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Othello Analytical Essay

In the play “Othello” by William Shakespeare Iago plays the master manipulator and manages to deceive many of the other characters especially Othello and Cassio. It can be said that his motives are based solely on his insecurities due to the fact his goal in the play was to ruin Othello’s life. He does this by using psychological manipulation on Othello’s thoughts and makes him believe that Cassio and Desdemona are fond of each other. Which basically means that he targets anyone that brings out his insecurities, which gives him a reason to lash out and kill or harm these people, to make himself feel better.

In the beginning of the play Iago makes it seem as if his hatred towards Othello is because he has made Cassio his lieutenant. As the play goes on you later realize that Iago’s hatred extends even more. “I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets, he has done my office: I know not if’t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety.”. There seems to be some rumors about Othello and Iago’s wife Emilia, the rumors are that Othello and Emilia have slept together. In the quote above he states that he doesn’t care if the rumors are true and that he is going to proceed with his plan as if they are true.

Throughout the play Iago constantly reminds himself of why he’s targeting Othello. “I do suspect the lusty Moor, Hath leap’d into my seat: the thought whereof, Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards; And nothing can or shall content my soul, till I am even’d with him, wife for wife.” His hatred towards Cassio is more directed. Iago hates Cassio because he has gotten the position of lieutenant even with his lack of experience in the field as he is a more tactical creating strategies person. “More than a spinster, unless the bookish theoric”. Iago basically states that Cassio’s lack of manliness add to his hatred towards him.

Each person in the play get manipulated in a way that only suits them. For example Roderigo is “blinded by his love for Desdemona, and is prepared to do anything to win her heat” this give Iago the advantage to take his weakness and use it against him. As innocent as Iago’s words seem Othello lets Iago’s manipulative words counteract with his thinking and this is where you could say he has officially planted the seed making sure he has Othello’s ear. As Othello asks for proof Iago is once again able to manipulate Othello by making him hide and hear a conversation Iago has with Cassio. “Now will I question Cassio of Bianca, A housewife that by selling her desires, Buys herself bread and clothes. It is a creature, that dotes on Cassio, as ’tis the strumpet’s plague, To beguile many and be beguiled by one. He, when he hears of her, cannot refrain, From the excess of laughter.

Here he comes.” Iago says this once Othello withdraws and once Cassio corners him starts discussing Bianca but allows Othello to believe they are discussing Desdemona. He whispers so Othello would not hear him and by doing that he agitates Othello and that causes him to be delusional. As mentioned before Cassio is also manipulated by Iago. The first way in which Cassio is deceived is when he get pressured into drinking and then starting a fight which consequently ruins Cassio’s reputation.” If I can fasten but one cup upon him, with that which he hath drunk tonight already, He’ll be as full of quarrel and offense, as my young mistress’ dog. Now my sick fool Roderigo, Whom love hath turned almost the wrong side out, To Desdemona hath tonight caroused, Potations pottle-deep, and he’s to watch.

Three lads of Cyprus, noble swelling spirits, That hold their honors in a wary distance, The very elements of this warlike isle, Have I tonight flustered with flowing cups, And they watch too. Now ’mongst this flock of drunkards, Am I to put our Cassio in some action, That may offend the isle.” This is Iago’s soliloquy where he actually reveals his manipulative side. At first, Iago told Cassio he should drink on behalf of Othello although he knew that he did not want to and was not capable of it. Iago has manipulated Cassio to do something unethical. Othello and Cassio both get exploited by Iago because they both find honest, good friend and have a hard time judging character. Iago acts like he truly cares about Othello by giving him warning signs about Cassio. Iago also fools Cassio into thinking he cares whether he has a good time or not.

