analysis of the tragedy of othello the moor of venice

About the Play “Othello”

William Shakespeare, a well-known playmaker, wrote “The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice”, one of the great works and one of the famous tragedies. It was on October 6, 1621, when the bookseller Thomas Walkley enlisted the play “Othello” into the Register Of Stationers Company. And on 1622, the play was originally published in quarto format and was in print by Nicholas Okes. It also first appeared in the First Folio in 1623 and later followed by quartos in 1630 to 1705 and by then on the play became admired and well known both in stage and print.

Othello seizes an extraordinary detailed and comprehensive performance record. It was observed at the Whitehall Palace in London, the first undoubtedly known presentation on the 1st of November 1604. The presentations followed in Globe Theatre in 1610 and 1629 and also in Blackfriars Theatre. “Othello” was also played for the celebration of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V, Elector Palatine.

From these performances, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice becomes more famous and well-celebrated play during the 21st century. The recognized and acclaimed production of Margaret Webster cast by Paul Robeson (Othello) and Jose Ferrer (Iago) in 1943. The production had played 296 performances, much played than any other Shakespearean play produced in Broadway.

Illustration of one of the 296 performances in  Broadway presentation in 1943.

There were other famous productions made that cause the popularity of Othello. The 1982 Broadway production starred James Earl Jones as Othello and Christopher Plummer. It is where Plummer gained a Tony Award nomination for his performance as Iago. In 1964 at the Royal National Theatre, Laurence Oliver being legendary with his performance of Othello had gained a case of stage fright which was so profound that he was only on the stage. Frank Finlay (Iago) should be standing offstage to settle Olivier’s nerves. The play had produced a much different presentation at the Folger Shakespeare Library where Moor being characterized as a white man with supplementary characters represented by blacks.


The story begins in the streets of Venice, a Renaissance city, at night. The main plot of the play was mainly taken from Giraldi Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi, a legend, and the tale of love, jealousy, and betrayal. The plot was somewhat unified that it focused on Othello’s luck and destiny. It also includes important events in Othello’s life like dealing with other people. The plot is necessary to relate the topic of the story(CliffsNotes, 2005).

The plot of the play makes us determine how well the story goes on and it came to develop the realization of the themes and characters presented to the audience. Shakespeare’s Othello play is much more being involved with the study of human nature and personality and also with the study of psychology.


  • The main character of the story is Othello which is a Military officer in Venice who married Desdemona, a woman of luxurious wealth. Othello, a noble Moor, is a courageous warrior with a decent personality and of undone jealousy and pride. Even though of powerful and eloquent character, he merely thought his manners and words to be rough and uneven. Although he is of a different race and culture, he is an important and valuable officer due to his courageous service to the state of Venice.
  • Desdemona is almost virtuous and honorable; this causes her to think then she had the authority to defend Cassio. She thinks she can speak anytime in the sphere when it needed to be. Also, Desdemona has a strong personality and is not a secretive, submissive lady.
  • Iago is the main antagonist of Othello. He was considered fascinating due to his unlikely characteristics. He is of deceitful and treacherous nature. Being the heinous villain, he has the power to manipulate people in his surroundings. In the play, we can see Iago as an immoral personality tries to make battle with Othello.
  • Cassio is the Lieutenant of Othello. He was being assigned with less field experience. For other people, Cassio is a very courteous and smooth-talking, the opposite resemblance of Othello in many respects. Cassio is allegedly said to have an affair with Desdemona, Othello’s wife.
  • Emilia is the spouse of antagonist Iago and the faithful handmaiden of Desdemona. She is given the full trust that is why she can bring people into Desdemona’s place anytime. Even though she is the wife of Iago, she still doesn’t know about the dark nature of her husband. Even if she was a part of the treacherous activities of Iago, she still manages to present her loyalty to Desdemona(LLC, 1999).


There are such many themes that had been discussed in the play, Othello. First, the theme of race; it is an important theme in the play. In the play, the distrust against black people was merely shown. It is shown how people regard Othello being of a different race. And also with race, Othello sees himself as an outsider though he is merely not. The race sets Othello apart from other people and also made him much self-conscious. To be regarded equally with white people, he makes hard work and bringing about his reputations.

The second is Pride. Othello is known defensively proud of himself together with his achievements and noble emergence in the play. Desdemona is allegedly having an affair that hurts Othello’s pride more than it inflames his jealousy. As much as possible, he wanted to be more powerful and moral. And when denial comes, his wounded pride may lead to power and strength.

The third is the theme concerning appearance vs. reality. The familiar quote says “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, it is greatly exemplified in the play. The theme of appearance vs. reality in the play is seen on the issue of Iago’s character. Almost every character in the play sees Iago as an honest individual which is extremely opposite of his treacherous, deceitful, and manipulative character. Another instance is the belief of Othello on Desdemona, he sees Desdemona as impure and deceitful although she was really an innocent blameless lady.

Fourth is order vs. chaos. Chaos took over when Othello tries to abandon language and reason. With order pushed on the other face, he was into a world of allegations and chaotic emotions. With the chaos, tragedy was raise upon and unable to control his fate from taking over his life.

The fifth is Good vs. Evil. The battle or war of Iago against Othello and Cassio serves as an exemplification of the evil and good. Iago together with his evil battle succeeds to corrupt the flawed natures of other characters. At the end of the play, as death came upon Desdemona and Emilia and even Iago revealed and was punished, no one won the battle.

