This study guide will help you analyze the play Othello by William Shakespeare. You can also find summaries of both the entire play and its individual scenes, as well as ideas for interpreting the play and putting it into perspective.

Presentation of the text

Title: Othello (1603)/ (1604)
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Genre: Play

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright. Today, he is one of the most widely-known figures of English literature. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets and approximately 39 plays, including comedies, tragedies, and historical dramas. His plays have been translated into all languages and are the most widely performed of any playwright.

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It revolves around Othello, a Moorish commander in the Venetian army, and Iago, who is angry at Othello for choosing someone else as his lieutenant and is plotting against him. The play tackles important issues, such as race, jealousy, and appearances versus reality. 


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Dramatic irony

Just like asides, dramatic irony is when the audience knows more about what is happening than the characters. In this case, dramatic irony is the main literary device used in Othello, as the entire play centers around Iago’s manipulations which Othello knows nothing about.

As the play unfolds, the audience watches how Iago puts his plans into practice, creating a chain of events that will lead to the final catastrophe. It should be mentioned that Iago is rarely the one who performs the actions that lead to tragedy. He simply convinces others to act in such a way that they never realize they are being tricked.

One example of this is the first scene in Act 4 when Iago invites Othello to observe Cassio’s behavior while Iago will...

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