What are the themes in Othello? JealousyRaceGenderSexMarriageManipulationHateIdentityWarfare
At the beginning of the story, what is Othello like? He’s a celebrated and respected war hero, a loving husband, and an eloquent storyteller
What is Othello by the end of the play? He’s irrational, violent and insanely jealous who murders his own wife
What is Othello’s status in Venice? He’s an insider and an outsider
Why would Othello be an insider in Venice? He’s a Christian, an experienced military leader, commanding respect and admiration from the Duke, the Senate and many Venetian citizens
Why would Othello be an outsider in Venice? He’s a black Moor and a foreigner in Venice
What are some of the racist names that other characters give Othello in the play?(Please feel free to add to the list. These are simply short fire snappy suggestions.) “thick-lips””devil””old black ram”
How is Othello’s bosom described by Brabantio?(It’s really important trust me) “sooty bosom”
Iago never gives Othello any definitive proof. Something a military leader like Othello would be expected to want. So, what are the two conclusions an audience can come to about his character as a result? 1) He’s very gullible2) He trusts Iago more than his own wife
Othello almost seems eager to believe the worst about his wife. What are the two ways that literary critics have taken this? 1) Othello believes that all women are inherently promiscuous – religion and sexism2) Othello begins to absorb the racist attitudes that surround him in Venice(a. He believes he’s not good enough for Des because he’s black b. he believes his relationship with Des may “soil” her)
Give a quote which shows that Othello now believes he is soiling his wife! “Her name, that was as fresh…..is not begrimed and blackAs mine own face”)Act 3, Scene 3
Does Othello love Des, or does he love himself? He seems to love her for loving him”She loved me for the dangers I had passed,And I loved her that she did pity them” – Act 1, Scene 3
Why would it make sense that Othello had a well of jealously, if he was a self-centered person who loves himself more than others? Because jealously is a self-centered emotionOthello spends much of the play obsessed with the way D has hurt him, and his feelings, the way in which her cheating reflects on him
What does scholar Marjorie Garber suggest? Othello’s self-absorption starts way before Iago gets to him
What does Majorie Garber suggest? Othello equates his inner, personal life with his outer, professional lifeHe can’t draw boundaries between them (Think Act 1, Scene 3)
What is Othello’s first reaction when he think’s D has cheated on him? “Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!” (Act 3, Scene 3)His reaction is that his job is lost
Where does Othello’s destructiveness stem from according to Garber? It stems from his rage that D’s immoral actions have also damaged himWhen it comes to himself, O is a perfectionist, and her actions reflect poorly on him
Where would Othello’s dangerous perfectionism stem from? His position as being consistently viewed as an outsider, simply because he’s a black man in a white Venetian society
How is the only way Othello could have risen to his position of power? Through incredible self-discipline
What does Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom argue? That Iago is an artist of evil. In the same way that some people enjoy writing or songs or filming movies, Iago enjoys ruining people’s lives
What does Iago do each time he does something incredibly dastard?(Dastard devil!) He muses on it and tells the audience just how gosh-darn brilliant he is(This has more than one effect. It not only exaggerates how evil he is, but tells the audience in lame man terms what is happening)
Apart from being a brilliant manipulator, why is Iago able to manipulate Othello so expertly? As the plot grows he becomes progressively closer to Othello
Does Iago have any real motive to hate Othello? Not reallyHe suspects Othello of having made him a cuckold – “that ‘twixt my sheetsHe’s done my office”He is also angry at Othello for promoting Cassio – a man with little military skill and experience – instead of him
What does the poet Samuel Coleridge call Iago? “a being next to the devil, only not quite the devil”
What does Samuel Coleridge call Iago’s behavior? “motiveless malignity”
If we agree that Iago has no real motives for hating Othello, what can we argue? That he’s a prick….oh also that he’s a kind of “Vice” figure
What’s a “Vice” figure? A stock character from medieval morality plays like “Everyman”They are typically personifications of vices – immoral behavior
Is Iago a Vice figure really? Well, not really no. He has a lot more complexities to him than one. However, Shakespeare is clearly borrowing from other literary works(Tbf many would argue that he stole all that he wrote so why not right?)
Is Iago actually gay for Othello? Many could argue so – Orson Welles for example – but as it stands, it probably isn’t juicy enough for an essay. Sorry!If you want to peruse this though think Act 3, Scene 3. The end sounds like a 16th wedding ceremony. Although Iago wants to get with Othello, in the end he ends up hurting him because he’s jealous of Desdemona. Go nuts if you want.
