Flashcards in Othello Deck (64):
What story was the plot of Othello heavily influenced by?
Hecatommithi by Giambattisa Cinzio Giraldi
What major change did Shakespeare make from the source material?
Othello recognises his wrongs and commits suicide to atone for them, while in the original 'the moor' refuses to confess.
What locations are there in the play?
Venice and Cyprus
How is the setting of Venice significant?
During the Elizabethan era Italy was viewed as a place of intrigue and villainy as well as sophistication. Othello is set up as an outsider to this world, while Iago typifies it.
How is the move to Cyprus in act ii scene i significant?
Cyprus is a frontier, until recently a war zone. Othello has been sent there to keep the peace, however achieves the opposite.
How is the isolation of Cyprus significant?
As an isolated island, the events which occur on Cyprus have little effect on the outside world, a contrast to Shakespeare's other plays such as Hamlet or Macbeth
E.A.J. Honigmann claims:
that Othello is 'the most unbearably exciting' of Shakespeare's tragedies
Caryl Phillips on Othello's love for Desdemona
it is 'the love of a possession. She is a prize, a spoil of war'
What happens in act i sc i
Iago and Roderigo discuss their hatred for Othello, tell Brabantio of Othello's marriage and set out to find them.
How is the imminent merging of public and private lives foreshadowed in the first scene?
Roderigo's discussion of his failure to marry Desdemona is coupled with Iago's anger at being passed over for promotion.
What three quotes from act i scene i show Iago's deceitful nature?
Iago's admission that he admires men who make 'shows of service to their lords', his later line 'I am not what I am' and his assertion that he only follows Othello 'to serve my turn upon him'
What are two examples of dramatic irony from scene i?
Roderigo's inability to recognise that the man boasting to him about being manipulative and self serving may just be using him, and Brabantio's 'Thou art a villain!'
What effect does dramatic irony have?
Shakespeares association of dramatic irony with Iago presents him as a figure able to cause and control chaos to an almost supernatural level
How is the role of women presented in the act i scene i? give two quotes as an example.
Desdemona is referred to almost as a possession: Iago's 'look to your house, your daughter and your bags! / theives!' and Brabantio's assertion that she is 'in the gross clasps of a lascivious moor' remove any agency she has
How is the theme of jealousy set up within the first scene?
Iago is jealous of Cassio, Roderigo and Brabantio are jealous of Othello
Give three ways that Othello is referred to negatively in the scene
'old black ram tupping your white ewe', 'thicklips', 'lascivious moor'
What does Shakespeare's use of language relating to evil show?
Use of the imagery of spells reflects belief in ideas of witchcraft, and the idea that Othello is the source of it follows follows the association of foreign people with the devil.
Give two examples of metaphors Iago uses in act i scene i and explain why these are significant:
He wishes to 'poison his [Brabantio's] delight' and 'Plague him with flies', creating the association of Iago with death and corruption.
What happens in act i scene ii?
Othello meets Iago and is confronted by Brabantio and his men, who he calms and then invites to come to talk with the Duke.
What does Brabantio's suggestion that the world has been 'turned upside down' suggest?
In Jacobean drama, subversion of natural order foreshadows oncoming tragedy
What is the audience's first impression of Othello?
Othello comes across as calm and collected, speaking in measured blank verse and contrasting previous accounts of him
How is Othello's 'I love the gentle Desdemona' significant?
It is the first sincere talk of love in the play, and also represents a pun; gentle can mean kind or of noble birth, emphasising the difference between him and her,
What happens in act i scene iii
Othello meets with the duke, answers to Brabantio's accusations and makes a speech to defend himself. Desdemona then makes a similar speech, and their marriage is allowed to take place.
What could Desdemona's assertion that she 'saw Othello's visage in his mind' show?
That rather than loving him for who he is, he loves an image of him, which may turn out to be false.
What, according to Caryl Phillips, does Othello's speech in this scene show about his wooing and his personality?
his lack of confidence and insecurity ('was my hint to speak' etc)
What does Brabantio's statement that Desdemona is so shy that she 'blushed at herself' show?
It demonstrates a contrast with Othello's statement that 'she was half the wooer', and Brabantio is proved wrong when she gives a speech herself, furthering the theme of 'ideal vs reality'
What happens in act ii scene i
The gang arrive in Cyprus, Iago begins his plan to throw suspicion on Cassio for cuckolding Othello
What does the storm symbolise?
the storm represents pathetic fallacy, foreshadowing the passion and danger of the new setting. Furthermore, it causes Iago to arrive a week before Othello, showing that fate is on his side.
