Here we go…
How to clearly explain Shakespeare’s harrowing tragedy, Othello? Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, Othello can be summed up in either a sentence or a novel. I shall therefore do my utmost to find a reasonable middle ground which helps you to understand what this wonderful play is all about – given that reading or seeing it clearly didn’t work out so well for you…
Simply put: Iago is angry at Othello because he didn’t give him a promotion, so he takes some quite exorbitant vengeance.
Useful first point
Othello is a moor. My self-doubt won’t let me define this with absolute confidence, however, (in a vague generalization) I believe he has some affiliation with North Africa. Basically, the importance of this is that he is an outsider, though he is also a general, so of very high status. Yes, I’m confused too… let’s take a breath together. Now don’t lose confidence, I think I do get the story…
Where are we? Venice. That’s Italy.
Though named Othello, in truth, the story is more about Iago. I think. He is quite deliciously villainous. Iago is Othello’s ensign (junior rank in the army). From what I can gather, he is very annoyed that Othello has made Cassio (a younger, presumably more good-looking man) his lieutenant. There is also some reference to Othello sleeping with Iago’s wife, yet Iago doesn’t seem to be entirely enthralled with lovely Emilia anyway, so who knows. Regardless, Iago is not particularly happy with Othello. At least one must presume as much, as he proceeds to ruin the man’s life, of course, in a delightfully cunning and Shakespearean way. This isn’t Transformers.
- Iago tells Desdemona’s dad (Brabantio) that Othello has stolen her away and married her. (True fact: they secretly got married – Desdemona is therefore Othello’s wife).
- Othello goes to court and half sorts it out as Desdemona was consensual in the marriage. Failure one: Iago.
- Othello then leaves to fight a war in Cyprus.
- Attempt two: Iago gets Cassio drunk and instigates a fight which causes Cassio to lose his rank. High five Iago.
- Cassio, clearly devastated, is then convinced by Iago to try to get back in Othello’s good books by appealing to Desdemona.
- Iago then does a whole lot of stuff, basically planting the seed of an idea in Othello’s mind that Cassio is in love with Desdemona and that they are having an affair. With a bit of classic Shakespearean trickery from Iago, Othello is convinced.
- Othello then gets Iago to kill Cassio, and Othello then kills his love, Desdemona.
- Iago sends his right-hand man Roderigo to do the job. He fails and Cassio survives.
- It unravels that Iago is arguably the worst human in history, having knowingly killed or enabled the killing of several people, all over a promotion (or lack thereof), and Othello is devastated to have murdered his innocent wife. He proceeds to kill himself.
- Iago, true to character, stabs his wife and runs away, but is captured. Was it really worth it, Iago?
- Cassio is named governor of Cyrus.
- One is left in desperate need of a modern rom-com after this macabre mess.
In all honesty, it is an absolutely fabulous play and a must read. I have listed some great monologues and scenes from Othello for y’all to check out…
Othello placed 6th in our list of Best Shakespeare Plays.