Desdemona elopes with Othello. Why is this so controversial? 1) Society does not approve of interracial marriages2) She’s the Duke’s daughter; he’s the one who decides whom she will marry as she is a transaction in order to improve family wealth3) She’s eloping in a Christian society… GG4) She’s directly defiling her father’s expectations
Desdemona begs to go with Othello on his exciting journey. Why is this not surprising? She loves adventure and was drawn to Othello because of his stories. She did ‘pity them’ after all. (Got to try and go for pity next time. Seems to get all the women!)
What kind of ear did Desdemona consume Othello’s stories with? A “greedy ear”
Desdemona has a pretty big reason to go with Othello to Cyprus. Not only does she love adventure and action, but she really loves action…… why does she want to go with Othello? She wants some of Othello’s “valiant parts”
What is the issue with Desdemona being very overt about her sexual desire for Othello? She’s a maiden. She’s meant to be passive and very quiet about her sexual desires.Think Christianity! Augustine of Hippo taught that the devil uses women to lead men away from reason, and pleasure in sex leads men away from reason(Honestly, sometimes, I agree. Pretty sure women lead me away from reason……..ugh….)
Is Desdemona pretty naive?(Use an example from the play to elaborate) Act 4, Scene 3She asks Emilia if it’s possible that a women would ever cheat on her husband
So, using Act 4, Scene 3, explain why Desdemona wouldn’t understand why Othello is angry? If Desdemona is naive enough to believe a women would never cheat on her husband, then she would have no reason to think that Othello suspects her
Even still though, with all the physical and emotional abuse Othello dishes out to Desdemona, you think she’d have a clue. By the end of the play though, Desdemona is so beaten down she believes ******* to be the reason for Othello’s physical and emotional abuse. HerselfDesdemona is the real victim in this tragic play
What does Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom believe is the driving question of the play? Desdemona’s virginity
What does Harold Bloom argue? Desdemona dies a virgin
Why does Harold Bloom believe that Desdemona dies a virgin?(I know this line of enquiry is odd, but hear me out for a chicken second ok?) Every time the newlyweds come close, something interupts them
What would sleeping with Desdemona prove for Othello? Whether or not she has been faithful to him
So why can’t Othello take the pressure of sleeping with his wife according to Harold Bloom? Because the posibility of realizing in the act she is not a virgin exists(Poorly worded I know. Gonna change it? Pffft, hell no!)
Other theories suggest that Othello and Desdemona have had sex. The example used is the period of time where they are interupted by Cassio’s drunken brawl. Why would Othello having sex with Desdemona though make him go insane? Because he believes he has contaminated her
What characters in the play have claimed that black men contaminate white women they have sexual contact with? Brabantio and Iago
If Othello believes he has contaminated Desdemona, what does that mean Othello has?(think internalized mysogny, just not internalized mysogny!) Othello has Internalized the racism of others in the play
What part of Emilia contrasts strongly with Desdemona? Emilia is an older ‘battered’ women, with a cynical view of married lifeDesdemona is a young women with a naive view of married life
What one dishonest act towards Desdemona does Emilia do? She steals her handkerchief
Why is the loss of Desdemona’s handkerchief so important? Because it is what convinces Othello that Desdemona is guilty of infidelity, and Emilia’s theft causes her friend’s death
Who discovers what Iago is plotting and reveals it to the world? EmiliaThis clears her friends name so Des won’t be remembered a ‘who*e'(Had to censor that word because Quizlet doesn’t like profanity. I can’t blame them honestly.)
According to Emilia, how does Iago view her?(Act 3, Scene 3) “I nothing but to please his fantasy'(Strange phrasing I know but this is Shakespeare. If a line isn’t the right syllable count, throw a contraction in it!)
