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Analyzing Shakespeare'S Othello

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564 to what would now be considered a middle class family. In 1568 his father, John Shakespeare was elected mayor of Stratford. When he was 18 years old Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway who was 26. The couple had three children, a daughter Susanna, and twins Hamnet- a boy and Judith- a girl. Shortly thereafter he left Stratford to seek his fortune in the theatrical world of London. In addition to his duties as an actor he wrote an average of almost two plays a year and was London's most popular playwright of this period. By the end of his career Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays in which he created characters that have meaning beyond the time and place of his plays. These characters struggle just as people do in real life, some are successful and some end up with painful and tragic failure.

He is commonly thought to be the greatest writer the world has ever known, the finest poet who has written in the English language, and the world's most popular author. His works have helped shape the literature of all English-speaking countries as well as countries such as Germany and Russia. Shakespeare's plays and poems are a required part of education and therefore his ideas on such subjects as heroism, love, and the nature of tragedy have helped shape the attitudes of millions of people.

No other writer's plays have been produced so many times or read so widely in so many countries. Many motion pictures have been made of his plays and composers have written operas, musicals, and instrumental works based on his stories and characters. The world has appreciated many great writers but only Shakespeare has generated such a continuing interest and undying affection.


In Othello, Othello, a noble black Moor who is a general in the army of Venice, Italy marries Desdemona, a beautiful Venetian girl, who is much younger than he is. Almost immediately after the marriage, Othello is ordered to Cyprus, joined by Desdemona and his aide, Iago, who hates him. In an attempt to destroy Othello, Iago tells him that Desdemona has made love with his lieutenant, Cassio. After convincing Othello of Desdemona's unfaithfulness, Iago preys on Othello's insecurity and his differences with Desdemona- including color, age, Cultural background, and level of sophistication. The love between Othello and Desdemona is so strong that they could have overcome all these differences if not for Iago's insinuations.

After constantly being tormented by Iago, Othello begins to assault Desdemona both verbally and physically. As is typical for a Shakespeare tragedy, the play ends with a bloodbath when Othello murders his wife and, upon learning he has been tricked, he stabs himself and dies, describing himself as "one that loved not wisely, but too well."

Unlike Shakespeare's other tragedies that deal with public affairs and royalty, Othello is a tragedy of personal tension, of love verses hatred, jealousy, and impatience.

B. Classical, Greek tragedy was associated with religion. They were solemn,

poetic, and meant to teach a lesson. Most often that lesson was to never consider yourself higher than the gods. Typically, the main character was an admirable, but also flawed, person who faced a difficult moral choice. This character's struggle against hostile forces- either internal or external- always ended in defeat. Similarly, Othello is a very solemn, poetic story and although it was not meant to appease gods it does teach a valuable lesson. Othello's big flaw was his insecurities and his hostile forces are both external- Iago and internal- his jealousy, and the defeat at the end was that his belief in Iago led to his death and the death of his wife.

In a modern tragedy, the main character faces a similar problem to characters of classic tragedy, the difference is that modern tragedy is not related to religion and affects the common man rather than the nobility. Othello is similar to this as well not only because it is unrelated to religion but also because,



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