Othello


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The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice


In a street in Venice, the villain Iago complains to Roderigo that Othello the Moor chose Cassio to be his lieutenant, rather than Iago. Iago vows to stay loyal to Othello only as long as it works to his advantage. They then inform Barbantio that his daughter Desdemona is sleeping with Othello. Barbantio hesitates to believe them, since Roderigo has been an unwelcome suitor to his daughter, but he soon finds she is missing. At Othello's house, Cassio and other officers arrive summoning Othello to the Duke of Venice on urgent matters. Barbantio then arrives and orders Othello arrested, until he learns of the Dukes summons. At the Duke's chambers, Barbantio accuses Othello of using spells and potions to win Desdemona. He, however, proves this is not so, and Barbantio reluctantly blesses their marriage. We then learn that the Turkish fleet (the Ottomites) is sailing toward Cypress. The Duke asks Othello to go defend it, and Desdemona asks to come with. Othello asks Iago to take care of Desdemona and follow him to Cyprus. Roderigo laments to Iago that he has lost Desdemona since Othello has married her. Iago convinces Roderigo to make money by selling his lands and fighting in wars. Over time, Iago feels Othello will tire of Desdemona and she will again become available. Iago, for his own part, reveals to the audience that he is only using Roderigo for his money. He also begins to plot his revenge against Othello for choosing Cassio.

At Cyprus, the governor Montano reports that a tempest has droned the Turkish fleet, effectively eliminating their threat. Next, Cassio arrives, then Iago, his wife Emilia, and Desdemona, and lastly, Othello. In private, Iago tells Roderigo he believes Desdemona is in love with Cassio, based on their flirting before Othello arrived. He convinces Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio to get Cassio in trouble with the local authorities. Alone, Iago reveals his plans to make Othello jealous of Cassio and/or Roderigo for courting Desdemona. That evening, after supper, Othello and Desdemona head to bed, while Iago arrives with wine, hoping to get Cassio drunk. He does, then Roderigo eggs him on, and a fight ensues, pulling Montano into the melee. Othello breaks it up, and after Iago explains (pretending not to know Roderigo), Othello tells Cassio he is no longer his lieutenant. Privately, Iago convinces Cassio to entreat Desdemona to ask Othello to reinstate him. Alone, Iago reveals that he'll use their private meetings to convince Othello that Desdemona is disloyal.

At the Citadel (Othello's lodging), Cassio entreats Desdemona to help him. When Iago and Othello appear in the distance, Cassio leaves. Desdemona relays Cassio's penance, then leaves herself. Iago begins dropping hints of his "suspicions" about Cassio and Desdemona to Othello, to which Othello probes Iago for his thoughts, and Iago pretends to reluctantly reveal them. Thus, Iago plants the seed that Desdemona is being disloyal to Othello. All throughout, Othello keeps stating how he genuinely believes Iago is of "exceeding honesty". Iago leaves and Desdemona appears calling Othello to dinner. He, already becoming (wrongly) suspicious, is rude to her when she tries to cure his "headache" with her handkerchief, given to her by Othello as his first gift to her. They leave, and Emilia appears and picks up the handkerchief, remembering that her husband Iago has asked her to steal it repeatedly before. Iago appears and takes it from her; then privately states that he'll plant it at Cassio's room to fuel Othello's suspicions. Othello reappears, and reveals to Iago how greatly depressed he has become. Othello yells at Iago and demands proof of the suspicions which Iago has planted in his head. Iago then claims he has heard Cassio talk of his love for Desdemona in his sleep. Iago also claims he's seen Cassio wipe his beard with Desdemona's handkerchief. This being the final straw, Othello names Iago his lieutenant and orders Iago to kill Cassio within the next three days. As for Desdemona, Othello wishes her dead too. In her room, Desdemona and Emilia look for the lost handkerchief. Othello appears and claims to have a cold and asks to see it. Desdemona says she doesn't have it, but promises it is not lost. Othello, enraged, leaves. Cassio again appears and entreats Desdemona to talk to Othello. She tells him she has tried, but Othello has become irritable. Cassio's mistress Bianca appears and he asks her to copy the handkerchief he found in his room (Desdemona's), since he likes it, but fears someone will ask for it soon.

At his chamber, Iago eggs Othello on more as Othello slowly goes crazy, since Iago tells him Cassio admitted sleeping with Desdemona. Iago rejoices as Othello goes into a seizure/trance. Iago convinces Othello to hide while he questions Cassio about Desdemona. In reality, Iago plans to speak to Cassio about Bianca, eliciting laughter and smiles. Othello sees this and thinks they are talking about escapes with Desdemona. Bianca then appears, enraged, and throws the handkerchief at Cassio, accusing him of getting it from another lady. This, too, Othello sees. After Cassio and Bianca leave, Iago comes to Othello and convinces him to strangle Desdemona in bed that night, while Iago promises to take care of Cassio. The noble Lodovico from Venice arrives at Cyprus and gives Othello a letter. Already angered, the letter enrages Othello as it orders him home to Venice and Cassio to remain in Cyprus, taking over Othello's command. Desdemona tries to calm him and he strikes her, shocking Lodovico. Iago tells him Othello has changed, but will not reveal more. At the citadel, Othello questions Emilia about Desdemona's honesty; she swears Desdemona is honest, though Othello summons Desdemona and accuses her of being disloyal and a shore, all while himself weeping. When Othello leaves, Desdemona summons Iago and Emilia to comfort her. Emilia tells Iago she belies an evil villain hath put the thoughts into Othello's head. Ironically, Iago replies "it is impossible". Separately, Roderigo comes to Iago complaining that he has given Iago all his jewels to give to Desdemona, and has seen no positive results from her. Iago calms him down and explains that Othello and Desdemona are leaving, by order of Venice, and Cassio will take over in Cyprus. However, Iago says, if Cassio were to die, Othello would have to stay in Venice, and Roderigo would be able to have Desdemona. Iago tells Roderigo to wait outside Bianca's house after midnight, then kill Cassio when he leaves. Iago promises to help, if necessary. At supper, Lodovico and Othello go on a walk, and Othello orders Desdemona to wait, alone, in her bedroom for him.

At night, in a street, Iago sets Roderigo up to kill Cassio. Iago thinks to himself that both must die, or his plotting will be revealed. Cassio appears and Roderigo attacks him, cutting off one of Cassio's legs, during which Cassio wounds Roderigo. Othello overhears Roderigo's cries for help and thinks Cassio is dead; he thus returns to Desdemona. Meanwhile, Iago, who had left, reappears to "investigate" the noise. Lodovico and Gratiano also come. Iago finds Cassio, who's still alive. Alone, he finds Roderigo and stabs him, assuring his death. Iago then "discovers" Roderigo and calls the others. Bianca appears and Iago accuses her of being in cohorts with Roderigo. He calls her a strumpet and takes her into custody. Othello then arrives back at Desdemona's chamber, ready to kill her, even though he still finds her beautiful. Despite her pleadings, he smothers her with a pillow, though she doesn't completely die. Emilia appears and tells Othello that Roderigo is dead, but Cassio is alive. She then hears Desdemona cry for help and tries to help her, but she dies. Emilia asks Othello why he killed her and he says Iago told him she had slept with Cassio. Montano, Gratiano, and Iago appear and Emilia accuses Iago of being a liar. He admits he told Othello Desdemona was sleeping with Cassio. Gratiano tells us Desdemona's father has died over the grief of losing her. Othello explains that Cassio had Desdemona's handkerchief, given to him by her, but Emilia laments that she found it and gave it to Iago. At this, Iago tries to kill Emilia, but Gratiano and Montano hold him back. Othello, in a rage, comes at Iago, but he escapes and kills his wife (Emilia), then flees. Montano and Gratiano take Othello's sword, then chase Iago. Othello finds another weapon, then Lodovico, Cassio, Montano, and Iago (captured) reappear. This time Othello wounds Iago, but is disarmed. All is revealed as letters explaining Iago's deeds were found on Roderigo, and he, when near death, professed that Iago had put him up to attacking Cassio. In a closing speech, Othello pulls a hidden dagger and kills himself. Fittingly, Lodovico leaves Iago for Cassio to sentence and torture.

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Recent Forum Posts on Othello

Othello's transformation

Hello all. I have a small question about Othello's transformation throughout the play. I've noticed that, at the beginning of the play, Iago and Roderigo sterotype Othello; they characterize him using beastial imagery, calling him the "black ram" and the devil". Othello, upon entering the play, proves this wrong, showing himself to be an eloquent man, refined in his actions. However, as the play progresses, and Othello becomes more violent of speech and action, he lowers himself to Iago and Roderigo's characterisation of him. My question is this: why does this happen? What is the purpose of reducing Othello to a stereotype after painstakingly showing him to be otherwise? Is there some wort of didacticism that I'm missing here? Anybody know? Thanks in advance to anyone that can help me.


Who is Diablo?

Hi all. This part from Othello is driving me bonkers: Cassio. Drunke? Iago. Away I say: go out and cry a mutiny. Nay good lieutenant. Alas gentlemen: Help hoa. Lieutenant. Sir Montano: Help Masters. Heer's a goodly watch indeed. Who's that which rings the bell: Diablo, hoa: ******** . . . . . . Anyone know who this Diablo character is meant to be? regards


1995 Othello movie - opinions

I've only just read and watched Othello for the very first time so I don't really know too much about it, but I'm just wondering how you all felt about the 1995 movie and how it compares to the text? I personally thought Fishburne was perfect as Othello but, (and I'll probably be shot for saying this!) I just did not 'feel' the same Iago I heard in the text in the movie. I'm not saying Branagh was bad, just that for me, Othello in the film and text were very similiar but I can't say the same for Iago. Can't quite put my finger on why :nonod: What does everybody else think of the film in general?


How Does Iagos Motive Hunting Add To The Tragic Effect of Othello?

How Does Iagos Motive Hunting Add To The Tragic Effect of Othello? Any ideas guys?


Poems Related to Othello

Hello Everyone I'm looking for a poem related to Shakespeare's Othello in theme (jealousy, betrayal, etc.) for an English project. Anyone have any poems that are the best and most consistent with Othello? Thanks in advance!


Iago Vs. Hatred !

Hello Everyone .. I've read one of the most inspiring plays of William Shakespeare which is "Othello" , and I was surprised by the way in which Shakespeare introduced 'Iago' .. cuz I can't find an explanation of Iago's hatred.! Understood that maybe he considered Othello as an intruder who came to thier country and took the most beautiful lady there , and maybe he thought that Othello wants to gain limitless power pretending to be caring . But , all these reasons don't explain to me the monsterous actions that he did to Othello and Desdemona .. and out of this comes a question .. Is Hatred exist in the mind and heart of Humans without 'REAL' reasons ?


Othello Alienated?

I need some help! How do Othello's age, soldier life story, and cultural/racial backgrounds alienate him from Venetian society??? I need some good answers. I have done the best I can.


"Othello" A Critical Review

"Othello" A Critical Review Prof. Niamat Ali Depatment of English Govt. Islamia College, Kasur Pakistan Shakespeare, the crown of English literature, can rightfully boast of his marvelous achievements as a dramatist. His plays both comedies and tragedies, have a sterling worth of their own. The magnet of his plays pulls the iron dust of thoughts, and the reader feels himself bound by silky ropes of interest and pleasure. He maintains such an artistic balance in his writings as is found in an expert acrobat walking on a tight rope. His tragedies develop from beginning to an end as a rose progresses from budding to withering .Thoughts’ scent and feelings’ shade can be viewed in wordy flowers through the eye of imagination. Lost with Hamlet, ruined with king Lear, stunned with Macbeth and stupefied with Othello, the feels himself much maturer as the finds a treasure of knowledge, wisdom, expression and power. At the same time, some faults can be traced out as some spots can be seen on the shiny face of moon. In the following passages an effort has been made to present a critique of Othello. On the very onset, we discuss the various causes of popularityfalleninOthello’lot. Unique charaacters have been used in it who arrest our attention.In this regard ,first of all Desdemona’sbeauty,nicety,adventurousness,etc., charm the reader to the back bone. He wishes to keep her in his view all the time and when she is slain he feels a great grief in his heart for this delicacy of nature. Secondly, Othello’s unparalleled strength and bravery make the piece extra-ordinarily magnetic. H.Coombes remarks: “Any feeling that is made to apear more important than it really is can be called inflated” We ever expect something most wonderful from this mountain of might. But this mountain proves a volcano that busts and burns to ashes not only himself but also others. Thirdly, Iago’s role casts a magic effect on the reader. He works wonders like Fate according to his own will. He seems more cunning than devil himself; wearing the thick mask of honesty, he cuts the ground from under the feet of the simpletons. His planning is just like the movement of the puppet master who makes others obey his beck and call without an iota of doubt. His so called honesty is like the darkness of Evil. Cassio’s role makes the play more playful and magnetic.Hibraverycumsimplicity,his attraction of personality and Desdemona’s sympathy for him create doubts that something will happen recently. Two momentous events thicken the interest of the play. In the beginning ,clouds of war make the atmosphere very very alluring. All senses become alert to know something or the other about the imminent war. The arrival of the messengers with one’s toes after the other’s heel make the reader as well as the audience spell bound to await the coming bloody- field. Along with others, Desdemona herself wishes to visit the bloody fields to confirm Othello’s bravery and skillfulness.Then instead of war, storm is involved to draw the senses to another natural phenomenon that is most captivating for those who are on the secure shores. The storm destoys the Turkish fleet, shatters their might ,even crumbles the very skeleton. Now we describe some other causes of interest in the play.Othello is lost for some moments and interest is strengthened; it is diverted from one spectacle to another. The whole play presents stormy situation. In the beginning, Desdemona’s elopement is an emotional storm for her aged father, Brabantio, the sudden information of the advancement of Turkish fleet is the political storm for the State ; misunderstanding between Othello and Desdemona is the domestic storm; then at last Desdemona’s muder is the criminal storm. Thus the playwright shuffles the situation from one storm to another. What else can attract man’s attention more than a sound storm. It is at the same time both success and failure on the part of the author, who has expertly handled these storms. But he has made the storm the centre of the reader’s thoughts not his artistic skill to make a piece of copper look like a golden one. The author uses the Herculean bow of exaggeration to shoot fickle arrows of imagination on all sides. Situation, character and language all are saturated with exaggeration. A humble obedient girl departs from her home all alone at midnight and goes across a stream to marry her lover. Her aged father, who himself had enjoyed love marriage, remained totally unaware like a tree from all of this emotional attachment between Desdemona and Othello. And it is not a duration of a short while but a long span of more than one year and the father could not even imagine such a self evident exposure. It seems merely the subjective approach flourishes on the banks of exaggeration. I.A.Richards says: “The two pillars upon which a theory of criticism must rest are an account of value and an account of communication.” On the very nightof the marriage,the news of war alarm the atmosphere. It shows the secret agencies of the kingdom are too poor. They had no notion before it that the mighty enemy had been planning for war against them. Even storms can be predicted, why the war cannot be? Unexpectedly the storm comes and the fleet is shattered. Again the author has made full use of his subjective authority because no ship or person of the Venetions has been traced out by the storm. It does not seem a natural storm but the Furies begot by the curses of the Venetians. The winds of exaggeration can be felt blowing on the coasts of Cypress. Then overnight the married love-palace is razed to the ground on the basis of a baseless doubt. Desdemona has spent no separate time with Cassio. Cassio visits the castle once or twice and that also during the day.He has been their confidential friend and companion for an long time. Othello is so childish that he cannot see the truth in Desdemona’s eyes, rather the blind minded commander finds Cassio’s kisses on her lips. A commander has no insight to understand her household affairs; how he can make his army fight for the state. He lacks intelligence to see behind the scene. This unexpected, sudden and somewhat irrational misunderstanding make the situation exaggerative. It seems the author ,not the conditions draw the rope to hang the characters. The handkerchief episode is just a welding or engrafting of some inferior shoot in a superior one. Othello exposes the importance of the handkerchief when it is lost; he must have done so at the moment of presenting it. This love- gift must not be a usual commonplace piece of cloth that may fall with a simple jerk of knees. And at that very moment true hearted Emilia picks it up and takes it to her wicked husband even with the belief that he may use it in some devilish activity. And she does not tell about it to Desdemona even when Othello demands its very furiously in her presence . This scene could become convincing if Desdemona had not been there. But when she is present and a skirmish occurs between her beloved couple and she is also loyal, she must have exposed the secret of the lost handkerchief . Thus the situation becomes unconvincing rather, exaggerative. And exaggeration is oppression for the rational minds. Roderigo has been is love with Desdemona for a long time. Her father Brabantio knows the fact. He cherishes her glance, spends money, time and energy for her. But Desdemona is absolutely unaware of Roderigo’s condition . Though Desdemona doesn’t love him yet his presence could be in her awareness. But the author has kept her in complete isolation that is to a large extent unconvincing is a locality where the same wind visits all corners. Othello, the commander in chief, watches Cassio and Bianca from a distance. But he has no suspicion of the illegal relations between the two.Then he falls down unconscious and Cassio comes their abruptly and Iago tells him that Othello suffers from epilepsy.Both Cassio and Iago have spent almost the equal duration with Othello. It can be asserted that Cassio has been closer to him than Iago is who has got his comfidence only a while ago. The ridiculous situation is that Iago knows this secret that is a lie but Cassio doesn’t. And Cassio, a brave man, runs away from the situation when when his loyalty demanded. In the end Othello doesn’t prove to be an obedient commander in chief but a brazen faced self-conceited man occupied not by wisdom but by blind vigour to commit suicide after the murder of a marvelous lady. Thus the play is mot masterpiece of art but of exaggeration. The language of the play also creates a negative impression. Discursive , unnecessary, long dialogues made the language cumbersom and to some extent oppressive. The reader wishes to know what happens next but the playwright stops him to listen to some flowery expressions to make the reader realize the mastery of the artist. Desemona’s passionate condition where Othello did beguile her to tears and she gave him a world of sighs must have made Brabantio aware of her heart. Brabantio, a senior courtier, also seems to be totally unware of the imminent war and he hasn’t told Desdemona anything about it. This non-awareness of war among the characters is far from convincing. He openly disobeys the orders brought by Lodvico and doesn’t make Cassio the commander in chief as are the orders.Rather he rebels against the state and acts upon the plan of murdering Cassio. It proves he hasn’t the forbearance of a good soldier. About all such matters, Lodvico remarks: I am sorry that I am deceived in him (Act iv,sc-i) The play fails to prove Othello’s bravery except that he murders an innocent and delicate lady, Desdemona: Othello: Sweet soul take heed take heed of perjury Thou art on thy death- bed. He expresses his foolishness in these words: My wife my wife, my wife I ha’ no wife (Act iv,sc-ii) Towards the end of the play,disliking against Othello goes on increasing among the characters and the reader, as Emilia utters: O, the more angel she was, And you the blacker devil! She further abuses this mighty being: O gull , O dolt As ignorant as dirt ; thou hast done a deed (Act v Sc-ii) He himself shatters his rationality when he declares about the sexual intercourse between Desdemona and Cassio: A thousand times committed; Cassio confessed it While it is only the exaggeration of his poor fantasy. He is further deprecated when just before his suicide he expresses his prejudice against other nations of the world: like the base Indian I took the circumcised Dog And smote him thus. Othello plays as a jealous lover while Roderigo plays as a foolish lover. The first murders Desdemona while the second is murdered for her. Othello’s might and bravery act lower than his status while Roderigo’s weakness and foolishness act higher than his position. Both of them have one target_ Cassio, but both of them are blinded by Iago. The impartial analysis of the play leads us to the conclusion that though it is one of the four major tragedies by Shapkespeare, yet it has some logical, technical and psychological defeacts. The overall impact and popualarity of the play are impressive enough to cover these drawbacks. References Ralph.P.Boas and Edwin Smith Enjoyment of Literature Harcourt, Brace and company NewYork Chicage I.A.Richards Principles of Literary Criticism Routledge and Kegan Paul LTD Broadway House; 68-74 Carter Lane H.Coombes Literatrure and Criticism Penguin Books (1966)


