Shakespeare’s Othello is more than just a story of sexual jealousy or a “crime of passion.”


1. Shakespeare’s Othello is more than just a story of sexual jealousy or a “crime of passion.” It is also a story of an encounter between different worlds—European and African, Venetian and Turkish, Christian and Muslim.  As such, the play offers us considerable insight into the dominant ideology or worldview of the Venetian society of the play as it pertains to issues of racial, ethnic, and cultural difference. Paying close attention to the language of the text, and focusing on specific scenes, characters, and conflicts, analyze this encounter between worlds and, through it, the play’s representation of that dominant ideology. In other words, how do race and/or cultural difference function in the context of the play? You might also want to consider those points where the play perhaps calls into question or critiques the dominant ideology.

2. Othello centers on a conflict that results from the way characters perceive the world. Central to this conflict is the relationship the characters and the text establish between appearance and truth.  Making careful use of the text, analyze the nature and significance of this relationship between appearance and truth in the play. Consider, in particular, how this relationship between appearance and truth applies to the conflict between Othello and Iago.

3. Iago is a complex figure whose actions stem from equally complex and often contradictory motivations. Analyze the motives that drive his actions, the possible contradictions between his words and actions, and the significance of this in the larger context of the play. Consider, in particular, his three soliloquies in Acts One and Two. 

4. Women, especially Desdemona but Emilia as well, are obviously targets of male violence in Othello. Why do they become the targets of male violence?  How do the perpetrators of this violence (Othello and Iago) attempt to justify their actions? How do the female characters challenge such justifications? What is the effect of their challenges?

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