Desdemona is aroused by Othello’s stories of danger and pain
Iago says Desdemona will see the error of her ways “when she is sated with [Othello’s] body”
Desdemona is “our captain’s captain”
Many characters discuss Othello and Desdemona’s sex life
Black ram, Barbary horse, beast with two backs, etc. in reference to Othello and Desdemona
Note animal imagery is closely related to sexuality – perhaps enhancing the taboo of interracial coupling.
Animal imagery (see above) is used to dehumanize Othello
Othello’s sexuality is emphasized to make him seem strange/exotic (exoticism: also called positive racism, with “positive” being a misnomer; exoticist statements – like Jews are good with money and very frugal or Black people are great dancers – may seem to emphasize positive traits, but actually only serve to highlight the “otherness” or strangeness of one particular group of people)
Othello’s appearance (his "blackness") is emphasized to make him seem strange/exotic
Othello is accused of witchcraft; referred to as a devil
Desdemona’s love for Othello is characterized as unnatural
Desdemona is presumed to have feared Othello; her fear presumably fed her sexual attraction to him
Othello is first seen as a proud and regal figure who knows his worth to the state and believes he is more than worthy to marry Desdemona
Desdemona is thought not to be herself when she marries Othello
Iago does not believe in love and sees himself as ruled by reason
Desdemona: “I do beguile the thing I am by seeming otherwise”
Reputation – Cassio and Iago debate its importance
Iago creates/transforms the identities of others
Brabantio is the first to raise the question of trust – he believes his daughter deceived him and warns Othello that she may deceive her husband also – Iago repeats this charge
“Honest Iago” is trusted by everyone
Othello is gullible
All tragic heroes (according to the Greek philosopher Aristotle) must move the audience to pity and awe (this movement is known as "catharsis") and must be brought down from a position of importance by some fault of their own (called the "hamartia" which means “fatal flaw” or “fatal mistake”)
Othello trusts the wrong person in this play and that is his undoing
Is Othello's downfall due to the his being gullible in general or to his trusting Iago specifically? In other words is Othello at fault for being naive or is he at fault for trusting the wrong person?
Whether or not Shakespeare meant to make Othello’s gullibility inherent to his race is unclear and a subject for debate
Is Iago a tragic hero, also? or a tragic villain?
Passed over for promotion
Could simple hatred for Othello be the driving force behind Iago’s schemes?
Iago cites sport (just for fun), profit (he’s getting money from Roderigo and he expects a promotion), hatred, and jealousy (both Othello and Cassio were thought to have slept with Emilia)
Why/how does Desdemona fall in love with Othello? Why/how does Othello fall in love with Desdemona?
What does Othello think of himself? What do others think about Othello’s character/personality?
Many people make reference to O’s and D’s sex life. Find these moments and discuss what effect this has on the audience’s perception of O and D?
What is Iago’s opinion of women in general and his wife in particular?
How does the handkerchief (napkin) figure into Iago’s plan?
What is the significance of the wedding sheets in Acts 4 and 5?
Why does Othello choose not to stab Desdemona? How does he kill her and why?
Do you think Desdemona anticipated her own death?
How much responsibility do you assign to Iago for the death of Desdemona?
Why did Shakespeare make Othello a Moor? How does the racial dynamic affect the characters, plots, and outcomes? Would this play be different if Othello were white? Why or why not? Is Othello's personality closely tied to his race?
1. What was Iago's complaint in Scene I?
2. Who was Brabantio, and why did Iago and Roderigo awaken him in the middle of the night?
3. Why did Iago leave Roderigo at Brabantio's house?
4. What was Brabantio's reaction to Othello's marriage to Desdemona?
5. Why did the Duke send for Othello?
6. Brabantio complains to the Duke about Othello's marriage to Desdemona. After listening to
both sides of the story, what was the Duke's reply?
7. What was Roderigo's complaint, and what was Iago's reply to it?
1. Why did Iago want Roderigo to anger Cassio?
2. What was the purpose of Iago's plan?
3. Why did Iago want Cassio to drink more wine?
4. What lie did Iago tell Montano about Cassio?
5. Why did Othello strip Cassio of his rank?
6. Why did Iago want Cassio to ask Desdemona for help in restoring Othello's faith in Cassio?
1. Why didn't Iago simply tell Othello right away that Desdemona and Cassio were having an
2. What thing did Emilia find and give to Iago? What did Iago intend to do with it?
3. What was Iago's reply when Othello demanded proof of his wife's disloyalty?
4. What did Othello decide and command at the end of Scene III?
5. What was Emilia's relationship with Iago? Desdemona?
6. Who had the handkerchief at the end of Act III? Why?
1. After Iago lied and told Othello that Cassio confessed going to bed with Desdemona, what
advice did he give the overwhelmed Othello?
2. How did Iago trick Othello into thinking Cassio was gloating and bragging about his affair
3. Why was Bianca angry with Cassio?
4. How did Bianca's return with the handkerchief help Iago?
5. Why did Othello hit Desdemona?
6. What was Lodovico's reaction to Othello's behavior towards Desdemona? How did Iago later
explain Othello's behavior to Lodovico?
7. Why did Othello ask Emilia about Cassio's affair with Desdemona, and what was her reply?
8. To whom does Desdemona turn for help after Othello calls her a strumpet?
9. Why did Iago tell Rodriego to kill Cassio? Why did Roderigo consent to think about it?18
Othello Short Answer Study Questions Page 2
1. How would Iago gain from Roderigo's death? Cassio's?
2. What happened when Cassio and Roderigo fought?
3. What did Iago do after he wounded Cassio?
4. How was Desdemona faithful to Othello to the end?
5. What was Emilia's reaction when Othello told her that Iago had revealed Desdemona's affair
with Cassio to him?
6. Who told the truth about Iago?
7. What happened to Othello, Iago and Cassio in the end?
Thanks to dreher.richlandone.org for Reading Guide questions.