Another way Iago manipulates Cassio is when he plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s chambers. “I know not neither, I found it in my chamber. I like the work well. Ere it be demanded, As like enough it will, I would have it copied. Take it and do ’t, and leave me for this time.”. Cassio says this when he gives it to Bianca. Cassio has no idea as to how the handkerchief got into his room. Iago left it there to set him up and make it seem as if he is having an affair with Desdemona. Iago exploits Cassio’s limited knowledge since Cassio did not know that the handkerchief belong to Desdemona. In both scenarios Iago manipulates Othello and Iago by sugar coating the truth from them.

Iago does feel better after manipulating the characters in the story this is shown throughout the story as Iago manipulates and controls every other character so well that they seem like puppets that he controls. At the end of the play, Iago’s manipulation has left a trail of destruction that has killed Othello and Cassio, as well others and has destroyed the lives of many who remain. The motivations and ideas Iago has are very deceptive and cunning, and his ability to influence is very amazing. Iago’s actions define of a man who will stop at nothing until he exacts revenge on everyone who he feels has threaten him in one way or another. Shakespeare has presented Iago as a kind and noble soldier he has also been known as honest Iago, this showing that everyone is not as what they seem on the outside. Already knowing that Iago has a hatred for his superior Othello and now Cassio “Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in thy hate,” Said Roderigo. “Despise me if I do not,” Iago replies. This during the opening scenes in the play.

Iago fools Othello by providing “ocular” proof but didn’t allow him to listen or understand properly. As for Cassio, he used his friendship to plant the handkerchief. Both Othello and Cassio are naïve have a hard time judging character, are too proud to believe that someone is fooling them and their limited knowledge as to what was going on around them allows Iago to Successfully in the end manipulate the mind of Othello and sent him insane and left Cassio in a situation that he didn’t belong in. Othello and Cassio were both victims of Iago’s manipulation due to the fact that they had something Iago did not.

William, S. (01.22.14). Othello. Great Britain. Oxford University.

Jonathan, L. (28.01.2010). How does Iago manipulate different characters in order to achieve his aims? Othello. Retrieved (02.27.2014), from http://www.markedbyteachers.com/as-and-a-level/english/how-does-iago-manipula

The Theme of Deception in William Shakespeare’s Othello. Retrieved (02.27.2014), from https://sites.google.com/site/thethemeofdeception/home

Joshua, A. (2013). Protestant epistemology and Othello’s consciousness. Retrieved (03.01.14), from Gale Academic One File.

Welcome to the first of our three guides on writing an analytical essay on Othello,  composed by the famous playwright, actor and poet William Shakespeare. Everyone knows Shakespeare as the greatest English writer of all time, and one of the world’s most prominent dramatists. But understanding Shakespeare’s plays can be quite a daunting task. However, you don’t have to worry since you’ve hit the jackpot!

