Othello Essays

Racism and racial prejudice in othello.

In the book, Othello, by William Shakespeare, we see a big impact of racism and racial prejudice. Othello shows a lot of this and how it gets in the way by restraining love in society. He is a black man who is also a great and successful war soldier. He dedicates himself to serve society’s goals by fighting for his country. Even though, Othello is a Moor, he is the most hardworking and the most respected. When it comes to […]

Theme of Jealousy in Iago, Roderigo, and Othello’s Characters

Shakespeare explores the theme of jealousy in Othello through Iago,Roderigo, and Othello. Iago starts off the jealousy theme in Othello when he gets jealous of Cassio. Othello puts Cassio as his 2nd in command while he signed Iago to be his ensign which means third in command. Iago then goes crazy and starts plotting to ruin Othello’s marriage and get Cassio fired. He then starts putting words in Othello’s head and starts to make him question everything. “O, beware, my […]

Literary Devices Used Othello

In Othello by William Shakespeare, Othello considers and thinks about all his actions before going through with them. By analyzing his soliloquies, we can understand his thoughts, and his reasons behind his actions. In act 5 scene 2 the first soliloquy Othello contemplated him killing his wife. This monologue gives you an inside scoop of Othello’s thinking process because he doesn’t want to kill his wife but feels as if he needs to. Othello makes choices that he might not […]

Role and Character of Iago in Othello

In Othello by William Shakespeare, Iago a power hungry ancient drives the plot through his cruel and manipulative ways. In the play Othello and Desdemona are happily married, Othello gives Cassio a promotion to lieutenant, he chooses Cassio over Iago and gives Iago a more trusted and honorable job. Through manipulation Iago is able to bring the downfall of every character he pleases. Iago uses subtle cruelty to manipulate other characters into doing heinous acts which may of otherwise seemed […]

Deaths of Characters in Othello

How many people die on Othello? Knowing Shakespeare, he kills off a majority of his characters. In Othello alone, eighty-five point seven percent of the roles die in the end. Whether killed by a sword or strangled out of jealousy, there were no justified reasonings for the deaths. Emilia, Desdemona, and Othello all fall blind to the truth and die because of it. Desdemona, one of Shakespeare’s more naive and innocent character, was killed by her own husband in the […]

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Iago and his Betrayal in Othello

Betrayal can be seen and done for many reasons, but often there is no real reason why someone would betray another human being. This is the case in Shakespeare’s Othello, where one of Othello’s most trusted men, Iago betrayed him after being filled with rage and jealousy of not receiving the recognition he solely thought he deserved. Iago becomes both Othello’s friend and worst enemy throughout the whole play in order to destroy him and his reputation while ensuring the […]

Reasons of Othello’s Tragedy

Othello’s tragedy is a product of not just Iago, but himself. Though Iago may appear to be the primary cause of Othello’s downfall, based on how manipulative, evil, and deceptive Iago was throughout the story. It can also be said, after having read the story, Othello’s own insecurities were the product of his own self demise. A combination of putting trust into Iago due to male pride, his lack of confidence of Desdemona and the perception of infidelity and racial […]

Othello as an Ideal Representation of the Tragic Hero

William Shakespeare’s Othello is a clear representation of the downfall of a tragic hero. Set in Venice and Cyprus during the 16th century, Othello, a moor, deals with the manipulative actions of a general of the Venetian army, Iago. Due to losing his desired position of being Othello’s lieutenant to another solider Cassio, he plots is revenge in deviousness. Othello becomes persuaded by Iago ‘s rumors, framing, and miscommunications, causing him to kill Desdemona, his believed unfaithful wife. In realization […]

Iago’s Jealousy in Othello

William Shakespeare is prolific for his plays of love, revenge, deceit and jealousy. Among his most celebrated plays is the tragedy Othello, in which the themes of jealousy and deceit play a central role. In Othello, one of his most recognized tragedies was revolving around the central theme of jealousy and deceit. The themes of jealousy and deceit go with love. Love consumes all those who take part in it and in Othello’s case, his love for Desdemona has blinded […]

Transformation of Othello in the Play

Othello Essay From a man with a admiring and worthy nature, Othello is transformed into a frenzied, blathering, and illogical monster. Othello believes and asserts himself to be a man who “loved too much, but who wasn’t wise about it. I was not easily made jealous, but once I was tricked and manipulated, I worked myself into a frenzy.”(5.2.305-306). This quote aids the claim that jealousy is a major theme in the play Othello and it’s what motivates Othello to […]

Iago: the Main Antagonist

In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, the main antagonist Iago guides the audience through his path of deception to justify his revenge towards Othello. As a result of Iago being humiliated and disenfranchised by Othello, he takes from Othello what he values most; the security he feels in Desdemona’s untainted love and commitment. Iago justifies his action though: his jealously of Cassio being appointed as lieutenant instead of him, the misconception he has that Othello had sex with his […]

Characters in the Play Othello

The play Othello written by Shakespeare in the 1600s takes place in Venice, and Cyprus an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Shakespeare’s tale focuses on love, jealousy, and betrayal. Main characters being; Iago, Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Bianca, and others. While some of these main characters go through some minor and big changes throughout the play. The character Othello undergoes many changes from start to finish, although some of the other characters in this play have a part in the way […]

