Othello sparknotes condensed

  • Created by: Amita
  • Created on: 18-06-14 09:54



·         Ambiguous references to Othello by racial epithets: “he” / “him” / “the Moor” (I.i.57), “the thick-lips” (I.i.66), and “a Barbary horse”

·         Iago plays on the senator’s fears, making him imagine a barbarous and threatening Moor, or native of Africa, whose bestial sexual appetite has turned him into a thief and a ******.

·         “I follow him to serve my turn upon him” (I.i.42). Iago explicitly delights in his villainy, always tipping the audience off about his plotting. Because of the dramatic irony Iago establishes, the audience is forced into a position of feeling intimately connected with Iago’s villainy.

·         Othello’s dismissal of Roderigo’s alleged insult and his skillful avoidance of conflict—is surprising

·         When Othello averts the violence that seems imminent with a single sentence, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust ’em” (I.ii.60), he echoes Christ’s command to Peter, “Put up thy sword into the sheath” (John 18:11) - Christ’s calm restraint is due to his resigned acceptance of his fate, Othello’s is due to his sense of his own authority. (implicit comparison to Christ)

·         Shakespeare’s audience would have considered elopement with a nobleman’s daughter to be a serious, possibly imprisonable offense, Brabantio insists that he wants to arrest and prosecute Othello specifically for the crime of witchcraft

·         Othello - outsider and insider in Venetian society: his race, physical appearance, and remarkable life history set him apart from the other Venetians, and inspire Brabantio’s fears that Othello is some sort of witch doctor

·         Desdemona - remarkably forward and aggressive in Othello’s account, in relation to Renaissance expectations of female behaviour: she “devour[s] up” his discourse with a “greedy ear,” and is the first of the two to hint at the possibility of their loving one another (I.iii.148–149) – she’s outspoken/assertive


v  “What from the cape can you discern at sea?” / “Nothing at all. It is a high-wrought flood” (II.i.12). The emphasis on the limitations of physical sight in a tempest foreshadows what will, after Act III, become Othello’s metaphorical blindness, caused by his passion and rage

v  banter between Iago and Desdemona creates a nervous, uncomfortable atmosphere - their levity is inappropriate, given that Othello’s ship remains missing

v  rhyming couplets in which Iago expresses his misogynistic insults lend them an eerie, alienating quality, and Desdemona’s active encouragement of Iago is somewhat puzzling.

v  Iago’s verbal abuse of women hides his real resentment against those characters who have a higher social class than he has (Cassio & D)

v  beginning of the play, Iago argued that he ought to have been promoted based upon his worth as a soldier, and he expressed bitterness that “[p]referment goes by letter and affection, / And not by old gradation” (I.i.35–36)

v  Iago mocks the audience for attempting to determine his motives; he treats the


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