Othello, The Play by William Shakespeare

Initial Impressions about Othello and Iago


Othello is the protagonist in the play. The reader’s initial impressions of this character are formed from Iago’s descriptions in the first act. He describes Othello as a dangerous and evil Moor with a brutish appetite for sex. The opinion is clearly seen in Iago’s conversation with Desdemona’s father when he tells him, “An old black ram is topping your white ewe” (Owens 9). The association created between the aggressiveness of an old black ram and the innocence of a white ewe immediately gives one a negative impression of Othello.

However, later in the play, the reader realizes that Othello is a noble and respectable character. His nobility is especially seen in his speech to the senators. He begins by saying, “Most potent grave and reverend signors” (Owens 33). His language shows nobility and respect towards those in power. He is also calm and quiet. For example, he avoids a confrontation when he is insulted by Roderigo.


In the first scene, Shakespeare uses Iago to tell the audience about other characters in the tragedy. However, he allows him to paint his own personality. At first, Iago plays a passive role in the play. However, he soon comes across as a villain. He manipulates people to do things that benefit him. For instance, he makes Brabantio form a negative opinion about the marriage between Othello and Desdemona in order to stir conflict.

He tells him, “You have lost your soul now that Desdemona is married to Othello” (Owens 9). His behavior is mainly driven by revenge and the desire to gain what he deems to be rightfully his. In his conversation with Roderigo, he comes across as a person full of hate. He expresses his disgust for not been considered for the position of Othello’s lieutenant (Owens 5).

How Iago Drives Othello to the Verge of Insanity

The tragedy “Othello: The Moor of Venice” is based on an Italian short story, “A Moorish Captain,” published in 1565 (Noni 13). The plot revolves around four major characters. They include Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army. The second character is his wife, Desdemona. The third is his lieutenant, Cassio. Finally, there is Iago, his trusted ensign (Arenas 21).

In this play, Shakespeare shows how jealousy can bring people to the verge of insanity. Iago drives Othello to insanity by initiating a false story of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, which stirs jealousness (Vaughan 110). When the two men see Cassio and Desdemona together, Iago makes a sly comment about their intentions. His skills in manipulation fuel the jealousy (Noni 13). For instance, he tells his master to ignore probable adulteries.

However, he knows his comments will make him think of these evils constantly (Roux 95). Iago finally uses his mastery of human irrationality to foment events that jeopardize Othello’s sanity. He uses a handkerchief as evidence of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. He knows the cloth is symbolic of his master.

The reason is that it was his first gift to his wife (Roux 95). Iago says to Othello, “Such a handkerchief I am sure it was your wife’s, did I today See Cassio wipe his beard with” (Owens 117). To drive him over the edge, Iago plays the role of the innocent instigator after Othello swears to kill Desdemona. He says, “Patience I say, your mind might change” (Owens 119). Othello replies by swearing not to stop until he has had his revenge. Iago’s ability to manipulate others is what drives Othello to the edge of insanity.

Othello” is a Tragedy

“Othello” is a tragedy. The reason is that the piece is based on the tragic plays of ancient Athens, which depict the downfall of a famous character (Wilson The Tragedy of Othello 230). The tragic hero is initially respected and held in high esteem in society (Vaughan 109). However, a single mistake ruins their life (Arenas, 21).

It is clear that Othello is a tragic hero, making the play a tragedy. He plays an important role in society by leading the army to war. He is respected and admired by all. However, due to his personal weaknesses and influence from external agencies, his life crumbles (Wilson Shakespeare for the Wiser Sort 74). He loses his character, his life, his wife, and his dignity. He murders his wife out of jealousy.

Shakespeare is extreme in the misfortunes he hands his hero in the play, making it a tragedy. He kills his wife, then takes his life. However, the hero’s downfall is not a total loss. In the end, love and trust prevail.

The protagonist finally realizes that his wife was innocent. He also comes to the realization that the whole issue was stage-managed by Iago. Before he dies, he says, “One that loved not wisely but too well” (Owens 209). He redeems himself in the end. Consequently, one can say “Othello” is the tragedy of a noble hero brought down by a fatal flaw, which is jealousy.

It is clear that “Othello: The Moor of Venice” is a tragedy. It is also clear how important and respected people in society can fall as a result of a character flaw. Othello loses everything to the manipulations of his ensign, Iago. The play is an epic example of how people suffer when used as pawns to achieve a certain goal. It is seen in the deaths of Desdemona and Roderigo, who play an unconscious role in the fall of Othello.

A Woman Dies at the Hands of a Jealous Lover

Today, the town of Cyprus woke up to the shocking and disturbing news of the death of their beloved general and his wife. The domestic incident is believed to have to be a case of jealousy and mistrust between the couple. In addition, manipulations from external forces are also blamed for the tragic event.

Sources close to the family reveal that the captain had been led to believe that Desdemona, his beloved wife, was cheating on him with his trusted lieutenant, Michael Cassio. He was driven to insanity and humiliation by jealousy. In reaction, he smothered his wife to death in her bedchambers in spite of her pleas for mercy. It is believed that after learning of his wife’s innocence, the general was overcome by guilt and grief and took his own life.

Sources at the scene confirm that the general avenged for his wife’s death by stubbing Iago, the mastermind of the whole incident. However, it is evident that his aim was not to kill the villain. He deemed that letting him live with guilt and regret all his life will be more painful and shameful than giving him an easy exit through death.

It is not yet clear what motivated Iago to manipulate the victims into such widespread conflict. However, it is believed that he might have been motivated by bitterness because he was not promoted to serve his master. He felt that his rightful position was given to Cassio. Iago was taken away by the Cyprian authorities for questioning and, possibly, torture. Cassio is the only one who survived the incident. However, he incurred injuries to his leg. He was injured by Iago.

Works Cited

Arenas, Enrique. “Causal Attribution and the Analysis of Literary Characters: Bradley’s Study of Iago and Othello.” Journal of Literary Semantics 39.1 (2010): 17-30. Print.

Noni, Mika. “The Culture of Othering: An Interrogation of Shakespeare’s Handling Of Race and Ethnicity in the Merchant of Venice and Othello.” Academy Publishers 2.4 (2012): 10-15. Print.

Owens, Brenda. Othello, the Moor of Venice and Related Readings, Minnesota: Paradigm Publishing, 2005. Print.

Roux, Duncan. “Hybridity, Othello, and the Postcolonial Critics.” Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21.1 (2009): 90-97. Print.

Vaughan, Virginia. “The Oxford Shakespeare Othello, the Moor of Venice (Review).” Shakespeare Quarterly 58.1 (2007): 109-110. Print.

Wilson, Frank. “Shakespeare for the Wiser Sort: Solving Shakespeare’s Riddles in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, King John, 1-2 Henry IV, The Merchant Of Venice, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth And Cymbeline.” Choice Reviewers 46.3 (2008): 46-1353. Print.

—. “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice.” Choice Reviewers 45.11 (2008): 45-603. Print.