Why does Emilia steal the handkerchief? She does it to try and please Iago. She attempts to turn it into a flirtatious interaction
Emilia’s need to please Iago though goes far far further than a simple stealing of Des’ handkerchief. In Act 4, Scene 3, what does Emilia say in reference to what she would do in order to make him a ‘monarch’? “Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture purgatory for ‘t”She’d risk her soul to make him king
Despite Emilia’s need to please Iago, it is also obvious that she is very bitter about her marriage. What in Act 4, Scene 3 shows this?(Vague again I know. Think about women having an equal right to something) “I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall”She goes onto argue that men cheat on women all the time, so why can’t women cheat on men(This is similar to a speech in the Merchant of Venice where Shylock argues Jews are people too, and thus have an equal right to revenge)
According to Harold Bloom, out of all the people that Iago has the upperhand over, there is one he underestimates. Who is this person?(If you really need a hint for this after all those cue cards, then you might as well drop English Literature buddy.) EmiliaThus, she is the only one who ultimately can bring Iago down
What’s the irony about Emilia taking down Iago? Iago is a fantastic manipulator – starting to feel for the guy with my credentials now – but the one person he should have known best, his wife, is the one person he fails to understand
Cassio is a man with many weaknesses. What is his weakness with alcohol? He’s a major lightweight(Not much can help you there mate though. If you start to build up a tolerance it only means you have no idea how much is truly entering your body)
Is Cassio a ladies man? Yep. A young brat with lots of charisma. He even flirtatiously kisses Emilia in Act 2, Scene 1(Mix Cassio and Iago and you might even get me….. at least on the surface level)
Why does Cassio’s charisma become his downfall? His flirtatious charisma helps to convince Othello that Cassio is having sex with Desdemona
In what two ways does Cassio view women? Virgin or who*eKing of Dichotomies apparently
What kind of character is Roderigo? Rich and unintelligentHe seems to believe that if he sends Desdemona enough expensive presents, she will fall for him
What does Iago do with the jewelry Roderigo thinks he is giving to Desdemona? He sells it for profit
Whose father is Brabantio? Desdemona’s father
Who is Brabantio? A rich and important Venetian politician
Did Brabantio ever expect Othello to “steal” his daughter, and for his daughter to marry Othello without drugs or witchcraft? Nope
So, is Brabantio racist and sexist? Yes, but you can’t necessarily hate the guy for thatHe’s a product of his time: he believes women are objects to be bought and sold because by selling his daughter he can further the family name and his positionRacism was just the norm.
How does Brabantio see marriage? He sees it as a potential business transaction and his daughter is property
What does Brabantio apparently die of in the play after his daughter runs off with Othello? Grief(Shmoop says they “didn’t even cry”; I cried a bit. We all love a bit of Brabantio)
Who is Bianca? A Venetian courtesan who is in love with Cassio
When Cassio treats Bianca like rubbish, what is Shakespeare making a statement on? How women are used thorughout the play
Why is Bianca a foil for Desdemona? Bianca is a courtesan in a city renowned for prostitution and promiscuity; Desdemona is every faithful
What are all three women accused of at one point in the play? Of being promiscuous
Who are the Duke and Senators?(This is more to give a overall look at the heiarchy of Othello) The important men in charge of Venice
Despite Brabantio’s hatred towards Othello for marrying his daughter and becoming Brabantio’s “son-in-law”, how do the local politicians view Othello? They support Othello without reservation
Who is Lodovico? Desdemona’s cousin and a member of Venice’s diplomatic service
Does Lodovico have a personality? Nope, he’s just there as a witness – think Horatio in Hamlet
Who is Montano? The Governor of Cyprus before Othello showed up to take command(he’s the dude whom fights Cassio)
What is the name of Desdemona’s uncle? Gratiano
What is the most dominant symbol throughout the play of Othello? The handkerchief
What did Othello originally do with the handkerchief? He gave it to Desdemona as a first gift
What does the handkerchief function as? A token of Othello and Desdemona’s love
The handkerchief doesn’t symbolize their love, it symbolizes something about Desdemona. What is this? Desdemona’s fidelity
What is on the handkerchief? It’s white and spotted with strawberries
What were the strawberries hand stitched with according to Othello? A thread which as been dyed with the blood from “maiden’s hearts”(Virgin’s blood)(This is why when she loses it she loses her chastity)
Visually, what can the handkerchief symbolize? A white wedding sheet stained with virgin’s blood(If we’re talking the old views about sex then we’re talking about “popping the cherry” and thus leaking blood”. Whether right or wrong this was the view held at the time, and the intact hymen is the proof of chastity to them)
The handkerchief has symbols tied to Othello’s mysterious past and his “exoticness”. Why? He tells D that an Egyptian “charmer” gave it to his mother and that it would keep his father under her spell(Act 3, Scene 4
According to literary critic William Empson’s count, how many times does “honest” and “honesty” show up? 52That’s a very honest figure I’m sure
In what way do the meanings of “honest” differ in the play? It could be in reference to a women’s “honesty” – promisuous – or at other times a personal honestly