Shakespeare: Obedience and Powerless in Women

In Hamlet and Othello, Shakespeare criticizes the feminine issues that were present in his time, bringing awareness to the standard roles and ideal expectations of women by characterizing them in a space of being obedient and powerless. As women are portrayed as having ideal feminine values such as chastity and passiveness, the frailty of women is also brought to the surface. On the other hand, Shakespeare also seems to be suggesting that internal destruction is generated in the sense that […]

Othello: the most Extraordinary Shakespeare’s Character

The play Othello by William Shakespeare was written in 1604 during the Elizabeth era. Othello is one of the most extraordinary characters in all of Shakespeare’s dramas. In the beginning of the play we see Othello as a strong character. His stature, tall, dark, African Moor, combined with his personal charisma. A brave soldier from Africa and currently supreme commander of the Venetian Army. In times when Africans and other minorities settled in Europe raise their protest over the constant […]

Othello and his Actions in the Play

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello’s actions can be considered weak as Iago has twisted his mind into believing that his wife is being unfaithful. Iago manipulated Othello into believing that his wife was having an affair with his friend and lieutenant, Cassio. Othello’s love for Desdemona was very strong and became what appears to be his only weakness and vulnerability. Shakespeare’s presentation of Othello has the readers reacting more sympathetically towards the end more than they otherwise might. Othello’s actions contributed […]

My Attitude to Othello and Iago

Iago the antagonist within Othello written by William Shakespeare. I am so engaged with Iago because I want to secretly be like him. To get away with all the destruction he exerts. I get bored of the good guys always succeeding. He embodies both attraction and repulsion. The character of dramatic irony gropes us into his story and makes me agree that the most effective villain is one that both attracts and repels, which is why a villain is a […]

A True Reason of Othello Demise

The novel Othello is about a General man named Othello and his wife Desdemona, just trying to be a normal couple, but problems occur when Iago starts to stir things up and starts to put lies in Othello’s head. Iago starts to stir things up because Iago wanted to get the rank as lieutenant but Othello thought Cassio deserved it more and gave it to him so Iago wants revenge and wants to mess up Othello’s relationship with Desdemona. Iago […]

Was Iago a Real Villain?

The Considering Iago as a “Villain” in  the play Othello, the character Iago plays a main role in the destruction of Othello and all of those around him. People could say that Iago’s actions are simply a scheming liar and that he is a purely evil character. Others say Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him both a powerful and a compelling figure that represent some greater force. We find soon in […]

Othello as an Aristotelean Tragedy

Legendary playmakers, such as Aristotle and Sophocles, held an influential position in the history of theatrical performances. In creating works like Oedipus the King, such experts seemingly knew how to intertwine human emotion with the actions of the narrative. This prowess eventually adopted by other artists led to the creation of some of the greatest plays in history. Interestingly, most of these plays entailed a protagonist, covered in splendor and valor throughout the play. The lead character often gained high […]

Description of Othello’s Character

Othello is the main character in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. He is a well-respected African general in the Venice army and is happily married to Desdemona, a white woman. Othello being African already makes him an outsider and highlights racism in Venice. Throughout this play, there are slurs that have been used to describe Othello, “Moor, is an example of one. Even though Shakespeare did not make race the main theme in the play it is a huge […]

Power and Control in Othello

In modern society, there are instances where one person has power over another. It is found in professions, school, and everyday life. What is meant by control is having some sort of influence in the way you act, make money, or are seen by others. This in no way means that someone completely owns another person. Power and control of others can be found by lying to others for benefits, men taking a higher role than women, and higher-ranked people […]

A Short Review of the Othello Play

In Act 1 of Othello, we are introduced to Iago and Roderigo. Iago is upset because Othello gave Cassio the position Iago wanted. Iago felt Cassio was not qualified for the position because he had never been in actual situations unlike Iago. The true colors of Iago are shown because this is the first time the audience has been exposed to the deceitful side of Iago. He talks about only following Othello just so he can turn his back on […]

Importance of Literary Devices in Othello

This passage highlights Iago’s character through the use of diction, imagery, irony, and other instances of figurative language. In this exchange, Iago continues to inconspicuously accuse Desdemona of being unfaithful to Othello and accuse Cassio of being disloyal to his superiors. He inserts various remarks at different times to execute this plan. At the end of this echange, Iago has effectively created an unfaithful and untruthful image of Cassio and Desdemona, and planted a seed of jealousy and doubt in […]

Lies, Revenge and Betrayal in Othello

Lies are extremely common in our society today, with millions of people masking their true intentions. In Shakespeare’s play titled Othello, one of the characters, Iago, is no different and in fact the same as those deceptive individuals in society. Behind his act as a trustworthy friend, Iago is a manipulative and deceptive character creating disorder and causing many mishaps to occur. Iago uses many acts of manipulation to undermine every single character’s weaknesses to get exactly what he wants, […]

Prominent Theme in Shakespeare’s Othello

Within the play “Othello, written by William Shakespeare, the main and prominent theme of the play concerns with Othello’s primary flaw, his jealousy. Thus, it is evident within the play the term “The Green-Eyed Monster whom Iago refers as jealousy suggests why The role of jealousy within Othello is focused from his delusional jealousy described as “Othello Syndrome, how his jealousy can resonate with readers and the connection with real-life marriages. Our writers can help you with any type of […]

