Critical Analysis of The Tragedy Of Othello


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.

Further, the drama involves a bed in which murder is eventually committed. The murder is committed on stage. The dialogue is made very realistic by the presence of the villain who appears to possess more lines than the disastrous hero. All the meetings were bold, contentious, and very modern.

The characters in Othello are acting like normal people pursuing everyday undertakings. Othello becomes the victim of a domestic calamity. He is the victim of an envious monster of jealousy (Langis 61). He finds it hard to adjust to the marital existence having been in the armed forces for long. In fact, he turns out to be a chauvinist and protective. Although he is good in the military, he is bad at home. Othello appears to be an awful husband. The play shows that Othello is always imploring for a brawl. Just like Simpson, he murders the wife after being informed that she has been cheating on him.

Critical Analysis of The Tragedy Of Othello 1

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.

READ ALSO:  How to Write a History Research Paper or Essay

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.

READ ALSO:  Formation of questions - Rules, Examples, Worksheets

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.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Have something to say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.