How does Iago speak of Desdemona in act ii scene i?
he admits to loving her, however redefines this to lust. this gives possible evidence of his motivation.
What happens in act ii scene ii?
A herald gives a proclamation of the newfound peace and the planned party.
What happens in act ii scene iii?
Iago gets Cassio drunk, Roderigo antagonises him, Cassio is demoted and Iago advises him to get Desdemona's help
How does Shakespeare show that Desdemona and Othello's love is not secure in act ii scene iii?
The consummation of their marriage is interrupted by Iago's plans, and will be forever interrupted later on
How does Iago describe Desdemona in act ii scene iii?
In a lustful manner, declaring her 'sport for jove' and 'full of game'. `
How does Cassio describe Desdemona in act ii scene iii?
In positive way, 'fresh and delicate', 'modest' and 'perfection'
What does the contrast between Iago and Cassio's views on Desdemona foreshadow?
The choice Othello will have to make about whether to believe Desdemona is faithful or not.
What is Othello's dismissal of Cassio evidence of?
His quick temper and lack of judgement
What does the quote from act ii scene iii 'i'll pour this pestilence into his ear' show?
That Othello is a passive recipient of Iago's evil
What happens in the first two scenes of act iii?
Cassio attempts to win over Othello, however his efforts anger Othello, who sets out with Iago allowing Cassio to talk to Desdemona
What happens in act iii scene iii?
Desdemona asks Othello to reinstate Cassio, Iago poisons Othello's mind, Desdemona drops her handkerchief which is given to Iago who uses this to finally tip Othello over the edge
How is a feeling of claustrophobia created?
absence of subplot, one setting
What effect does the claustrophobic feeling have?
heightens the sense of tragedy, the audience is unable to distract themselves
What effect does scene length have?
The play contrasts short scenes with long scenes, and in the case of act iii scene iii this makes it more painful
How does Othello's speech change over the course of the play?
His use of blank verse begins to fade, becoming fragmented. He begins to use oaths, linking him to Iago.
what is blank verse and why is it significant?
Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, used to show heroism and intensity of emotion. Not only does this set up Othello's character as such, but Desdemona's use of the form links her and Othello.
An ironic statement from Othello in act iv scene i
'it is not words that have shaken me thus'
Act iv scene ii, Desdemona speaking about Othello's speech.
'I understand a fury in your words/but not the words'
What does Othello refer to himself as in act v scene ii?
'one not easily jealous'
Emilia, speaking about women's position in relation to men?
'men are all but stomachs, and we all but food'
What role does Emilia fulfill in act v scene ii?
That of the greek chorus, explaining what Othello has done.
In what ways does Othello conform to the typical tragic form?
Othello can be argued to display hubris, at least he would have to an audience of that time period (a black man in power in white society).
What is Othello's hamartia?
it can either be argued to be his jealousy, his overly trusting nature or his lack of judgment
How is Othello similar to a comedy?
the focus on a jealous husband afraid of being cuckolded is a stock comedy plot, and so too are the characters 'deceptive daughter' and 'overprotective father' - Othello reads like the end of a comedy, which stops and becomes tragedy after act iii scene iii
What is A.C.Bradley's theory about the timing of Othello?
Bradley described the idea of 'double time',
what happens in act iii scene iv
Desdemona pleads with Othello to reinstate Cassio again, Othello is angry, asks for handkerchief. Bianca is angry with cassio, he gives her handkerchief to copy
What is significant about Bianca's name?
it means white, reflective of her character/love being more pure than the stereotype of a courtesan
'give me your hand. this hand is moist, my lady'
moistness indicates lechery, foreshadows/mirrors the need of othello to kill desdemona with his own hands
What does emilia refer to jealousy as ?
a monster/ begot on itself, born by itself
What do the actions of the clown show?
His use of riddles and word play highlights the theme of multiple interpretations of words and actions
What happens in act iv scene i?
Othello has a literal fit of rage, sees Cassio in possession of Desdemona's handkerchief, vows to murder her. Othello strikes desdemona in front of venetian guests
What happens in act iv scene iii?
Othello sends desdemona to prepare for bed. Emilia and her have a conversation about the role of women and desdemona's marriage
What does Desdemona's request to Emilia to 'lay on her bed her wedding sheets' show?
either her willingness to die for love, or her belief that love may be strong enough to prevent tragedy
What is the significance of 'the willow song'
it was sung by desdemona's mother's maid as she died, and is about infidelity
What is the significance of the willow as a symbol? link to other texts
The willow has traditionally been used as a symbol of love and unrequited love. Desdemona sings it after fearing her love rejected, and in Hamlet Ophelia kills herself from a willow tree