With Love, Violence and Vengeance

Through the twisted minds of human nature, love is shown through acts of violence and vengeance committed by mankind. William Shakespeare’s, Othello and Homer’s The Odyssey violence and vengeance are portrayed through jealousy, prejudice, justice, and honor. Their roles are woven throughout these books to portray the idea that love is a violent concept. Violence and vengeance can be found in several ways. It can be expressed physically, verbally, and mentally. Othello shows how envy and jealousy can overpower and […]

Sexism in Shakespeare’s Play Othello

“In the book, Othello written by Shakespeare, there is a main theme of sexism present throughout the book, Although the book was written in the 1600s, and there have been great decreases in sexism around the world, many of these ideas and scenarios are still present to this day. Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. Sexism has been present for centuries, in many different forms, such as wage gaps, gender […]

Imbalance of Power between Men and Women

Social imbalance can be termed as the presence of inequality opportunities as well as rewards for different gender statuses and social function within the society. The act of imbalance can be attributed to various important dimensions that involve cultures, employment opportunities as well as earnings. Furthermore, an aspect of inequality much revolves around power which is primarily discussed in this paper. The power imbalance between men and women in areas such as religion not only occur in western and British […]

Insanity Within the Plays of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare in his many plays and other pieces of literature created some of the most well thought out characters of all time. The characters often had reasons for what they did or what they thought, shedding new light on what it meant to actually be “insane”. The characters’ motives were often shown during his stories, Because of that, Shakespeare, through his use of literature and understanding of the human mind, shaped western culture’s perception of insanity from negative feelings […]

Racism in Othello

Throughout history, men have the tendency to seek power. They may initially intend on pursuing the greater good, but eventually, pride rules out. And according to Cornelius Tacitus, senator of the Roman Empire, “the lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion” (Tacitus). This desire that is stained within our human nature gradually instigates tension between individuals and is largely influenced by race. Therefore, while those who triumph usually become centered, those without, get […]

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Additional example essays.

Written over four centuries ago, Othello is a true masterpiece of William Shakespeare. But what is the tragedy of Othello’s success due to ultimately? Critics and bookworms believe this play hasn’t lost in value because of the timeless themes, relationships, and underlying messages it sends.

Since the book abounds with ideas and dilemmas that resonate across eras and cultures, argumentative essays about Othello are a common assignment. High school and college professors will share the instructions about the literary analysis you’re about to write, but everything else is up to you. Undoubtedly, writing thesis statements is the most critical part of your work.

So how do you conceptualize a research paper on Othello? If the writing prompts contain a specific topic or character to discuss, you will start exploring the issue and working on the outline. You will grasp the subject in the introduction and elaborate on it in several body paragraphs. Finally, the conclusion should be an overview of your work and provide answers and ground for further research.

In other cases, you may have to pick the subject matter yourself. The most compelling Othello essay topics you can focus on include the unconditional love of Desdemona and Iago as the epitomization of jealousy and betrayal. You can also discuss Othello, who has always symbolized wrath and racial injustice, and how the play conveys universal truths relevant to modern society.

If all these tips seem overwhelming, don’t lose hope. Not everyone has the proper skills and knowledge to compose high-quality papers. PapersOwl is a first-class writing assistant that can help you draft the perfect literary pieces, regardless of complexity, length, and deadline. Moreover, the site offers free essay examples on Othello to consult and draw inspiration from when writing.

Essay About Othello

The central topics that are discussed throughout the tragedy are gender and race, to which Othello exposes limitations and changes of perception during the play. Othello and Desdemona also anticipate utopian values that lead to issues in character relationships that lead to tragic consequences. Throughout this essay I am going to analyze the importance and effects of gender and race in the Early Modern period and finally come to a conclusion if the dominant ideologies are subverted or are they firmly re-established.

Othello´s perception of race in Early Modern times was gradually changing. Being born as a North-African moor and not having previously experienced any racial inferiority, makes it accurate for him to state, “My parts, my title and my perfect soul, / Shall manifest me rightly” (I.ii.31-32). However, due to Iago´s successfully played mind games, that are manifested in order to achieve revenge on him. In addition, Iago believes that men are more significant than women, even more, when it comes to their reliability. He uses it as a weapon against Othello, knowing that if he can make Othello doubt Desdemona´s faithfulness, he is going to win his trust over hers. Othello quite easily becomes influenced by Iago and announces, ¨And yet how nature, erring from itself¨ (III.iii.233). As Iago continues to use his manipulative skills, Othello gets to a point where he doesn´t question his reliability and becomes convinced that Desdemona was unfaithful. Also, Brabantio says to Othello, ¨Run from her garage to the sooty bosom, / Of such a thing as though-to fear, not to delight¨ (I.ii.73-74), leading also other characters to start to judge him for his possible actions, because of his racial inequality. Therefore, Othello begins to feel inferior and identifies himself as someone who is a part of the minority.

