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How is Othello's race a factor in the play?

Othello ascends to the rank of the Venetian military, a city - much like Elizabethan England when
the play was written - rife with racism. A general in the army, Othello holds a distinguished place in
the Duke's court due to his victories in battle, but not an equal one. He suffers barbs and
preconceived notions, yet Othello is esteemed and wins the love of the daughter of a nobleman.
However, Brabantio is enraged by Othello's marriage to Desdemona and claims Othello used
magic to compel her to run to his "sooty bosom". Race is a factor in the tragedy both in those who
seek to destroy Othello, and the victims of the schemes - Othello and Desdemona. Perhaps the
most pernicious form of race as an instrument of division is Othello's own view of himself as an
outsider, which makes him more susceptible to Iago's plan.

How does Shakespeare's use of language reveal character?

Often Shakespeare uses verse lines written in iambic pentameter to illustrate nobility. It is
illustrative of Iago's duplicitous nature that he tends to speak in verse when he is with Othello and
in prose for his soliloquies. One way in which Iago is a master in manipulation is his tendency to
use Othello's own words to disguise his active role of instigator and make it seem that any dark
thought came not from him but Othello's own mind. Othello's speech is very sophisticated at the
beginning of the play, and in his soliloquy at the close of Act V, but when he is consumed with
jealous rage, his eloquence falters. Shakespeare uses dialogue to convey the innerworkings of his

Othello is often called a tragic hero. Discuss his heroic qualities as well as his flaws which lead to
his demise.

At the beginning of the play Othello is presented as an honorable man of noble stature and high
position. In the end it is his misguided attempt to maintain that honor which brings about his, and
Desdemona's, demise. However, Othello is not simply the victim of a plot. Iago is able to engineer
Othello's downfall in part because of Othello's own insecurities. His pride blinds him to his
weaknesses, and he puts his faith in Iago over the word of his love, Desdemona. Othello is
obsessed with his reputation, and ends up killing his wife to save face. Only to a flawed man would
murder seem like a solution to a problem of reputation. Othello is spurred on by lies and
misrepresentations, but he brings about his own undoing.

What motives, stated and implied does Iago have for taking revenge on Othello?

Iago's stated reason for taking revenge on Othello is that he has been passed over for Cassio's
post. But is this enough for him to "hate the Moor"? It is clear that he is jealous of Othello's
ascension in the court and successful wooing of Desdemona. Othello's race and status as an
outsider also seems to fuel this rage, as well as the rumor that Othello has slept with Iago's wife,
Emilia. None of these motivations, however, seem to add up to inspire the violence that unfolds.
Iago remains one of the most purely evil of Shakespeare's villains.

Discuss how loyalty is presented as a positive and a negative quality throughout the play.

Othello's lack of loyalty is what incites Iago's plan for revenge. Iago's ability to fool Othello that he
is loyal while secretly plotting his demise is what makes his revenge effective. It is Othello's belief
in Desdemona's lack of loyalty that seals their fates. In these ways loyalty, when misconstrued, can
be dangerous. However Desdemona's loyalty to Othello even in her death and Othello's loyalty to
her once his mistake is revealed are seen as ennobling aspects of their characters.

Compare and contrast the jealousy of Othello to that of Iago.

One major theme in Othello is revenge - Iago's revenge on Othello and Othello's revenge on
Desdemona. They both believe death will bring justice. Iago's revenge is cooler, plotted out over
time where Othello's is an act of heartbroken passion. Iago wears his lack of morals as a badge of
honor where it is Othello's moral code that leads to his tragic end.

Although Othello is the title character in what way is Iago the main character?

Often in Shakespeare's plays such as Hamlet or King Lear, the title character is the main character
and protagonist. In Othello this is not the case. Iago has almost 20% more lines than Othello, and
has more asides with the audience. While it is Othello's decisions and actions that provide the
dramatic structure for the play, it is Iago who sets in motion those decisions and spurs him to
action. Othello is the tragic figure of the play, along with Desdemona, and it his characteristics that
lend itself to most of the themes - jealousy, race, trust. However, Iago is the character who drives
the plot.

How does Desdemona's dying assertion that she killed herself effect how you see her character?

From a modern feminist viewpoint Desdemona may be judged harshly for answering Emilia, when
she asked who has mortally attacked her, "nobody; I myself. Farewell." Furthermore, she seemed
resigned to her fate at the hands of her husband. While contemporary audiences may interpret
these actions as unfathomable, they highlight the goodness of her character. Desdemona is
described by others in the play with words that symbolize goodness - light, white, fair, delicate,
alabaster. By the end of the play, Desdemona begins to symbolize goodness itself, so her reaction
to her murder becomes another element in Othello's tragic end. Desdemona still loves Othello,
though he is mistaken, and she goes to her death professing her husband's reputation. A modern
audience may wish for a response that is less melodramatic, but that is not the world that
Shakespeare has created in this play.

In what ways do Othello's suicide strengthen or undermine his heroism?

Though suicide is not usually the chosen end for a heroic figure, it is Othello's only escape from the
crimes he has committed. Though the victim of Iago's trickery, Othello is still the author of his own
demise. For Desdemona's death to be answered by anything less than his own would have felt


Describe how Othello's pride leads to his fall.

At the beginning of the play Othello is proud of himself and his achievements, but when Iago looks
to punish Othello for his perceived slight, it is his pride that he preys upon. The belief that
Desdemona has tainted his honor ignites Othello's rage, but it is his pride that blinds him to the
fact that the evidence of her acts are lies invented not by a loyal friend but an enemy bent on his