Othello: A Guide to the Play

By Joan Lord Hall | Go to book overview

5
THEMES

Because Othello is so obviously a play about sexual jealousy -- the "bloody passion" that undermines the hero and turns him into a murderer -- readers may take this to be the play's main theme. Or they may generalize Othello's dramatic themes as reason versus passion 1 and good in conflict with evil. On a deeper level, though, the play explores important concerns arising from but not restricted to the central phenomenon of jealousy. Is Othello gullible, or does his status as an outsider in Venice make him -- and, by extension, any stranger -- uniquely vulnerable to evil insinuations by a social insider? How easy is it to attack emotional faith with reason or logical deduction, and should what appears to be objective proof always elicit belief that the loved one is false? Shakespeare shows how a deeply malicious man (Iago) can exploit the gap between intuitive belief and knowledge based on empirical evidence in order to subvert a husband's faith in his wife. Iago activates in Othello the "green-eyed monster" of jealousy. Still, the play goes on to ask, on what does the monster feed? Othello suggests that the human mind in itself is prone to nurture "monstrous" and "foul" imaginings and that people often act perversely, even without a demonic catalyst. The audience, too, becomes implicated in this theme; on one level, Othello encourages them to cultivate what Iago calls "Foul disproportions, thoughts unnatural" (3. 3. 233) through constructing as "monstrous" the sexual union of the black man and the white woman.


THE OUTSIDER

What are the repercussions of being a foreigner in a particular society? Through the character of its hero, Othello explores in some depth the theme of the outsider -- how his integrity and secure identity can be undermined within an unfamiliar culture. Shakespeare's imagination may have been sparked by the opening sentence of Giraldi Cinthio novella, "There once lived in Venice a Moor,"2 for from the start of the play, Othello is foregrounded as a stranger in this city, cos-

-103-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Othello: A Guide to the Play
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes x
  • Journal Abbreviations xi
  • 1 - Textual History 1
  • Notes 8
  • 2 - Contexts and Sources 11
  • Notes 22
  • 3 - Dramatic Structure 29
  • Notes 57
  • 4 - The Major Characters 63
  • Notes 94
  • 5 - Themes 103
  • Notes 116
  • 6 - Critical Approaches 121
  • Notes 142
  • 7 - The Play in Performance 151
  • Notes 200
  • Bibliographical Essay 209
  • Index 217
  • About the Author *
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 226

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.