However, race inevitably goes hand in hand with gender ideologies. The Early Modern period was a men dominated society, that forbid women to express themselves nor their words were conceivable. It is evident that the majority of men characters consider women as naturally treacherous, as Iago claims, ¨If she be fair and wise, faimess and wit, / The one´s for use, the other useth it¨ (II.i.135). In the tragedy, there are numerous discourses that display men ownership of women. For instance, when Desdemona reveals to her father that she is in love with Othello, Brabantio perceives it as a theft, ‘O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow’d my daughter¨ (I.ii.62).

Being said that, regards Ryan´s statement it would make us agree that Desdemona desires to oppose and fight for the equality by being direct and sincere when she speaks her mind. Since she is genuine and fair, she finds Othello very attractive as he has the power, but at the same time as someone who might be lacking love and understanding from others, which she desires to nourish him with. Nevertheless, Desdemona turns her back to the society and knowing that it will disapprove her marriage, she gets married in secret. Othello from other hand desires loyalty and honesty at its highest and therefore expects this quality to be met in others as he claims, ¨Certain, men should be what they seem¨ (III.iii.134), which makes him to believe Iago´s filthy lies and leads him to disrespect her wife, ¨Was this fair paper, this most goodly book, Made to write ‘whore upon’?¨ (4.2. ll. 70-71). Othello, from another hand, should look at events with a more critical point of view and not so utopian, since he lacks rational thinking when it would be most needed.

Finally, the main ideas and values of the play are mainly subverted as Othello kills himself and his misguided believe makes him justified to kill Desdemona. Within their death also the ideas are not passed forward or couldn´t be re-established, mostly because after Othello kills Desdemona he pleases Gratiano to understand him and see him as someone who loved too much but just wasn´t wise enough, Gratiano responds to it with, ¨All that is spoke is marred¨ (V.ii.374), showing disinterest. As Jonathan Dollimore has said, dissidence may provoke brutal repression, and that shows not that it was all ruse of power to consolidate itself, but that ¨the challenge really was unsettling¨ (Fautlines, Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading, Alan Sinfield, Clarendon press, Oxford).

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Othello Sample Essay

othello h1 essay

This sample essay shows how to meet the assessment objectives at the highest level.

What intimations of tragedy have you found in Othello so far?

The presence of a Machiavellian villain in the false Iago, a hero in the ‘Noble Moor’, and a tragic setting, Christendom under siege, are the first intimations of tragedy in Othello. There are as well signs that the play is not a tragedy:  it flouts the Aristotle’s unity of time and the neo-classical ‘unity of place’ that is frequently attributed to Aristotle. There are even signs of comedy: an old man deceived by a sexually active daughter suggests the pantalon of the commedia dell’arte. The cuckold is an archetypal comic figure in Elizabethan drama and the idea that Othello may think  himself a comic and be none is a further comic development on male sexual anxiety. The play has been read by Michael Bristol as a charivari , not a tragedy at all, but a savage carnival in which the black man who dares transgress the marriage conventions of white society is mocked – and then beaten for his outrage.

The duplicity of Iago, hell-bent upon the destruction of his unwitting master, Othello, intimates tragedy. Shakespeare reveals heroic potential in Othello from the outset in the nobility of character which others comment on and in the words and action he utters himself. His potential for tragedy is evident in his obliviousness to the treachery of Iago, a man he insists on calling honest. He is not alone: Iago’s treachery glides through the play unobserved, revealed only in his private moments with Roderigo and his soliloquies to the audience. More than that, Shakespeare presents Othello as a hero is a man upon whom Shakespeare shows the fate of nations to depend. If Churchill was the only man who could save England from German National Socialism, then Othello seems the only man capable of shoring up Cyprus that far Christian outpost against the terrifying onslaught of Islamic aggression. If Othello falls, then Christian Europe may fall with it. Othello is that Aristotelian great man upon whom the fate of many hangs. His fall, bringing others down with him, will be tragic.

Shakespeare gives us the tragic villain in advance of the hero. He is a villain in Machiavellian style. Although Machiavelli’s treatise, Il Principe , did not appear in English until Edward Dacres’ 1636 translation, the ideas were part of the intellectual milieu of sixteenth century Europe. In essence, Machiavelli offers the princes of catholic Europe licence to waive the inhibiting precepts of their faith and pursue whatever moral course is necessary to keep power; the assumption being that political stability is of higher value than personal morality. The duplicity he recommends formed the subject of much debate and theatrical representation in the sixteenth century. Shakespeare has already offered us Machiavellian villains in Don John in Much Ado About Nothing and more especially Claudius in Hamlet : the fratricidal traitor to the King who disinherits the rightful prince and marries his brother’s queen, might, from a Machiavellian point of view have simply been attempting to secure the safety of Denmark from the threat of Norwegian invasion.

Machiavelli’s advice to Princes in Chapter XVIII offers a guide to the key notes of Iago’s character; “it is necessary to know well how to disguise  . . .  to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” Necessary ‘to disguise’ says Machiavelli; “trimmed in forms and visages of duty”, I i 50, says Iago. To ‘trim’ is to adorn, to decorate, as a milliner might decorate a hat. So Iago adjusts his appearance to disguise his true nature. Likewise he assumes the ‘visages’ the facial expressions of the dutiful servant. His boasting continues: he is one who throws out “shows of service”: a show is an appearance, a representation, a simulacrum, not the thing itself. He does all this for his “peculiar end”, his private purposes, private even against Roderigo.

