purposes does Shakespeare use it? Mention how humor adds more value to the characterization and the play’s tone.
- Consider the tone of the play
What atmosphere is introduced in Act 1, and how does it change in Act 2? Mention how the stormy weather corresponds to this shift. Comment on the drastic changes in the tone that are apparent by the end of the play.
- Compare “Othello’s” Desdemona to “Hamlet’s” Ophelia.
How do these female characters affect the plot of the respective plays? What influence do they and their fates have on the main Othello and Hamlet? Consider both of their tragic stories and their relationships with the main characters.
- Analyze the character of Desdemona.
What are her essential qualities? How do men in the play treat her? Explore her disobedience to her father, banter with Iago, and death. Dive into her relationships with Othello and Emilia. How do Desdemona’s character traits and actions make her a perfect woman of the time?
- Discuss gender roles during the Elizabethan period
How are male and female roles presented in “Othello”? How does Shakespeare comment on his time? Express what Elizabethan society expected from women and what sins were considered unacceptable.
- Comment on “Othello” as an Aristotelian Tragedy.
What is a tragedy, according to this Greek philosopher? Explain how the play satisfies all the qualifications for tragedy as defined by Aristotle.
- Talk about Othello’s gullibility.
What makes Othello so naive? Do his straightforwardness and gullibility make him more or less realistic and relatable? You can compare him to such characters as Hamlet, who lack naivety yet suffer through similar tragic events as Othello.
- Elaborate on Desdemona’s and Othello’s relationship.
How does it change throughout the play? Explain how Othello’s capability of creating a healthy and loving relationship that we see at the beginning of “Othello” goes against prejudice.
- Explore the theme of racism in “Othello.”
What characters have prejudice about Othello due to his race? Express how Othello’s speech and actions during the significant part of the play run contrary to the unreasonable expectations of his enemies.
- Consider Othello’s suicide.
What leads Othello to it? Why may an audience respect it and view it as a redemption for a fallen hero? Does suicide strengthen Othello’s heroism? Elaborate on this action in terms of Othello as a tragic hero.
- Compare and contrast “Othello” and “The Blind Owl.”
What is the role of women and love in these literary works? Compare the main characters of “Othello” and “The Blind Owl,” comment on the murder and suicide.
- Examine Emilia’s short interaction with Bianca in Act 4.
Why is Emilia so harsh towards Bianca and disapproves of everything she says? Does she protect her husband’s deeds, or is she simply biased about Bianca? Comment on misogynistic behavior even among women during the period when the play was written.
- Analyze various symbols from the play.
Speculate on the meaning of such objects as wedding sheets from Act 4 Scene 3. What is the significance of a candle from Act 5 Scene 2? Provide a short analysis of each one with examples from the text.
- Elaborate on Brabantio’s character.
What’s his attitude towards Othello before he learns about his marriage to Desdemona? Why is he so opposed to this marriage anyway? Comment on Brabantio’s hurt honor and later death.
- Talk about Desdemona’s devotion to her husband.
Where does it come from? Do her loyalty and devotion prevent her from understanding Othello’s anger towards her? Speculate why they can’t reach each other at the end of the play and solve their problems by discussing them.
- Consider Iago’s control over Roderigo.
How does Iago manipulate Roderigo? Why does Roderigo trust him and obeys up to giving Iago his jewelry? Mention how Roderigo tried to escape the control once, but Iago didn’t let it happen.
- Compare Othello’s and Desdemona’s relationship with that of Iago and Emilia.
Which relationship was first to be struck by jealousy? Elaborate on Iago’s control and lack of interest towards Emilia instead of Othello’s devotion to Desdemona. Has Iago ever experienced the same level of jealousy (in his love life) as Othello?
- Discuss the significance of race in the play.
Was racism a standard way of thinking when “Othello” was written? Explain how the play reflects the Elizabethan era, its racial prejudice, and its cultural context.
- Comment on Desdemona’s and Emilia’s friendship.
Are they close? What do they discuss, particularly in Act 4, Scene 3? Express how Emilia proved her devotion to her mistress in Act 5 Scene 2. Why did Emilia lie to Desdemona about the handkerchief a few scenes before?
