10 great essay topics for Othello
William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have made him one of the most celebrated writers of all time. One of the most famous of these is the tale of Othello, the Moor, who is tricked into killing his wife by one of his jealous ‘friends’. The play is rich with themes that can be successfully explored. The following represent just a few.
Othello: Racism in Shakespearean England
Non-European characters are often written in ways that would hardly be considered politically correct in modern times. This essay can look int how that affected the character of Othello.
Desdemona: Tragic Heroine
Throughout the play, Othello’s wife is portrayed as the perfect subjective wife who remains loyal to the end and is killed as a result. The roles of women can be looked into in this essay.
Othello: The Murderous Moor as an archetypeThe idea that Othello could easily be provoked to rage and murder can be explored in terms of parallels with other modern stereotypes.
Othello and Desdemona: Romeo and Juliet by other names
Just as the other pair of ill fated start crossed lovers popularized by Shakespeare, Othello and Desdemona are unable to conquer the obstacles between them with love.
Othello: Blackface in early theatre
The character of Othello was historically played by a Caucasian actor wearing dark makeup to appear to disguise his race. This practice is not as common anymore but an essay can explain how actors of color were not always given opportunities in theater.
Deception and the Bard: Comparisons between Othello and A Midsummer Night’s dream
The tragedy that occurs in Othello is as a result of deception. This essay can explore how common that theme is in Shakespearean works.
The Dutiful Wife: Desdemona’s final words
Desdemona claims to have killed herself to free her husband from punishment. The depths of self sacrifice in female characters can be explored in this essay.
Redemption through death: How Othello’s suicide rectifies his crime
This essay can look at how Othello made amends for his homicide through suicide.
Historical reasons for the writing of Othello
Through research into Shakespeare’s England the reasons for this play can be examined.
Judas Characters: Why Othello needed Iago
This essay can look into the literary significance of characters like Iago that betray.
These essays can all be thoroughly explored by diligent students of literature.
1. Discuss the role that race plays in Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello. How do the other characters react to Othello’s skin color or to the fact that he is a Moor? How does Othello see himself?
2. Discuss the importance of setting in the play, paying close attention to physical details that differentiate Venice from Cyprus and that define the particular character of each location as it pertains to the plot of the play.
3. Discuss the role of Emilia. How does her character change during the course of the play? Pay particular attention to moments when Emilia decides to be silent and when she decides to speak. What is the effect of her silence about the handkerchief? Do we forgive this silence when she insists on speaking in spite of Iago’s threats in the final scene?
4. Do a close reading of one of Iago’s soliloquies. Point to moments in the language where Iago most gains an audience’s sympathy and moments where he most repels it. Pay close attention to the way in which Iago develops arguments about what he must and/or will do. To what extent are these arguments convincing? If they are convincing and an audience’s perception of Iago is sympathetic, what happens to its perception of Othello?
5. Analyze one or more of the play’s bizarre comic scenes: the banter between Iago and Desdemona in Act II, scene i; the drinking song in Act II, scene iii; the clown scenes (Act III, scenes i and iv). How do these scenes echo, reflect, distort, or comment on the more serious matter of the play?
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Othello (No Fear Shakespeare)
Othello (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)