Machiavelli goes on to state that “a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to fidelity,  friendship, humanity, and religion.” Iago flouts all those precepts: he is disloyal to the man he has fought with, unfriendly to the man who treats him as a friend and inhuman in his revenge. His hatred is boundless, disproportionate to any cause for vengeance and lies beyond the purview of his master. Machiavelli reiterates the instruction: “appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.” Iago evinces all those opposite qualities. Shakespeare presents him as the character who might be the hero: he is named Iago. The name recalls the contemporary patron saint of Spain: Iago Matamoros. The name, Kim Hall observes, means Iago the Moor-Slayer. (Hall uses the emotive, fairy-tale word, ‘slayer’ – a more literal, prosaic translation would give us ‘killer’.) He ought, by his name to be the European hero who slays the evil dragon that Othello would represent. Not only that but Shakespeare presents a man who appears honest and trustworthy. He proclaims a ‘conscience’, an internal sense of right and wrong, talking to Othello before the Sagitarry, I ii 2 which prohibits premeditated violence. He swears , or professes, friendship to Roderigo and a bond that is powerful, visible and tangible of ‘cables of perdurable toughness’ – yet all the while cynically takes his money in a courtship cause that is already lost. He is similarly cynical as he bemocks his own honesty in an aside to the audience, swearing by it even as he embarks on a dishonest act , “I’ll set down the pegs that make this music/As honest as I am”, ii I 195. The music metaphor has far-reaching implications: musical harmony is divine in its source. The ultimate harmony is the music of the spheres: the music of the planets in their divine and majestic progress around the earth, as it was believed at the time. If music is an image of divine order, then Iago’s threat is a diabolical threat of disorder.  And this is the man to whom Othello entrusts his wife, taking him at face value as a man ‘of honesty and trust’! (I iii 281)  Most clearly he flouts his religion, allying himself with the forces of Hell:

I have’t. It is engender’d. Hell and night Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.

                                                                    I iii 403-4

His plan is ‘engender’d’ the metaphor is of conception and birth. The forces of Hell and darkness then are the midwives to his diabolical treachery. Typical of Iago, he will have someone, something do this dirty work for him. The word, ‘monstrous’, suggests an unnatural birth that is as contrary to nature as hell is to heaven. In Oliver Parker’s film a horizontal camera shoots Kenneth Branagh’s face, as Iago, staring through the pieces of a chessboard with flames rising behind him. An image that suggests the flames of Hell. The Machiavellian villain, the prince licensed to defy his faith, becomes an agent of Hell. The consequences for the unwitting Othello and the Venetian state depending on him have indeed tragic potential.

Returning to my first reference to Machiavelli, quoted above, “he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” The phrase ‘allow himself’ to be deceived is interesting: even in these early stages, Roderigo is deceived by Iago, so too Cassio and of course Othello. Indeed neither Duke nor Senate question Iago’s character when Othello proclaims him a man of ‘honesty and trust’ – so much honesty and trust that he entrusts to him that which above all things is most precious: his wife, Desdemona.

Iago then is the tragic villain, of a Machiavellian stamp, who will be at least ‘partly responsible for the hero’s demise’. His ‘peculiar end’ is not clear. What revenge does he want: in Suzman’s production, Richard Haines as Iago stands triumphant astride the arms of the Duke’s throne. By implication he seems himself engaged in ‘a contest of power’, more than this he uses his arms to mime a giant penis. He seems to be seeking both constitutional power through his usurpation of the throne and sexual power or at least to recover a sense of his manhood. 

The tragic villain must have a hero to bring down. Othello qualifies for the role. Iago who is at least clear sighted recognises his “constant, loving, noble nature”, II i 287. The words bear examination: constant means ‘faithful’, the quality Machiavelli eschews in princes; loving implies at the least ‘friendship’, again to be eschewed in friendship. ‘Noble’ is an interesting word. Nobility in the sixteenth century is an attribute of birth. Like royalty, one is born noble – or not. Shakespeare is not the first to challenge the idea. And Othello is anyhow royal-born, fetching his “life and being/ From men of royal siege”, I ii 20. It is his nature, though, not his birth that Iago is observing: Shakespeare creates in Othello a noble man – fit for heroism, whose fall we can justly pity.

Aristotle observed in his Poetics that great tragedies have common elements, chief among them the tragic hero: “He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous- a personage like Oedipus”, Othello is has such high renown and prosperity. When Iago names him to Brabantio as ‘the Moor’, it is clear he knows which Moor he is talking about: there is only one. He is famed by the First Senator as ‘the valiant Moor’. His prosperity is evident in his marriage to Desdemona – he has prospered in love as he appears to have done in love, reaching the rank of General. Aristotle’s examples of heroes of ‘high renown’ princes of royal blood, kings or heirs to the throne: Oedipus, Creon Aegisthus. Their fall has consequences for their royal house and for the people they rule. Othello, as a mere General, would seem to be an exception to this rule, except that Shakespeare presents him as the last bulwark against Ottoman invasion: if Othello falls, Cyprus, Christendom even, may fall to the Turk.

