Monday, June 12, 2017

Othello by William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, commonly known simply as Othello is of course a tragedy by Shakespeare, probably written circa 1603, set in Venice and Cyprus early 16th century. The title character Othello, is of course a Moor, and a military hero, general in the Venetian army, and recently married to Desdemona without the knowledge and consent of her father, a Venetian Senator.

It is the story…Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well

Othello picks up enemies quickly. Besides Desdemona’s father, there is also Roderigo who was in love with Desdemona, but the most dangerous is the treacherous Iago, an ensign under Othello’s command, who appears to be the model of loyalty and faithfulness, but who secretly, hates Othello for promoting Cassio to second in command. Iago and Roderigo – though mostly Iago manipulating Roderigo – plot a treacherous scheme of revenge, intended to cause Othello to be suspicious of a love affair between Cassio and Desdemona.

My recent Shakespeare reads were comedies, and those some of the lesser known plays, so this was quite a change – a tragedy, and one of The Bard’s better known plays. It’s been decades since I read a Shakespeare tragedy and I’d forgotten just how – well – how tragic they are.

Othello is the tragic hero, and I get that, brave defender of the republic and all, but I found him quite fickle and faithless. He loses faith far too easily with both Cassio and Desdemona, and is far too trusting of the unctuous Iago. That is my only complaint with this play. But plays are supposed to be enacted – not read. I’ve never seen this performed but I imagine a good performance could cover this small complaint.

Overall very good, but yeah – tragic. Have some Jerome K. Jerome or P.G. Wodehouse handy after reading Othello.

Shakespeare phrases from Othello, that are now part of English vernacular:
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
Jealousy – the green ey’d monster
Forgone conclusion


  1. I would say that Othello is my least favorite of Shakespeare's major tragedies--it is just so difficult to watch. Othello and Desdemona are wonderful together until Othello lets Iago poison him. If you're interested in a good movie version, there's a fairly recent one with Kenneth Branagh as Iago.

    1. Thanks for the rec. I'm always looking for a good film adaptation after the read....and Branagh...Shakespeare...perfect.

  2. Okay, first, I love Othello. Second, I SPY A PORTRAIT OF A LADY IN YOUR SIDEBAR!

    So far I love Shakespeare's histories most {Henry V is RIDICULOUSLY good}, then his tragedies, then his comedies.

    1. Well I must just try Henry V next then. Slowly working through the complete works.

      I imagine you will be happy to hear that A Portrait of a WAAAY!!!! better than my previous experiences with later Henry James' novels. I'm not far into it, but good so far.


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