Major Themes of Othello
Florida Atlantic University
Major Themes of Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a story of a Venetian, Othello and the happenings which surround the collapse of his relationship and marriage with his true love, Desdemona brought on by the purposeful, malice-laced maneuverings of Iago. Othello, written by William Shakespeare, contains several recurring themes throughout. Two major themes are revenge and jealousy, both of which can be seen from the opening of the play to the close. Throughout Othello, Iago, Desdemona, and Othello demonstrates shades of these themes, often spurred on by intense hate or zealous love. Othello’s rapid fall from grace is intensified by the actions and reactions of the characters as they experience jealousy and revenge by friends and loved ones. Theme I: Revenge
There are several instances in Othello in which revenge is the main motivator for conflict, such as when Brabantio desires revenge for his daughter’s death, and he insists that the Duke imprison Othello to pay for his crimes. The major revenge triangle, however, is between Othello, Desdemona, and Iago. Sadly, the need for revenge and the ensuing actions could have been avoided had their jealousies been tamed. The plot designed by Iago against Othello stems from a need for revenge for being wronged as he is passed over for the lieutenant position. Iago is angry and distraught, and can only think of hurting Othello, thereby avenging himself. Later, Iago is guilty is devising an elaborate revenge plot against Othello by tricking him with a false sense of jealousy. This ultimately destroys the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. He doesn’t stop there; instead, Iago plans to recruit Emilia, his wife, to help him with his revenge plot, although she has no idea of his intentions. Examples of betrayal are demonstrated through the play, as can be seen from this comment by Othello, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.” He says this in order to justify murdering his lover whom he believes is cheating on him, because he truly believes that his choice may save the hearts of future men whom Desdemona may entice into affairs. Othello goes on to say, “Ay, let her rot and perish and be damned tonight, for she shall not live.” More and more characters become involved in the revenge plot, willingly or unwillingly. At one point, both women, Desdemona and Emilia, discuss the need for revenge regarding the unfaithfulness of spouses. When Othello considers his choice to murder Desdemona, it is motivated mostly through his desire for revenge, as well as the need to defend his own honor against the travesties being wages against him. Finally, Othello finds his revenge as Iago is injured and subjected to a lifetime of misery and pain; however, this final act of revenge only served to devastate Othello more, and he ultimately takes his own life. Theme II: Jealousy
Jealousy can be seen from the very opening of the play with topic being discussed fervently. Iago is devastated from Othello’s decision to make Michael Cassio his lieutenant. Iago’s jealousy of Cassio, his military position and his relationship with Othello, provides the catalyst for future destruction of the characters’ lives. Brabantio experiences jealousy because the Moor stole his daughter’s heart, and he feels that he is now not Desdemona’s number one man. Even more jealousy over Desdemona is clear when Roderigo, who is in love with her, becomes upset when he realizes her intense passion for Othello. Roderigo is unable to deal with his feelings of love for Desdemona and jealousy for Othello’s place in her life, so he is ripe for Iago’s revenge plot against the two lovers.
Iago is well aware of the insecurities held by Othello, and though he seeks to play on those emotions in his revenge plot, he had no idea the dark turns his plan would take. Othello, in his blind jealousy, loses...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document