In the first Act, Shakespeare sketches in a life journey that is in itself heroic, fetching ‘his life and being / From men of royal siege’ I ii 22, Othello carries princely blood. He  hails from one of those ‘few families only’ whose members may, ‘furnish the subjects of tragedy’. He has been ‘sold to slavery’, won redemption, travelled to remote lands and been a soldier from the age of seven (I iii 83). The vicissitudes of his life: prince to slave, soldier to lover, global traveller, have a heroic scale. And Shakespeare shows this man who has risen so high, so nearly attained a place in the ruling classes of the most civilized state in Europe, this man of such ability, on whom so many depend, on the brink of a fall, a fall that could only be tragic.

From the first he appears noble and heroic. At his first entrance in I ii, when Iago would have him hide from Brabantio and his vigilante party bent on revenge, “You were best go in.”, Shakespeare gives him the reply: “Not I; I must be found.”. The two utterances comprise a line shared between the actors: Iago’s urgent trochee (the stress seems to be on ‘You’, ‘best’ and ‘in’) is interrupted by the resounding rebuttal, in which every syllable seems to be stressed. The ‘Not I’ is proudly spondaic; the caesura shows a man in no hurry; the power of the words is allowed to sink in. The line concludes with the powerful assertion, “I must be found.” in which every syllable could conceivably be stressed in performance. The repeated ‘I’ offers a proud assertion of ego and ‘found’ provides a resonant, bass echo resonating  at the end of the line. Fechter’s Othello closes the door and pockets the key: making escape impossible. Julie Hankey (Shakespeare in Prodcution, Othello , Cambridge) comments on the entrances of various Othellos to the stage in this scene. Kingsley, she says, is ‘Ghandi-like’ a dazzling figure robed in white enters a dark stage with everyone on it wearing black, a ‘grave’ and ‘grey-bearded ancient’. His difference is palpable, qualitative, not simply a matter of race or colour. Salvini is a ‘bronzed’ and ‘towering figure’. Other Othello’s are not so immediately heroic: Fechter enters leaning on his ensign’s shoulder. By the end of the scene however, his conduct is unequivocal: ‘Keep up your bright swords’, ‘Hold your hands’: Shakespeare’s imperatives, (‘Keep’, ‘Hold’) reveal a figure comfortable and assured in authority. Furthermore Aristotle specifies the relationship between hero and villain: ‘the tragic incident occurs between those who are near or dear to one another- if, for example, a brother kills, or intends to kill, a brother.’ Othello and Iago are near and ostensibly dear to one another. Iago recounts a long campaigning history in Rhodes and Cyprus and ‘other grounds/Christian and heathen’: they are brothers in arms.

Most important of all the tragic hero must have his hamartia , his tragic flaw.  He must be a ‘man like ourselves . . . whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty’. If Shakespeare gives Othello a frailty, a flaw it seems to be his judgement. Was he wrong to overlook Iago for promotion and perhaps provoke revenge. Or was he instinctively right to keep down this unstable, vengeful character. Was he wrong to promote the smooth-tongued Cassio, impressed perhaps by his polished manners despite his lack of military experience? Or does Shakespeare show a brilliant strategist who has complementary qualities in his closest officers: the theoretician and the battle-hardened war veteran. Shakespeare makes his greatest error his marriage to Desdemona. He does not, as Romeo, does have youthful infatuation to excuse his deceit. Perhaps he has instead the innocence of a man unused to city, to Venetian ways, a man who, for all his military experience, is unused to the ways of the world.

By end of II i however his heroic military cause is lost and he is  locked in a battle with himself instigated by Iago over his wife’s fidelity he is filled with comic potential.

It is probably a mark of genius in an artist in any medium to challenge or re-invent the boundaries of form. Shakespeare arguably does this in Othello in two ways: first of all he flouts the Aristotelian unities of time and place and secondly, he perhaps writes in the comic tradition of the charivari . In distinguishing epic and tragic poetry, Aristotle observes, ‘Tragedy endeavours, as far as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun’. Clearly with the sea voyage to Cyprus and two nights of brawling (in the streets of Venice and then Cyprus) the action occupies more than a single day. And yet Aristotle is concerned that the story be, ‘concisely told’, and not seem ‘weak and watery’. I might argue that the compression of three actions in one night create the same intensity that might be achieved by a play confining itself to a ‘single revolution of the sun’. The street scene culminating at Brabantio’s house, the council scene, the Sagittary scene all serve to reveal a different aspect of Othello’s character. The continuity of time – we follow the clock round  – and the compression of action provide the intensity of that ‘single revolution.’

Venice was to Elizabethans a pinnacle of cultural achievement and commercial prosperity, and a centre of Christianity. Shakespeare presents a city in crisis: the consequences should it fall would be tragic.

The play opens at night. It opens on the Venetian streets. The first Act gives us in quick succession three snapshots of Venetian life: the street scene, the War Council – and the vivid report of the gondolier-borne, father-disobeying Desdemona gliding to her marriage (as Jessica disobeyed Shylock in the earlier Venetian play).  Night-time becomes a metaphor for the dark-side, the savage side of human nature; it is the time of drunken street disturbance, of brawling, of plotting and family breakdown. Venice represents cold political calculation: a night meeting of the war cabinet reveals an intellectual out-manoeuvring of the enemy and an amused condescension to the feelings of the human heart. This is a city where a daughter is not loved but stolen. This is a city comfortable with its institutionalised racism towards outsiders, comfortable in buying the services of a freed slave and a mercenary to fight its wars. When Brabantio exclaims indignantly, ‘This is Venice’, it is as if he has to remind himself (and inform the audience) of where he is. What we have seen does not conform to our impressions of this city of light and culture at all: it is city of darkness and savagery: a tragic transformation.