- Analyze Iago’s hatred.
Who doesn’t Iago hate? Where do his hatred and anger come from? Speculate on his nature and hidden reasons for his negative emotions. Mention the language that he uses and what’s unique about it.
- Talk about Roderigo’s character.
What’s his goal? Why does he trust Iago and follow his demand? Elaborate on the moment when he tries to escape Iago’s control and fails. What’s his role in the play?
- Explore animal imagery in “Othello.”
Why is Othello constantly compared to animals throughout the play? Provide quotes where Iago calls him “Barbary horse” and so on and explain what it means concerning racism and prejudice.
- Compare two plays: “Othello” and “Oedipus.”
What are these tragedies based on? How do “Othello” and “Oedipus” end? Explain the reasons for the downfall of the hero that happens in both plays. What characters tried to prevent such a tragic end?
- Examine Othello’s pride and honor.
How are these aspects tied to his race and reputation? Mention how his uselessness during the war could’ve affected his pride and make Othello more susceptible to Iago’s manipulation. How does a thought of Desdemona’s infidelity hurt Othello’s pride?
- Compare Othello’s and Bianca’s jealous behavior.
Who takes the possibility of their lover’s infidelity better? Summarize their reasons for jealousy and their actions after gaining such a suspicion. Why is it intriguing that Bianca trusts her love interest more than Othello does?
- Consider Othello as the outsider.
When do we find out that he doesn’t belong to the community? Mention how it’s uncommon for tragic heroes to be an outcast from the start of the play. How does Iago use it against Othello? How does his status as an outsider contribute to his downfall?
- Discuss Iago’s misogyny.
What does he say about women? How does he treat women in the play, particularly his wife? Analyze his banter with Desdemona in Act 2, Scene 1, and his point of view.
- Talk about Desdemona’s independence from her father.
Why does Desdemona decide to disobey Brabantio’s will and elope with Othello? Was it common for the time? Explain how Desdemona both showed her independence and immediately became obedient to another man.
- Compare the treatment of women in “Othello” and “Oedipus.”
How did Shakespeare and Sophocles describe women in their plays? What role do these characters play in the stories? Analyze how men treat and talk about women in the plays. How does it reflect the period when “Othello” and “Oedipus” were written?
- Elaborate on Emilia’s assistance to Iago.
Why does she help him in obtaining Desdemona’s handkerchief? Did she know anything about Iago’s plan? Express how Emilia tried to gain her husband’s approval covering his deeds. Why does she betray him in Act 5 Scene 2?
- Compare two movie adaptations of the play.
Find two films based on “Othello” and analyze the alternations from the play in each of them. Which movie is more accurate to the source material? Which one do you prefer?
- Comment on Iago’s control over Othello.
Why does Othello believe him more than Desdemona or any other character in the play? Did Iago do anything to gain this trust? Explain how Iago uses language to make Othello blind to his manipulations.
- Explore the theme of jealousy
Who suffers from jealousy in the play? Elaborate on various types of jealousy presented in “Othello” (professional and personal) and how characters deal with this emotion.
- Analyze Othello’s changes throughout the play.
What traits and behavior does he obtain and why? Does he become more himself by the end of the play than he was before, or it’s the opposite? Add a few examples of more animalistic behavior that Othello showed. Why did its features escalate and then disappear during Act 5 Scene 2?
- Discuss Iago’s plan.
When does Iago come up with an idea? Who helps him? Add a couple of sentences about Iago’s motivation and his enjoyment that comes from manipulating people around him.
- Compare and contrast Othello and Oedipus Rex.
What character traits do they have in common? What features of their respective journeys do they share? Elaborate on each person and their stories, analyzing the challenges that they face.
- Examine “Othello” in Shakespearean Theater.
How did theatres look like when “Othello” was written? Could actors propose ideas and changes during the repetitions of a play? Express how “Othello” was initially performed and what these early performances looked like. When was it published?
- Explore the relationship between Othello and Cassio.
Was their friendship strong before Iago’s web of lies? Why was it easy for Othello to believe that Cassio had an affair with Desdemona? Explain how their relationship changed throughout the play.
- Talk about murders in “Othello.”