Why is there no war in Cyprus? Because of the inclement weather
What is significant about Othello’s speech in Act 3, Scene 3 about the components of the battlefield? In this speech they are all lost to him now that he knows Desdemona is unfaithful(These implements of war become symbols of Othello’s sexuality)
What is the significance of Desdemona’s song about willow trees?(This is when she starts preparing for bed the night she will be murdered) The song was supposedly sung originally by one of Desdemona’s mother’s servants who loved a crazy(It therefore reflects her own situation)
What are willows at the edge of water a traditional symbol of? Women deserted by their lovers(In Hamlet, Ophelia deserted by her love dies after she falls out of a willow tree and drowns in a brook) – Shakespeare loves his death doesn’t he 🙂
What are the three iportnat things to note about Cassio’s dirty dream? 1) Iago is framing Cassio to make it look like he’s sleeping with Desdemona2) Othello seems willing to accept this graphic story as “proof” that Desdemona is cheating3) Iago is blatently describing a homoerotic moment he has allegedly shared with Cassio(Cassio makes out with him)
Whilst the dream sequence is meant to be more about Desdemona and Cassio, what does it seem to turn into? Cassio and IagoWhether you believe this to be homoerotic, or simply Iago using himself as a graphic substitute for Desdemona is up to you(I said I wouldn’t talk about Iago and his homosexuality because I felt it wouldn’t be useful in an essay but here I am. Maybe it would be. Dunno. Let’s see ^.^)
What’s up with Iago’s fauna imagery in Act 1, Scene 3? He creates an elaborate analogy between gardening and excercising free willHe has control over all the seeds he has planted as a gardener woul his crop
When Iago calls Othello an “old black ram” who is “tupping” Brabantio’s “white ewe”, what is he doing? He’s playing on the Elizabethan notions that black men are animal-liked and fuled by primal urges like sex(He’s playing on Brabantio’s fears of miscegenation)
So, according to the book in 1584, The Discovery of Witchcraft, what form do devils take according to the author? Black men(What can you say, the devil likes to be exotic)
Alongside a lot of imagery that associates Othello with animals, in Act 1, Scene 1 Brabantio says “My house is not a grange”. What is he implying here? That his house isn’t a farmhouseIago then builds upon this by calling him a ‘Barbary horse’ who will be “making the beast with two backs”
What does the candle Othello blows out in Act 5, Scene 2 symbolize? Desdemona’s frail lifeOthello says he’ll ‘Put out the light, and then put out the light’Then he strangles her. What a charmer! 10/10 would immediately let him inside me!
What’s the difference between the candle and Desdemona according to Othello? He can only put out the candle once – not even joking!Like I said, I’m currently a waterfall waiting to be bust!
Which Goddess is Cyprus sacred to? Venus – the goddess of loveIrony. We all love it.
Why is the island of Cyprus so scary for Desdemona? At the military camp she loses any kind of support system she may have had in her hometown of Venice, so she’s vulnerable to the world of men and military
What’s the genre of the play Othello?(Shakespeare only wrote like 3 genres so you have pretty good chances!) A tragedy:1) It’s a play2) has a somber tone3) Hero has a strong weakness inevitably leading to downfall
What is the tone of Othello? Cynical and paranoid
Who is the only person who speaks to the audience? IagoThis means his bitter rants about Othello and cassio, alongside his casual dismissal of women are the foundation of how we view the story
What kind of verse do the nobles in Othello typically speak in? Unrhymed ‘iambic pentameter'(Blank verse)
Define an “iamb”. An unaccented syllable followed by an accented one
What does “penta” mean? 5
So what does iambic pentameter break down into? Iamb – Type of patternPenta – fivemeter – refers to regular rhythmic patternIt’s a rhythmic pattern that consists of five iambs per line
If iambic pentameter was to be converted into heartbeats, what would it be?(Pretty much just messing with you now) ba-DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM
Why is blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) typically reserved for the important characters? It’s a formal way to speak that requires a lot of syntaxical knowledge
So, sure, higher-ups speak in snobbish blank verse. What do the lower social class speak in Othello? ProseThey just talk. Simple. Almost…..too….simple…..
What was the original title of Othello?? The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of VeniceIt alerts audiences of Othello#’s status as a black man in a town mostly white
Why does Othello take his own life at the end of the play? Because he realises he dun-goofedHe killed Desdemona under false charges
In the ending speech given by Othello, Othello says he “loved” Desdemona “too well”. What does this imply? That he doesn’t under the full implications of his actionsIt’s understandable that Othello’s actions were driven by a need for his love to mean something…… maybe
In the ending speech given by Othello, what is Othello very focused on? He’s pretty preoccupied with the way people will think of him after his death
What evidence is there that Othello sees himself as an outsider by the end of the play? He calls himself a “Turk” Other characters have been calling him this all along and he’s finally internalized the racism
According to Shakespeare, if you call a man “savage” over and over again, what happens to that man? He breaks down – full Othello….and we know, you never go full Othello