But Shakespeare profoundly confounds expectations in this play. Iago, named after the Spanish patron saint, Iago Matamoros, ought as the moorslayer to be the hero – not the villain he turns out to be. Othello, whose black skin suggests Muslim incursor and whose secret marriage tramples on convention ought to be the villain.  And Michael Bristol would persuade us that this is indeed the case.

Richard Marriott English

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A+ Student Essay

Discuss the role that race plays in Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello. How do the other characters react to Othello’s skin color or to the fact that he is a Moor? How does Othello see himself?

Othello incurs resentment for many reasons. He is from a land that Venetians consider exotic and mysterious, he has had unique adventures, and his military accomplishments far exceed those of the men around him. The most visible indicator of his outsider status is also the one that provokes the most poisonous responses: Othello is a Black man in white Venice. Whenever characters such as Iago feel jealousy, fear, or simple hatred toward Othello, they give vent to their feelings by using racist slurs. For much of the play, Othello resists, ignores, or seems indifferent to the racism that dogs him. But eventually he internalizes Iago’s and others’ idea that his Blackness makes him barbarous. This belief, as much as his conviction of Desdemona’s guilt, allows Othello to kill his wife. When he turns the race weapon against himself, he dooms both himself and Desdemona.

Among Iago’s many repulsive qualities, his eagerness to hurl racial epithets is perhaps the most shocking. In an attempt to enlist Brabanzio in his anti-Othello cause, Iago refers to the general as “the Moor,” “the devil,” and “a Barbary horse.” These terms reduce Othello to a crude stereotype, turning him into a villain and an animal. When Iago tells Brabanzio that “an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe,” he demeans a passionate and loving relationship between two intelligent adults by characterizing Othello as a mindless rutting animal who has soiled the pure Desdemona with his lust. Iago hopes to disgust Brabanzio with this animal imagery and with the contrast between Othello’s Blackness and Desdemona’s whiteness.

Like Iago, other Venetians resort to racial slurs to deal with their own feelings of inferiority or powerlessness. Roderigo, on the defensive and trying to present himself and Iago as a unified front, casually refers to Othello as “the thick-lips.” This epithet is both an attempt to undermine Othello’s military achievements with a cheap stereotype as well as a way to pit Roderigo and Iago’s physical similarity against Othello’s unfamiliar appearance. Brabanzio, outraged at his daughter’s elopement, expresses disbelief that Desdemona could shun the curly-haired young men of Venice in favor of Othello’s “sooty bosom.” Brabanzio channels his own insecurity about his daughter’s loyalty to him by expressing sneering disgust about Othello’s race, implying that Othello’s Blackness is a dirty coating that threatens to soil Desdemona’s purity.

While Othello is barraged by racism, he manages to resist its pull for some time. But in Act IV, he crumbles. Othello discusses his race throughout the play—usually in response to something a white Venetian says—but here he makes his first negative reference to it, suggesting that perhaps his Blackness is to blame for his lack of conversational ability. It is a quiet moment, but a hugely significant one. It marks a turning point: Othello has fallen victim to the same racist logic (or illogic) that rules the thinking of people such as Iago and Roderigo. Like those men, Othello wants to place the blame for his feelings of inferiority somewhere and winds up laying that blame not where it belongs (in this case, at Iago’s feet), but on his own skin. The floodgates have opened, and now Othello is in danger of believing all of Iago’s racist nonsense. In the next lines, Othello compares himself to a toad living in a dungeon, as if he has begun to suspect that his Blackness makes him a loathsome animal, somehow less than human.

Only when Othello buys into the absurd idea that his race inherently makes him dangerous does he begin to creep toward the possibility of doing violence to his wife. When he sees himself through society’s eyes, as a barbaric interloper, Othello begins to despise himself, and it is that self-hatred that allows him to kill what he loves most.

Read more about the weaponization of race in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give .

Othello SparkNotes Literature Guide

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Leaving Cert Notes and Sample Answers

Complete Guide: H1 Leaving Cert English 202 4

Leaving Cert English 2024 notes, sample essays, text analysis, examiners’ advice, video – it’s all in there. Contents:

Essentials Paper I

Section I Section II Quotations in essays Speech/Talk/The Language of Persuasion Article / Opinion piece / Discursive Essay / Language of argument Report/The language of information Personal essay Letter – Letter to the Editor – Personal letter Descriptive essay Short story

Introduction Themes Style Detailed breakdown of essay on revenge Sample essays “Revenge and justice are finely balanced themes in the play, Hamlet.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text. “Hamlet’s madness, whether genuine or not, adds to the fascination of this character for the audience.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the play, Hamlet. ”Cladius can be seen as both a heartless villain and a character with some redeeming qualities in the play, Hamlet.” Discuss both aspects of this statement supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text. “The portrayal of Hamlet as an outsider allows Shakespeare to critique the values of society.” “Uncertainty, which features constantly in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, adds significantly to the dramatic impact of the play”. Discuss how Shakespeare makes effective use, for a variety of purposes, of the contradictions and inconsistencies evident in Hamlet’s character. Develop your discussion with reference to Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Short notes on 2017 questions “Shakespeare’s play Hamlet has been described as “a disturbing psychological thriller.” “Shakespeare makes effective use of both Laertes and Horatio to fulfil a variety of dramatic functions in his play, Hamlet.”