Why did Othello and Iago kill their respective wives? Why did Iago decide to kill Roderigo? Speculate on what causes murders in the play and how it’s connected to the themes of the play. Why did Cassio, whose death was planned by Iago early in “Othello,” survived?
- Analyze Tim Nelson’s 2001 movie “O.”
How did the director adapt the play? How did the change of the setting affect “Othello”? Explain why this play is cinematically adaptable. How did Tim Nelson change the characters?
- Comment on the language of the play.
What does the way Othello speaks say about him? How is the power of words highlighted in the play? Explain how Iago uses ambiguous and deceptive language to manipulate other characters.
- Examine Othello’s misogyny.
What words and actions indicate that sexism has an impact on Othello’s worldview? How does he treat women around him? Mention how quickly he believes that Desdemona cheats on him, even though he doesn’t see any “ocular proof.”
- Elaborate on the way Iago changed by the end of the play.
What causes changes in his behavior? Does he become eviler and more himself? Explain how he started from verbal manipulation and ended with murdering two people. Why did he get caught?
- Talk about possible interpretations of “Othello.”
How may a person analyze Shakespeare’s works? How have interpretations of “Othello” changed over the years? Comment on the power of historical context.
- Explore the meaning behind the handkerchief.
What’s its role in the play? What does this object symbolize? Express how it has a different meaning for every character: Desdemona considers it a symbol of love, while Othello starts to see it as a symbol of betrayal. Add how the handkerchief’s meaning changes.
- Express how “Othello” is experienced by a reader.
Given that this is a play primarily performed on stage rather than written analyze it as a text. Are stage directions clear? What’s the focus of each scene? What catches your attention?
- Compare an Elizabethan audience’s reaction to “Othello” with today’s reception.
How was the play perceived during Shakespeare’s time? Why do critics find more and more flaws in “Othello” over the years? Mention the role of historical context and how Shakespeare used classical references to entertain his audience.
- Analyze Othello’s character traits.
What are his essential qualities? What traits are obtained (or revealed) due to Iago’s manipulations?
- Speculate on the moral of the story.
What did Shakespeare want to say? Was it a lesson about jealousy and trust? Or did he try to show how a person can ruin a perfect life via his actions? Analyze all the possible explanations about the moral of the play. What’s Shakespeare’s comment on deception?
- Examine Iago’s jealousy.
What’s Iago jealous about? Who is he jealous of? List and analyze all his professional and personal reasons to be jealous of Othello and Cassio. Does he explain them to the audience?
- Shakespeare’s influence on the Renaissance period.
How does “Othello” represent this period? What common motifs for the Renaissance did Shakespeare develop in the play? Comment on the author’s contributions to the time via “Othello.”
- Discuss Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Othello.”
What changes did Verdi make in his opera? Why did he exclude Act 1 of the play? Add data about first performances and Verdi’s demands concerning the leading singers.
- Elaborate on the Willow song.
Where does it appear? Why does Desdemona recall it? Speculate period what this song may symbolize and mention circumstances that forced Emilia to recite it in Act 5 Scene 2.
- Compare the play with its movie adaptation.
How did the director of the film modify “Othello”? Is this play cinematically adaptable? Elaborate on changes in the movie and the director’s goal (whether it was adapting the story to fit another period or making it more accurate and close to the text).
- Explore the setting of “Othello.”
Where do the events take place? How did the historical context affect the choice of scenery? Mention the details that highlight differences between Cyprus and Venice. What influence does the change of location have on the characters?
- Talk about Othello’s leadership skills.
Do we see them in the play? How did these skills help Othello in gaining his reputation? Elaborate on Othello as a leader according to Machiavelli’s ideas.
- Comment on the theme of family.
Who keeps in contact with their family in “Othello”? Who has a strong emotional connection to their roots? Elaborate on the relationship between Desdemona and her father.
- Consider Shakespeare’s impact on theatre.
Was the social influence theme unusual for the theatre of his time period? What was new about the play for this era? Explain what themes and contemporary tone theatre borrowed from “Othello.”
- Examine Othello’s soliloquy in Act 5 Scene 2.
