Othello analysis of quotations


Act One Scene I

(Iago to Brabantio) "an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe!"

vulgar, sexual imagery 

"old black ram" = Othello is often described an animalistic "black" = dark & evil 

"white ewe" = innocent/virgin/purity 

Elizabethan's = against mixed marriage, viewed black people with suspicion, believed black people were only fit to be slaves

(Brabantio) "my daughter is not for thee...O, she deceives me Past thought!"

women as property emphasised by "my"

fathers would usually decide who their daughters would marry 

1 of 11

Act One Scene I

(Brabantio) "Is there not charms by which the property of youth and maidhood may be abused?"

"charms" = witchcraft associated with black people - black people were mostly seen as inferior, barbaric and of exotic nature in Britain (not common to Elizabethan/Jacobean audience) 

women as property - Desdemona has been led astray "charms" something is controlling her, Brabantio does not believe Desdemona would do this herself 

2 of 11

Act One Scene II

(Othello) "my parts, my title and my perfect soul/ Shall manifest me rightly"

Characteristic idiom is dignified, measured in blank verse - establishes his herosim & nobility 

Full of self-pride, he believes these things listed will protect him, shows he is hubris, he trusts me will be judged fairly, highlighted by adjective "perfect"

inspiration for Othello = John Leo's A Geographical Historie of Africa (translatation published in 1600)

Leo & Othello = honest & proud "they will rather lose their lives than put up any disgrace in the behalf of their women"

(Othello) "that I love the gentle Desdemona,"

epithet "gentle" = shows Othello's affection for Desdemona at this point in the play 

the couple are in harmony at this part of the play, emphasised by them both using the same dignified idiom (the lovers are "well tuned" as Iago states in Act 2 Scene I) 

3 of 11

Act One Scene III

(Othello) "She'd come again, and with a greedy ear/ Devour up my discourse;"

Is Othello's & Desdemona's relationship love, lust or interest? Is Desdemona looking for the thrill of adventure that Othello experienced? 

"greedy ear" = personification, highlights how eager Desdemona was & she cannot get enough of Othello's stories, sounds almost animalistic. 

Alliteration of "D" = demonstrates how in harmony the couple are, Desdemona wants to listen to his stories & Othello wants to tell them. Alongside "devour" it also implies a fast pace, showing how much Desdemona desires to know & how intrigued she is 

(Othello) "She loved me for the dangers I had passed,/ And I loved her that she did pity them./ This only is the witchcraft I have used."

evidence of Othello's blank verse, almost poetic feel to the line, Othello's speech is dignified & thought through. Is this true love? 

Desdemona would have been controlled by her father, would not have experienced adventure like Othello

4 of 11

Act Two Scene I

(Desdemona) "And so much duty as my mother showed/ To you, preferring you before her father...the Moor my lord."

women usually expected to be ruled by a man. Women could inherit property, but if they married, everything they owned passed to their husbands, emphaisised by referencing her mother's behaviour what society's expectations were

"my lord" = almost a godly tone, Desdemona puts Othello so high above herself. Suggests Othello's superiority & dominance over her. 

(Othello) "If it were now to die,/ 'Twere now to be most happy"

Poetic Othello - Desdemona & Othello's relationship is strong. Could suggest this is a cliche - are they really in love?

(Iago) "you are well tuned now;"

use to back up a point of the harmony of Othello & Desdemona's relationship 

5 of 11

Act Three Scene III

(Othello) "Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings"

idea of Desdemona being tassled the Othello "jesses" women need taming - animalisitic imagery 

women as possessions of their husbands/fathers

(Othello to Iago) "give me the ocular proof...Thou hadst been better have been born a dog"

reference to sight "ocular" is ironic - Othello can only see what Iago wants him to see, he cannot see what Iago is really like, like the audience can 

speech becomes more aggressive and rude - says Iago would be better off as a "dog"

(Iago to Othello) "Are you a man?"

insulting to speak to his superior in that way - shows shift of power

attacking Othello's masculinity, ridiculing him 

both men believe themselves to be cuckolded - neither one are but the humilation of not being able to satisfy their wives 

6 of 11

Act Three Scene III

Othello "kneels" (Iago) "do not rise yet...they rise...I am your own forever"

Iago commands Othello - Iago is in control

significance of them rising together - they consumate their minds/have become one/marriage of minds

"I am your own forever" = similar to wedding vows, shows their consumating

(Emilia) "I nothing but to please his fantasy"

Women didn't have a place in society besides pleasing men, they were only there to serve men 

Women treated as objects/possessions 

7 of 11

Act Three Scene IV

(Emilia) "They are all but stomachs and we are all but food; they eat us hungerly...when they are full they belch us."

Women are used to satisfy mens needs, when they are satisfied, they push the women away. 

No real relationship, no true love 

Verb "belch" = aggressive, not treated with respect, not satisfying the woman's needs, selfish behaviour 

8 of 11

Act Four Scene I

(Othello) "zounds...handkerchief!...It is not words that shakes me thus. Pish...O devil!"

Othello's fractured sense of self is conveyed through the words & syntax. 

There is irony in Othello's declaration that is "It is not words that shakes me thus." The events of the play & the violence of his outburst suggests that words are destroying Othello.

use of disjointed prose rather than measured verse, uses oaths, such as "zounds" which are associated with Iago all show Othello's corruption & highly contrast his speech in the beginning acts

Othello is presented here as Iago & an Elizabethan audience would expect - barbaric, aggressive & lustful 

9 of 11

Act Four Scene II

(Iago to Emilia) "you are a fool"

intellectually, women were thought to be inferior to men & incapable of rational thought

often throughout literature, women are referred to as "fools" (Troy to Bathsheba in 'Far From the Madding Crowd & Daisy to all women in 'The Great Gatsby) 

10 of 11

Act Four Scene III

(Emilia) "let husbands know their wives have sense like them," 

Women not treated equally as men, men didn't see the woman as equal, but inferior

Women treated at intellectually inferior to men 

Men not even considering the woman's knowledge/sense 

11 of 11




This is very helpful for A Level revision! Thank you

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Othello resources »