General guidance Individual texts Link words Cultural Context General Vision and Viewpoint Literary Genre Comparisons: making a table (examples Educated, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Macbeth, Room , Never Let Me Go, Ladybird , Casablanca)

Unseen poetry

General guidance Sample answer

Prescribed poetry

General guidance

Emily Dickinson

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually “Hope” is the thing with feathers There’s a certain Slant of light I felt a Funeral, in my Brain A Bird came down the Walk I heard a Fly buzz – when I died The Soul has Bandaged moments I could bring You Jewels – had I a mind to A narrow Fellow in the Grass I taste a liquor never brewed After great pain, a formal feeling comes Sample essay : “Dickinson’s use of an innovative style to explore intense experiences can both intrigue and confuse.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poetry of Emily Dickinson on your course.

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually The Sunne Rising Song: Go, and catch a falling star The Anniversarie Song: Sweetest love, I do not goe The Dreame (Deare love, for nothing less than thee. ..) A Valediction Forbidding Mourning The Flea Batter my heart At the round earth’s imagined corners Thou hast made me Sample essay: “John Donne uses startling imagery and wit in his exploration of relationships.” Give your response to the poetry of John Donne in the light of this statement. Support your points with the aid of suitable reference to the poems you have studied.

Seamus Heaney

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually The Forge Bogland The Tollund Man Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication (1) Sunlight A Constable Calls The Skunk The Harvest Bow The Underground Postscript A Call Tate’s Avenue The Pitchfork Lightenings VIII. (The annals say…) Sample essay: “Heaney’s poetry explores ordinary life and people through language that is anything but ordinary.” Support your points with reference to the poetry on your course.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually God’s Grandeur Spring As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame The Windhover Pied Beauty Felix Randal Inversnaid I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day No worst there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend Sample essay: “Hopkins’ innovative style displays his struggle with what he believes to be fundamental truths.” In your opinion, is this a fair assessment of his poetry? Support your answer with suitable reference to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins on your course. (2013)

Paula Meehan

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually Buying Winkles The Pattern The Statue of Virgin Mary at Granard Speaks Cora, Auntie The Exact Moment I Became a Poet My Father Perceived as a Vision of St. Francis Hearth Lesson Prayer for the Children of Longing Death of a Field Them Ducks Died for Ireland Sample essay: “Meehan’s poetry communicates powerful feelings through thought-provoking images and symbols.” Write your response to this statement with reference to the poems by Paula Meehan on your course.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually Lucina Schynning in Silence of the Nicht The Second Voyage Deaths and Engines Street Fireman’s Lift All for You Following Kilcash Translation The Bend in the Road On Lacking the Killer Instinct To Niall Woods and Xenya Ostrovskaia, married in Dublin on 9 September 2009 Sample essay: “Ní Chuilleanáin’s demanding subject matter and formidable style can prove challenging.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin on your course.

Sylvia Plath

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually Black Rook in Rainy Weather The Times are Tidy Morning Song Finisterre Mirror Pheasant Elm Poppies in July The Arrival of the Bee Box Child Sample essay : “Plath makes effective use of language to explore her personal experiences of suffering and to provide occasional glimpses of the redemptive power of love.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of Sylvia Plath on your course.

Introduction Detailed analysis of each poem individually The Wild Swans at Coole The Lake Isle of Innisfree Sailing to Byzantium September 1913 An Irish Airman Foresees His Death Easter 1916 Stare’s Nest by My Window The Second Coming In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz Swift’s Epitaph An Acre of Grass from Under Ben Bulben: V and VI Politics Sample essay : “Yeats uses evocative language to create poetry that includes both personal reflection and public commentary.” Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of W. B. Yeats on your course.

This guide aims to replace a revision course for 2024. Everything is in one place. We know how hard it can be, and it is our passion to make it easier for the students who come after us. Our team, composed of people who got 625+ points, distilled our own best notes, past paper answers and tips on each part of the course – so that you don’t have to fight these battles on your own or reinvent the wheel. Whether you want 625 points, or to simply maximise your points, the Leaving Cert English 2024 guide will – guaranteed – have useful insights to make your life easier.

This Leaving Cert English 2024 guide is especially useful if:

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✔notes as detailed above (383 pages, or 112 thousand words)

What does the guide  not  cover ?

The guide has a wealth of useful information. As the syllabus required each student to choose from over 40 individual texts and over 50 poems it was neither required, nor feasible to cover everything. 

Does it come in the post? It’s a download, so there’s no need to wait for the postman. You automatically get a download link straight into your email inbox. If you run into any problems with the download, we will sort you out – simply reply to the email you get from us.

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