Book Review- Othello, the Moor of Venice

One of Shakespeare’s more famous plays, Othello addresses the issue of racial prejudice. A Moor living among Italians, Othello earns the respect and honor of his men and even the Venetian leadership through his courage and leadership in battle. But when he elopes with Desdemona and comes to face her father’s displeasure, a seed is planted that perhaps Desdemona isn’t trustworthy since she has just deceived her own father. Through Iago’s manipulations, Othello comes to question Desdemona’s faithfulness and from there the domino effect takes place. With important messages about jealousy, manipulation, control, miscommunication, honesty and fidelity, Othello can instigate important discussions that will lead to deeper understanding of human nature.

Themes: infidelity; virtue; honesty; manipulation; friendship; deceit; jealousy; loyalty; patience; passion vs. reason; reputation

Principle: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

Read with: The Merchant of Venice; King Lear; Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare; Tales from Shakespeare; Dr. Faustus; The Birds; A Man for All Seasons; Pericles

Watch: Othello– 1965 with Laurence Olivier; Othello– 1995 with Kenneth Branaugh

Discussion Questions:
1- Why did Brabantio parade Othello before his daughter and then refuse to bless the marriage? In what ways do parents still do this kind of thing? Was Desdemona right or wrong to elope?
2- What is Iago’s motivation? Why do others fall for his traps? How can we avoid being deceived in this way?
3- What weaknesses did Othello have which contributed to his deception and jealousy?
4- Who or what does Desdemona represent? Is she unrealistic? How can we be more like her?

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