Othello Background Notes

Villain (Iago) responsible for the downfall of the tragic hero (Othello)
What makes this tragedy different from Shakespearean tragedies there is no secondary plot
What collection of tales were ideas for this play taken from Hecatommithi by Giraldi Cinthio, published in Venice in 1566
When was this play probably written in 1603 or 1604, a little past the middle of Shakespeare’s career (he was 40)
Where was this play performed the Royal Court
When was the first recorded performance of this play and who was it performed for 1604 and for King James I
Who played Othello Richard Burbage, Shakespeare’s partner and fellow actor
What was Othello’s occupation soldier from North Africa
What was Othello employed as a general by the city-state of Venice
How did people view Othello highly respected, but still an “outsider” because of his skin color
Who does Othello marry Desdemona
What does Desdemona stand for love, trust, and purity — all that makes life meaningful and worth living
Who protects Desdemona her father
Describe Desdemona (A beautiful…. A beautiful and accomplished young Venetian woman
Who is the soldier who works with Othello Iago
What does Iago want to be second in command with Othello
Who passes Iago over to be second in command Cassio
What does Iago seek and plot to do? Seeks vicious revenge and plots to destory all the othello values
Who is Emilia? the maidservant to Desdemona
Who is Emilia married to Iago
Who is Emilia loyal to? to Desdemona, but will tell lies if it will help her husband
Who is Cassio? What does he not have much of Gentleman soldier, not much real experience
What is Cassio a man of a man of ability, loyalty, and grace
Who does Cassio respect Desdemona and Othello
What does Cassio suffer from a drinking problem
Who is the father of Desdemona Brabantio
Who is in love with Desdemona and a fool Roderigo
What does Roderigo listen to? Iago’s plan to get Desdemona away from Othello
What is a dynamic character character who changes from beginning to end
what is a static character character who does not change
What type of character is Othello Dynamic
What are 5 reasons Othello is a strong dynamic character – courageous Venetian soldier- well respected – has reputation as man of honor – has vicious temper – becomes enraged with jealousy
What type of character is Iago Static
What are 5 reasons Iago is a static character – corrupt – hypocritical – evil – selfish – focused throughout the play to destroy Othello
What is a FOIL character character who highlights or emphasizes certain traits of the main character by contrasting them
What are the two examples of foil characters Emilia to Desdemona and Cassio to Iago
List the two internal conflicts Othello has with himself – Doesn’t want to distrust Desdemona- Insecure about his qualities to enable Desdemona to love him
Describe the conflict between Iago and Othello Iago hates Othello and plots to bring about his downfall
Describe the conflict between Iago and Cassio Iago is jealous of Cassio and works to ruin his reputation, as well as separate from Othello’s friendship
Dramatic Irony a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader of audience knows to be true
Situational Irony an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters, readers, or audience
Verbal Irony words used to suggest the opposite of what is meant (i.e. sarcasm, double-entendre, etc.)
Name 5 themes in the novel Destructive nature of jealousy, Importance of Honor and Reputation, Being an outsider, Appearance Versus Reality, and Loyalty Versus Treachery
List two points in the theme “Destructive nature of Jealousy” -Iago jealous of Cassio’s position- Othello suspecting Desdemona’s unfaithfullness
List the two people important in discussing the theme “the importance of honor and reputation” -Cassio -Desdemona
List the two points in discussing the theme of “Being an Outsider” – Prejudice against Othello (for both skin color and that he is from Africa and not Venice)- Warrior rather than courtier and politician (unfamiliar with societal conventions, dealt mainly with men and battle, not women and love)
List the two points under the theme “Appearance versus reality” -Honest Iago -Desdemona and Cassio
List the two main points under Loyalty versus Treachery -The ones othello believes are treacherous are actually loyal (Cassio and Desdemona) -Role of Emilia (With her husband and with Desdemona)
Name 6 Motifs in the play -animals-jealousy-sight and darkness-the handkerchief -magic -evil and the devil
What is a motif major topics related to theme
What is the setting for Act I venice
what is the setting for Act II – V Cyprus
what century does the play take place in 16th century
Venice a city-state of enormous mercantile wealth (wealth from trade)
What was Venice famous for in Shakespeare’s time its judicial system
Why was Venice’s trade partially choked off and what made Cyprus so important? by the growing power of the Turkish empire in the 16th century, which extended into Europe as well as Asia and Arabia, hence the importance of Cyprus
Cyprus Island near Turkey and Syria
What island was annexed by Venice in 1489 and conquered by the Turks in 1571 Cyprus
Moor in Shakespeare’s ime, equivalent to “African,” with the expectation that, such a person would be black. negative or derogatory word.
Ottoman, Ottomites refer to the Turks
What religion are Moors Muslim
What years did the Moors rule spain after they conquered in 711 711-1492
Who took over spain after the Moors and what did they “bring” Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and they brought Christianity
What did the Moors do when they were forced to leave Spain they became Gypsies in Europe and pirates in the seas near Europe, Asia, and Africa
Did Shakespeare create the character Othello as a tragic hero or villain tragic hero
Ancient (en-sin) a military rank, properly of a standard-bearer (same word as ensign)
What is Iago’s rank, which he resents Ancient
Lieutenant the rank which Cassio has just been given, literally meaning “place-holder”
Define Tragedy drama in which the main character suffers a disaster after a serious struggle
what are the 5 requirements for there to be a tragic hero 1. Noble/influential person 2. Meets with destruction b/c -personal flaw -opposition of others 3. Harsh punishment4. Character gains self-knowledge 5. Catharsis resulting in compassion -catharsis = cleansing or release of tense emotions
Fatal Flaw error, weakness, mistaken judgment or misstep that causes the downfall of the hero…ask called hamartia from greek
Elizabethan tragic hero much more often responsible for his own downfall rather than being a victim of fate. emphasizes the “waste of human potential”
List the 5 part dramatic structure 1. Act I – exposition, or introduction2. Act II – rising action, or complications 3. Act III – Crisis, or Turning point 4. Act IV – falling action5. Act V – resolution or Denouement
Soliloquy Character’s inner thoughts (truthful) spoken aloud where no other characters are present
Aside Character’s inner thoughts spoken aloud with other characters present, but the other characters cannot hear the spoken thoughts
Elizabethan Theater minimal scenery, little to no props used, rarely performed at night, female parts played by teenage boys, and actors not respected
Galleries audience area covered by a roof (3 levels)
Yard audience area w/o covering or seating “Groundlings”
Globe theater pricing was based on comfort, nobility generally had private performances at their homes
Platform Stage raised stage that projects into the audience
Heavens pictures of moon, stars, and zodiac painted on the underside of the canopy covering the stage
Hell under the stage, used for prop storage, trap door entrance to main stage
Iambic Pentameter most common rhythm in English poetry
Blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter