Critical Analysis of The Tragedy Of Othello - Smart English Notes (2024)

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Shakespeare possibly wrote The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice in 1603 or 1604, as we know it was first performed on November 1, 1604, at court. Othello, a classic tale of love, jealousy and deceit, is considered one of the greatest dramas of Shakespeare. It tells the tale of Othello, a general from Moorish (North Africa) who marries a Venetian lady and then is cruelly fooled into thinking that his wife is unfaithful.

The plot itself was drawn from a novella written in 1565 by the Italian writer Giraldi Cinthio. This should not be called plagiarism; it was usual for playwrights in Shakespeare’s day to borrow themes and plots from other plays and then adapt them for the stage.

Moreover, although Shakespeare ‘s plot was not original, his talent for dialogue, characterization, and romantic language and phrasing made the tale into something uniquely his own.

The stage directions in the Tragedy of Othello are realistic. The drama is based on the three characters namely Othello, Iago, and Desdemona. However, the directions are based on the modest approach to a drama that is located in two diverse worlds known as the Venice and Cyprus.

Given that the play had no subplot, the play directions tend to budge in terms of place, time, and action once the theme is shifted to Cyprus. The stage directions are the realistic forms of domestic tragedy. However, it does not require supernatural instructions to hook the audience.

The language used to give directions to the audience is natural and restrained. The dialogue reflects the reality of a society that is under pressure from the usual hassles of life. The dialogue simply involves a husband, wife, and a scoundrel. This is a short critical analysis examining the play from multiple perspectives. That is, how I experience it as a silent reader and as a text for public performance.

Critical Analysis of Othello

The drama is ahead of its time. The play presents the audience with a tragic hero of colour. The dialogue sounds natural and does not involve the provocation of laughter in the audience. The imagination of the audience is captured by the fact that the drama involves interracial marriage that was unfathomable in those days.

Typically, this would be the reaction of a husband convinced that the wife has been cheating on him. Such incidents have been happening in society. Thus, this appears as the main theme of incompatibility in the armed forces of heroism and love in the drama. That s, it involves the risk of isolation. The killing of Desdemona is evidence of the frustration that Othello is going through after being cheated and convinced by Iago to trust that his wife was cheating on him.

Iago cannot convince the audience in whatever he says given that the audiences have insight into his character though it is not evident to the actors. He pretends to be morally upright so that his intention of ensuring the downfall of Othello is well covered. By planting the handkerchief in Casio’s house, it is an indication of a conspiracy between him and the wife (Lankey 6).

The stage businesses are illustrations of what takes place in real life. The visual plainness displayed on the stage according to the stage directions focuses directly on the actors and a fascinating account of retaliation, gullibility, and jealousy. The catastrophic downfall of the noble warrior is a common phenomenon in many societies plagued by jealousy and vengeance. Iago at times hilariously expresses his intentions for the murderous abhorrence of Othello.

By acting as a director and producer in charge of staging the tragedy of the Othello, I would ensure the actors bring out the rhetoric of the drama. However, before the action of the drama, Brabantion had been kind to the Moor (Horman 112). He allowed Othello and his daughter to discuss more about him since he was mesmerized by his slave stories. Upon the revelation that the Desdemona had eloped with Othello, his feeling altered abruptly.

He started wondering where he would find and arrest him. However, the rhetoric does not come out clearly even when he is called a thief in the street. Instead, Othello is accused of abusing Desdemona. In deep rhetoric, Brabantio states that his house is not a grange. This meant that he does not keep horses. In fact, this is founded on the fact that the daughter had eloped with a man of colour. I would insist that the actors should bring out the rhetoric clearly to sensitize the audience about racism.
Numerous elements would probably catch my attention as a critic of the play.

The geographical symbolism represented by the two locations of the play would be important. For instance, Venice is represented by Lago while Cyprus represented by Desdemona. Othello represents the third location called Turks.

This emerged upon considering that the location was only mentioned as a war zone with the other two characters. Venice was at the time of writing the play one of the most influential and cosmopolitan European cities. Indeed, it is symbolic of the white Christian European morals.

The Senate and the Duke ran the city. These were symbols of power and order. On the contrary, Cyprus is very unpredictable and natural. It was isolated from the colonial government. Besides, it is an armed forces premeditated target for both Turks and Venetians. The island is very symbolic of Desdemona. There is a struggle to dominate her between Othello and Iago.

Setting: Venice, Cyprus, and the Ottoman Empire

Othello ‘s setting must have appeared very exotic to Shakespeare’s London audience. The play’s first act is set in Venice, a city-state in northern Italy, and the next four acts in Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Today, Venice is a part of modern Italy, but in the 1500s it was a powerful maritime empire ruled by a duke, or doge, and a council of nobles. Seated in a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea, Venice was a large trade port with control over Mediterranean strategic points such as the Crete and Cyprus islands.

The key rivals of the Venetians were the Turks, or Ottomans, who ruled a large empire extending from the eastern Persian Gulf to the western part of Hungary, including Greece and Egypt. The Ottoman Empire and Venice had been in continuous conflict. The target was, of course, power and property, but religion also entered the equation. The Venetians were Christians, and the Muslims were Turks. The Turks were the despised enemy to Venice, and indeed to the England of Shakespeare, whom Christians fought during the crusades. A major theme that runs throughout Othello is this conflict between Christian and Muslim, European and foreign, “civilized” and “barbaric”

I the play, Othello is sent to Cyprus, to fend off the island’s Turkish invasion. This incident is probably inspired by a real battle which occurred in 1571. The Turks have, however, been successful in capturing Cyprus in real life, although they are being held off by a storm in the story. Even though it has a small part in the plot, the battle at sea serves an important role, as it provides a backdrop and mirror for the smaller Iago-Othello conflict brewing. The play asks us to examine which man is the true enemy of civilization, the Christian European Iago or the Muslim-born, ““barbarian”” foreigner Othello. There is no record of Shakespeare travelling to Venice so he probably relied on books to help him construct a clear image of Venetian life. One source he almost certainly used was the Government of the Commonwealth of Venice (De magistratibus et Republica Venetorum), written by Italian author Gasparo Contarini in 1543, and
Translated into English in 1599 by Lewis Lewkenor.

The Moors and Race in Othello

The Moors were a Muslim people living on the African northern coast, an area called Barbary by the Europeans. These people had a mixed heritage: they originated from the Berbers (an indigenous Caucasian people).
North Africa) and the eastern-born Arabs. The Moors conquered Spain in the eighth century and brought it under Islamic rule, taking their immense knowledge of literature, architecture, medicine to Western Europe; And technology, much of which they had learned from ancient Greeks and Arabs. For several centuries the Moors ruled over different parts of Spain. Moorish architecture and art can be seen throughout Spain today, particularly in the towns of Toledo, Cordoba and, and Seville.

Therefore, when Shakespeare wrote about “The Moor of Venice,” he envisioned a well-educated and uplifted North African man in the Muslim faith (although baptized Christian as an adult). However, it is unclear whether Shakespeare meant that we saw Othello in appearance as a black man or as one more Arab. Compared to Europeans, the Moors of Barbary were dark-skinned people but not black. However, the word Moor was also commonly used in Shakespeare’s day, to refer to any person with dark or black eyes, including black Africans. In the play, some references seem to describe Othello as a black African. But no matter what the exact colour of his face, the crucial point is that Othello was a stranger in Venice, an alien character who, though being respected and appreciated for his military prowess, aroused frequently intrigue, distrust and even hate.

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The members of Shakespeare’s audience probably shared these same sentiments toward Africans. Africans were strange and foreign enemies of Christianity to the English of Shakespeare’s time, given to heathen practices such as witchcraft and voodoo. This was usually depicted as heroes in the literature of the time. The Africans who have come to England have been looked at with distrust and animosity. Queen Elizabeth, I issued an edict against these unfortunate foreigners in 1596, reading as follows: “Her Majesty understands that several blackamoors have recently been brought into this realm, of which there are already too many people here. Hence, Her Majesty’s pleasure is that these men should be removed from the country. “Considering this environment, it is very shocking that Shakespeare would have written a play in which the hero was an African and a rather noble character.

The Time Scheme of Othello

As many critics have noted, Othello ‘s time scheme is rather confusing. The events seem to take place in just a few days, but there are references throughout the play which suggest that much more time has passed. Shakespeare may have been divided between two objectives: in the one side, by making the events take place in a brief time period, raising the dramatic suspense, while on the other, requiring ample time to pass such that the storyline can be plausible. Shakespeare was possibly following the pattern of the Greek dramatist Aristotle in using a brief time span, who urged playwrights to keep the action of a tragedy “within one revolution of the sun.” Shakespeare probably realized that his story couldn’t take place in such a short time, but was trying to limit the time span as much as possible.

Unless the actions really took place in either two to three days, Desdemona would not have had enough time to be unfaithful and the result of the play would have been unbelievable. Thus, Shakespeare creates the illusion that more time has passed, even as the group has been in Cyprus only for two days when we examine the scenes.
Decide, as you read, if the “double time scheme” of Shakespeare is successful, or whether it can be called fault in the play.

Characters in Othello

Shakespeare was actually moulding Iago, the villain in Othello, after the character of Vice in the medieval morality plays. Vice was a vile stock character who made known his intent
. Vice was a villainous stock character, who kept the viewer conscious of his purpose by asides and soliloquies. The role of Sin in playing morality has been to encourage the protagonist to do something that will cause his own damnation. He did only that for his own pleasure and no other reason. As you read, it’s up to you to decide whether Iago, like Vice, is doing evil for his own gratification or whether he has a real reason to want revenge.

Critical Analysis of The Tragedy Of Othello - Smart English Notes (2024)


What is the critical analysis of the play Othello? ›

Othello Analysis. The themes of Othello include jealousy, deception, and passion. Iago, the remorseless villain, is really the main character of the play. His machinations and evil intentions drive the plot, turning a happy marriage and bloodless military victory into a murderous tragedy.

What is the analysis of Othello as a tragedy? ›

Othello is also a domestic tragedy: the tragedy of marriage. Othello and Desdemona have a passionate love which could be seen as a threat to the rules established by patriarchal order: their intense, emotionally charged and equal marriage challenges ideas about class, race and the conformity of women.

What are the major themes of Othello by William Shakespeare critical essay? ›

Some of the major themes in this play include racial prejudice, manipulation, and jealousy. Specifically, Othello is regarded as a beast by other characters because he is black. Iago is jealous of Cassio because Othello promotes him to a higher military position.

What is the tragedy of Othello short summary? ›

Iago is furious about being overlooked for promotion and plots to take revenge against his General: Othello, the Moor of Venice. Iago manipulates Othello into believing his wife Desdemona is unfaithful, stirring Othello's jealousy. Othello allows jealousy to consume him, murders Desdemona, and then kills himself.

What do critics say about Othello's summary? ›

Other critics suggest that Othello simply affirms a morality that is consistent with Christianity; it presents a positive view of love and faith, shows us that vengeance is wicked, pride dangerous and frowns on the malice and destructiveness of jealousy and malice.

What is a critical analysis of Desdemona in Othello? ›

Desdemona's commitment to Othello is unwavering, even when he becomes abusive towards her. Shakespeare shows how she takes the role of dutiful wife seriously. While her devotion may present an idealised version of unending love, Shakespeare also uses it to demonstrate the entrapment of women in marriage.

What is the main moral of Othello? ›

“Othello” is a cautionary tale. It prompts us to check our reflexive feelings and to befairer and more generous toward those whom we might dismiss or pigeonhole. It also encourages us to be more forgiving of others' trespasses.

What are the main points of Othello? ›

The plot summary of Othello depicts the noble Moor secretly marrying Desdemona, angering her father Iago. Manipulating Othello with lies, Iago convinces him of Desdemona's infidelity with Cassio. Consumed by jealousy, Othello strangles Desdemona. Emilia exposes Iago's treachery, leading to his arrest.

What is Othello's tragic flaw? ›

What is Othello's flaw as a tragic hero? Othello's fatal flaw is that he is susceptible to jealousy. When he hears the lie that his wife Desdemona has been cheating on him, it makes him so jealous that he kills her. When he finds out it wasn't true, he kills himself, making him the tragic hero.

What does the handkerchief symbolize in Othello? ›

Othello goes on to tell Desdemona that his mother had given it to him on her deathbed, wanting him to give it to his future wife. In this scene, the handkerchief is given symbolic significance as it represents fidelity and Othello's promise to be true to Desdemona, asking that she do the same in return.

Why did Iago hate Othello? ›

Firstly, he is angry at Othello for choosing Cassio over him. He believes that he is the better soldier and is more deserving of the position. Secondly, he believes that Othello is conceited and chose Cassio to slight him.

What makes Othello a tragedy of jealousy? ›

What does "Othello" convey about the theme of jealousy? "Othello" conveys that jealousy is a dangerous emotion. Iago's jealousy drives him to ruin Othello's life and ultimately destroys his own life as well. Othello's failure to resist jealousy results in him murdering his wife.

What is the critical analysis of jealousy in Othello? ›

What does "Othello" convey about the theme of jealousy? "Othello" conveys that jealousy is a dangerous emotion. Iago's jealousy drives him to ruin Othello's life and ultimately destroys his own life as well. Othello's failure to resist jealousy results in him murdering his wife.

What is the main idea of the play Othello? ›

Othello: overview
Overview: Othello
Author of OthelloWilliam Shakespeare
AnalysisA cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked jealousy and the destructive power of manipulation. People must be careful not to believe everything they hear, and to question the motives of those who seek to deceive and manipulate.
8 more rows

What is the message of the play Othello? ›

Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Roderigo, Cassio, Emilia, and Brabantio. A cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked jealousy and the destructive power of manipulation. People must be careful not to believe everything they hear, and to question the motives of those who seek to deceive and manipulate.

What is a famous criticism of Othello? ›

Othello has been a major focus of race critics as it is one of only two of Shakespeare's plays to feature a nonwhite character. We just saw how feminist critics might focus on objectifying descriptions of Desdemona's beauty in Othello's soliloquy.

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