An analysis of the play by Shakespeare

This article was originally published in A Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 41.

Download A Study Guide to Othello

An original painting by Josiah Baydell

DESDEMONA, only daughter of the Venetian Senator, Brabantio, chose from among her many suitors, Othello, the black Moor, because of his nobility of soul and his eloquence in describing his adventures. Now Othello was foremost general of the State of Venice and at this time sorely needed to repulse the Turkish forces who were even then sailing against the Island of Cyprus. Nevertheless, the Venetian Senate listened fairly to the charges of Brabantio that Othello had successfully wooed his daughter only through the use of sorcery. Othello's defense was so straightforward and so eloquent that they rightfully absolved him of any guilt, whereupon he and his bride set sail for Cyprus.

Meanwhile storms dispersed the Turkish fleet so that the troops on the island had no occupation except that of enjoying themselves. During his courtship Othello had used Cassio, a good-looking young Italian whom he loved and trusted, to further his suit with Desdemona. Now, when a lieutenant was left vacant, he promoted Cassio to the post instead of the older Iago who had expected the preferment.

The jealous Iago at once began to plot how through a drunken brawl he might discredit Cassio with his general and further how he might arouse Othello's jealousy of his wife and thus encompass the destruction of Othello, Cassio and Desdemona at one and the same time. He began by dropping hints as to the unwarranted friendliness between Desdemona and Cassio. When Othello disdained to suspect either his wife or his friend, Iago, through the theft of a handkerchief which Othello had given his wife, produced what appeared to be proof of Desdemona's infidelity. This latter scheme was so thoroughly successful that Othello, believing the worst of his wife, smothered her beneath the bed clothes. Meanwhile, the hireling, engaged by Iago to kill Cassio, merely wounded his victim but was himself killed. Letters found upon his body proved beyond a doubt Iago's dastardly plot and Cassio's innocence.

Thus at the very moment when Othello was releasing Desdemona's lifeless body, Cassio entered to ask wherein he had offended his general. The letters and Cassio's story revealed at once the whole conspiracy and in an agony of remorse for the beloved wife whose life he had unjustly taken, Othello took his own life there beside her. Iago's treason, however, did not go unpunished for he was put to death with torture.

Download A Study Guide to Othello


Home · Theatre Links · Script Archive · Bookstore · Email · © 2002 TheatreHistory.com