Author William Shakespeare
Type of work Play
Time and place written Between 1601 and 1604, England
Date of first publication
Tone Shakespeare clearly views the events of the play as tragic. He seems to view the marriage between Desdemona and Othello as noble and heroic, for the most part.
Setting (time) Late sixteenth century, during the wars between Venice and Turkey
Setting (place) Venice in Act I; the island of Cyprus thereafter
Major conflict Othello and Desdemona marry and attempt to build a life together, despite their differences in age, race, and experience. Their marriage is sabotaged by the envious Iago, who convinces Othello that Desdemona is unfaithful.
Rising action Iago tells the audience of his scheme, arranges for Cassio to lose his position as lieutenant, and gradually insinuates to Othello that Desdemona is unfaithful.
Climax The climax occurs at the end of Act III, scene iii, when Othello kneels with Iago and vows not to change course until he has achieved bloody revenge.
Falling action Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s room and later arranges a conversation with Cassio, which Othello watches and sees as “proof” that Cassio and Desdemona have slept together. Iago unsuccessfully attempts to kill Cassio, and Othello smothers Desdemona with a pillow. Emilia exposes Iago’s deceptions, Othello kills himself, and Iago is taken away to be tortured.
Themes The incompatibility of military heroism and love; the danger of isolation
Motifs Sight and blindness; plants; animals; hell, demons, and monsters
Symbols The handkerchief; the song “Willow”
Foreshadowing Othello and Desdemona’s speeches about love foreshadow the disaster to come; Othello’s description of his past and of his wooing of Desdemona foreshadow his suicide speech; Desdemona’s “Willow” song and remarks to Emilia in Act IV, scene iii, foreshadow her death.