 Another important theme is the self-knowledge; lacking self-knowledge, Iago sees Othello as easy prey. When Iago comes to the point that he inflames jealousy on Othello, the dark traits of Othello get into action. Since he cannot admit his darker aspects, he can do nothing to prevent and even stop it.


Imagery in The Tragedy of Othello is an aid used in characterization which to define meaning in the play. It is an essential factor to illustrate meaning to the play. By means of imagery, it natures of all characters were can be well portrayed. Various images were used to portray the character of the antagonist Iago. To show and portray his true evil nature, the use of poison soporifics and sleeping agents was demonstrated. The character of Othello is described by the imagery of animalistic, black, and white. The play also used horse images to portray his lustful and sexual nature. On the characterization of woman, hobbyhorse, and any related to it were used to show that Desdemona and Emilia were nothing compared to as whores. The power of deceit was explained by the imagery of webs and spiders and the like. The handkerchief, green-eyed monster, and cuckolding imagery were made to define the power of jealousy shown in the play(Swami, 2005).


The genre of the Othello is all about tragedy. Othello is written during the Elizabethan period, a period when the murder of unfaithful wives is allowed. Tragedy shows horror and terror for the audience; tragedy was a catharsis meaning cleansing of heart and soul that could lead the observers to shiver but purified. In the play, the tragedy is brought about by Othello’s fate and destiny. Othello struggled against overwhelming and irresistible fate. He faced conflicts with losing his pride.

Cultural Significance

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice illustrates cultural differences between its characters especially Othello with the others. Because he is of different races and cultures, Iago tries to put him away from his territory, Venice. Othello is of a different race and culture from the Venetians but nonetheless, he surpassed trials being put unto him. Even though he thinks he is an outsider as truly he was, he still manages to make the people trust him and even serve as a military officer in Venice. He proves the Venetians that he is worthy of being in the military service of their nation. This play will surely help the world of being united regardless of race and culture.

About the Author – William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is one of the greatest and famous poets and plays and drama writers during the Renaissance until these times. It was on nearly April 23, 1564, he was said born in Stratford-upon-Avon.  He was born of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. Most likely he had attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford where he acquired the knowledge of Latin and Greek grammar and also the knowledge of classical literature.

It is believed that Shakespeare gets into the world London in the year of 1588 where he began to institute himself as a stage actor and also a playwright. During the start of his career, many envied him for his renowned talent with regard to the vital attack of Robert Greene, also a famous playwright.

Apparently, success came upon Shakespeare when he tried to study in opposition to other playwrights during his time. He made his company to become the most successful institution at his time. His plays were circulated and sold in octavo editions and or penny-copies to the other educated supporters or his audience. Being co-owner of the company and the Globe made him not just a writer but also a capitalist. With his wealth accounted from his success he was able to purchase a new house and able to retire in 1611.

On April 23, 1616, it was said that Shakespeare died. On April 25 At the Holy Trinity in Stratford, his body was laid. John Heminges and Henry Condell, two running buddies of Shakespeare, put into print the First Folio edition of the collection of Shakespeare plays where only half of these were said to be published.

William Shakespeare’s bequest is a memory of work that will not at all again be the same as in Western civilization. Shakespeare’s words have a bear for 400 years and still reach across the centuries as impressively as ever. Up to his death, he handed down a part of his poetry as an epitaph.

Personal Reaction

The time frame of the event in the play tackles a major concern in Europe, which is the interaction of the cultures from the West and the Muslim religion. Despite Othello’s different cultures and religion, he was the one sent to resolve the tension that is happening between the East (Turks) and the West (Venice). At this time, the West protects their religion from being influenced by the Muslim Turks.

Othello concentrates on a less number of casts of characters and few themes. It also has little amount of distractions from the plot. This is so it was considered to be an exemplification of an Aristotelian drama. Othello becomes one of the most concentrated and intense plays Shakespeare ever wrote which also enjoys celebrity and popularity from his audience in Jacobean time to the modern-day.

 Regarding the characters in the play, the personality of Iago is a variant on the Vice stature created in former morality plays. Due to his lack of clear motivation and also because of his representation as a very malevolent figure, his character diverges from the model. Iago is a clear descendant and representation of the ubiquitous “vice” figure. With Iago’s great cunning, controlling abilities, and roughly mystical insight makes him portray a great foe, and this makes Othello’s defeat seems even more expected and tragic.

As the play focuses on two people who challenged society in order to manage they’re on life and follow their own hearts, it contributes much to reap the success of overwhelming popularity.  The play was most known during the 19th-century European battle, the fall of Czarist Russia. During World War II in America, Othello also reaps popularity. I think because of the productions which tend to emphasize the nobility and love in the play between lovers, Othello and Desdemona make a more tragic fall and defeat.

The play is said to one of the favorite tragedies of all times as I said to be true even though our time is of many variants from the times presented in the play. I liked the play not because it’s a Shakespearean work but because of the content of the story itself. Being favorable with a tragic type of plays is also a factor to help me get interested in it and also appreciate it. The theme, motifs, characters  I thought is said to present good quality of Shakespearean play.


  1. CliffsNotes. (2005). Othello by William Shakespeare.
  2. LLC, G. (1999). ClassicNote on Othello.
  3. Swami, R. (2005). Imagery In Othello.

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