Othello on R4

Hi, just a quick heads up for UK members. Lenny Henry's Othello is being broadcast this afternoon on R4, 2.30. It's got a good write-up for both Lenny, and the actor playing Iago. "Every Iago is a scheming, villainous traitor, but this guy means it. Very real, very scary." Great stuff. I'm off to listen.....:)


Othello: A White Man's Role?

Look through Othello's performance history, the character Othello wasn't played by a black man until 1826, when Ira Aldrige stepped up to the plate. The French critic Théophile Gautier praised his acting, saying: " had that nonchalance, that Oriental attitude, that desinvolture of a Negro that no European is able to imitate He produced an immense effect and received interminable applause." But The Times thought it was mediocre: " such an exhibition is well enough at Sadler’s Wells, or at Bartholomew Fair, but it certainly is not very creditable to a great national establishment." When Paul Robeson came to play the role in the early 1930s, he talked at length about Othello being a black man's role: "Shakespeare meant Othello to be a Black Moor from Africa, an African of the highest nobility of heritage. From Kean on, Othello was made a light-skinned Moor because the West had since made Africa a slave center and the African was pictured only as a slave." Of course, Robeson and Aldrige were not the only black Othellos; there was Salvini and, more recently, Laurence Fishburne (in Parker's film Othello), among countless others. But given all of this, what do you think of the following? "I am not sure Othello’s part should be portrayed by a black actor at all, and it should not be seen as the pinnacle of a black actor’s career, as it so often is Shakespeare’s tragedy is not about Africanness, but the white man’s idea of Africanness." Virginia Vaughan, in Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500-1800


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