What does it explain to the audience about his character? Does it count as a part of his redemption? Comment on the lines that convey Othello’s intelligence and racism. Can it be considered a suicide note?
- Compare Othello and Leontes from “The Winter’s Tale.”
What traits do the characters have in common? What similar issues and conflicts do they face? Elaborate on the different ways that characters chose to solve their problems.
- Talk about Emilia.
What role does she play in “Othello”? Does she change throughout the play? Explain why she helps her husband during the significant part of the play but then betrays him, revealing his plan to the characters around. Analyze the moments when she decides to keep silent or talk during the events of the play.
- Compare Othello’s jealousy to Iago’s one.
What are the key differences? What is the foundation for their jealousy? Analyze the roots of the jealous behavior of Othello and Iago. How do they deal with this feeling?
- Elaborate on the point of view.
What’s intriguing in watching or reading the play from Iago’s point of view? Why does Iago talk to an audience? Explain how the villain makes the listeners or readers his accomplices.
- Comment on Othello’s emotions.
Analyze his feelings throughout the play. Explain how he’s eager to follow his emotions and base his decisions on them. How does it affect his journey?
- Explore the banter in Act 2, Scene 1.
What do Iago and Desdemona argue about? Is it a serious discussion? Comment on each point of view and how Desdemona doesn’t take Iago’s words seriously.
- Examine the theme of betrayal.
Why is loyalty presented as both a curse and virtue? Who uses it to their advantage, and who suffers from it? Express how Iago uses the fear of betrayal against Othello. How does the handkerchief start to symbolize betrayal to Othello?
- Analyze violence in “Othello.”
Who acts violently in the play? How do characters fight and commit murder? Elaborate on Othello’s and Iago’s cruelty that they demonstrate in Act 5.
- Consider one of Iago’s monologues.
Elaborate on the purpose of him explaining his plans and motivation. Does he tell only the truth or hide something even from the audience? Are there moments when he gains sympathy from the listeners?
- Discuss Iago’s moral grounds.
Does he have any? Or is he inherently evil? Analyze his evil actions and schemes, providing examples from the play. Does he have a line that he can’t cross?
- Elaborate on the appearance vs. reality theme.
How does Iago hide the reality of things from almost every character? Who is too straightforward and naive to suspect Iago? Mention how characters are blind to Iago’s lies up to the last scene of the play, when Emilia understands everything and reveals Iago’s plan.
- Talk about Desdemona’s death.
How did she die? Did she suspect that Othello may want to murder her? Analyze Desdemona’s last attempt to protect her husband, claiming that he’s innocent, and she committed suicide. Does it make her a perfect wife for that time?
- Speculate on Othello’s transformation from a hero to a villain.
What unique features does his journey demonstrate? What does Othello’s path have in common with Macbeth’s one? Elaborate on the role of fear and hope in Othello’s story. Did he redeem himself in the end?
- Comment on the passage of time.
How many days does the play take? Why are there inconsistencies? Examine various theories about the duration of action and scenes where time could’ve elapsed.
- Explore Cassio’s misogyny.
How does he treat his girlfriend to her face and behind her back? Analyze his dialogue with Iago in Act 4, where they talk about Bianca. Why does he act more attentive around Desdemona?
- Elaborate on the minor characters.
Who are the critical minor characters? What role do they play in the plot progression? Briefly explain why they are vital for the story, as minor characters help us see the action from the inside, determine the path of the tragic hero, and develop the world of “Othello.”
- Examine the character of Iago.
What are his crucial character traits? What role does he play in “Othello”? How does he affect other characters? Explain his motivation and his actions in the play. Why does he have a few soliloquies?
- Discuss the theme of love.
How does love affect the characters of the play? Who suffers from love? Explain how “Othello” explores both platonic and romantic love; how love is often mistaken for other feelings.
- Consider the significance of evidence in “Othello.”
How does the play demonstrate the significance of “ocular proof”? Explain how “Othello” can be helpful for policemen, lawyers, and other people who deal with evidence regularly.
- Analyze the clown scenes (Act 3, Scenes 1 and 4).
Why did Shakespeare introduce the clown? What role does it play in the play? Elaborate on why “Othello” needs comic relief and a moment to take a breath.
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