  1. Shakespeare is known to be a playwright, who was always more influenced by the real-world rather than by abstract imaginations. The majority of his plays were based on tales, short stories and real events. Othello was no exception. This play was strongly influenced by Cinthio’s short-story “Un Capitano Moro.” In fact, all the characters had prototypes and were mentioned solely by their ranks and titles in the initial Italian version. Desdemona was the only hero whose name Shakespeare borrowed directly from Cinthio.
  2. Othello is the main character of this play. At the same time, if you have read this play not knowing its title you would suspect it is called “Iago”, because this secondary character surpasses Othello both in terms of dialogues and overall significance in the plot. Iago, the main villain of the story, had pronounced some of the most memorable lines in the history of drama, can still be heard in the everyday language of playwrights. He is also considered to be the most verbose character of the play.
  3. Othello was a pioneer play in shining a spotlight on the subject of interracial marriage as a mainstream entertainment of that time. In this matter, Shakespeare was ahead of his time, because the dilemma of interracial marriages has not been discussed for 350 years since then. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” play and movie was the first mass piece of art dedicated to the same topic in the modern history.
  4. Othello is a very complex, and subtly nuanced play. It describes the story of Othello, a valiant army general, his wife Desdemona, and his ensign (second lieutenant), Iago. Since Iago doesn’t get promoted to the rank of a lieutenant, which he desperately wanted, he plots a deceit that makes  Othello accept the idea of his wife, Desdemona,  being unfaithful to him.Due to the personal tragedy, Othello becomes desperate to escape from the pressure of this nightmare. These sufferings blind him and make him kill the love of his life. When he finds out that he was tricked into believing gossips about his wife having an affair, he commits suicide out of regret, shame and moral pain. Such ending has very strong allusions to the “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles. Iago gets executed in the end of the play, which is remarkable for Shakespeare, who never pursued the idea of the immediate punishment for evil.
  5. Shakespeare was inspired by Cinthio’s Un Capitano Moro, and most of the story, along with some plot twists based on it. However, we find that there are some characters, such as Roderigo, not existing in Cinthio’s Un Capitano Moro.
  6. Othello became so popular and famous in the 1900s. Its first film version was made in 1909. The originally titled film, Othello was directed by Ugo Falena. It was filmed in Venice, which made “Othello,” the first Shakespeare play filmed in its actual location. Amazing sights, strong group of actors and Ugo Falena’s impeccable taste brought the film to the top of numerous charts and Shakespeare once again got his well-earned recognition.
  7. Othello was interpreted and turned into movies more than 20 times by relentless Hollywood. These include Stuart Burge’s 1965 and Oliver Parker’s 1995 classic adaptations, as well as Tim Blake Nelson’s eccentric “O” filmed in 2001.
  8. Othello, the tragic hero in the play of William Shakespeare’s Othello, comes from the name of an ancient Roman emperor, Otho, which means “wealth”. At the same time you shouldn’t take it for granted as it is only a speculation that’s been made by historians.
  9. Honesty is one of the words that is intensely repeated throughout the play, at least 52 times to be exact. It may be due to the fact that the whole play is about ‘honesty’ and how Desdemona was very faithful to her husband, while Othello suspected otherwise, because Iago’s cunning plan.
  10. Othello was first performed in Whitehall Palace 1604. According to the history of Othello’s premier, the play is said to be performed on the Halloween day, November the 1st. The adaptation of the play, however, wasn’t adapted during the Restoration Period – whereas, most of Shakespeare’s plays were adapted in that era.

These facts will surely come in handy when you’re about to write an analytical essay on the play. We’ve also included seven references from where we’ve gathered these facts. This will save a lot of your time as you can use these links to find more information on a specific topic. It will allow you to concentrate more on actually writing the essay.

But before you start writing, we urge you to read our second guide, 20 Othello essay topics, first – where you’ll find relevant topics on Othello, along with a sample essay helpful in  avoiding  any confusion when composing your paper. Of course, we have also included a final guide on how to write a killer analytical essay on Othello, which is a must-read. In this guide, you’ll explore how to write and compose a sublime and exemplary paper on Othello.


  1. Bullough, G. (1973). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare’s: Major tragedies. Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Volume VII (Vol. 7). Columbia University Press.
  2. Veldhuijzen, D. G. J. (2016). Feminism and Feminisms: An Analysis of Paula Vogel and Toni Morrison’s Feminist Play Appropriations of Othello (Bachelor’s thesis).
  3. Simmons, A. M. (2016). Supporting Critical Literacy in High School English by Using Systemic Functional Linguistics to Analyze Fantasy, Canonical, and Non Fiction Texts. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 13(3), 183-209.
  4. Smith, I. (2016). We are Othello: Speaking of race in early modern studies. Shakespeare Quarterly, 67(1), 104-124.
  5. Stella, C. (2016). Italian Studies: Cinquecento (1500–1599). The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies, 76, 276-283.
  6. Dwivedi, A. V. (2016). Othello: Language and writing [Book Review]. Australasian Drama Studies, (68), 195.
  7. Mondal, S. Race, Ideology and Theatre: A Classroom Reading of Othello.

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