Turkey threatens Cyprus and the Senate charges Othello to defend Cyprus to become the new governor. The Duke of Venice listens to Brabantio's charges against him but after hearing Othello speak of his love for Desdemona the duke finds in his favour.
Othello is totally unaware that the treacherous Iago was behind all the charges and orders Iago to accompany his wife to Cypress. Roderigo egged on by Iago, also accompanies them convinced that Desdemona will tire of her lover. Not content with slandering him, Iago also persuades Roderigo that Cassio must be discredited to prevent any possibility of Desdemonia turning to Cassio.
In Cyprus, Iago gets Cassio drunk, then has Roderigo start an argument with him. Montano, the outgoing governor of Cyprus, intervenes, and Cassio wounds him. Othello arrives on the scene and Iago convinces him that Cassio is to blame and he disowns Cassio. Iago then persuades Cassio that he can get back into Othello's favour if he gets Desdemona to intercede on his behalf.
Desdemona pleads on behalf of Cassio making her lover suspicious and extremely jealous. A handkerchief belonging to Desdemona comes into Iago's possession via his wife Emilia, which he plants in Cassio's room. Iago tells him and when Desdemona is unable to produce the handkerchief her lover is convinced that she and the younger and more handsome Cassio are having an affair. He is consumed with anger and jealousy and confides in Iago that he plans to poison Desdemona - Iago suggests that he strangle her instead in the bed that she 'contaminated' with Cassio.
Letters are the received from the Duke of Venice recalling Othelo and naming Cassio the new governor. Iago persuades Roderigo to kill Cassio for him, but he fails only managing to wound him. Cassio strikes back and wounds Roderigo. Iago rushes past unseen and wounds Cassio in the leg. Othelo arrives at this point and watches from a distance and believes that Iago, his good and honest friend, has killed Cassio. Iago finally kills Rodrigo.
Othello returns to the castle to kill his wife. Othelo, who still loves his wife, kisses her awake and after more accusations and denials from Desdemona he finally smothers her to death
Emilia tells Othelo the truth about the scheming Iago and the wounded Cassio corroborates her story. Othello wounds Iago, then kills himself. Iago kills Emilia. After Iago is led away, in chains, Cassio becomes governor of Cyprus.
Information provided about the play
William Shakespeare never published any of his plays and therefore none of the original manuscripts have survived. Eighteen unauthorised versions of his plays were, however, published during his lifetime in quarto editions by unscrupulous publishers (there were no copyright laws protecting Shakespeare and his works during the Elizabethan era). A collection of his works did not appear until 1623 (a full seven years after Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616) when two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work and published 36 of William’s plays in the First Folio. Some dates are therefore approximate other dates are substantiated by historical events, records of performances and the dates plays appeared in print.
Date first performed
It is believed that Othello was first performed between 1604 and 1605. In the Elizabethan era
there was a huge demand for new entertainment and Othello would have been produced immediately following the completion of the play.
Date first printed
It is believed that the script was first printed in 1622 in a quarto edition. As William Shakespeare clearly did not want his work published details of the play would have therefore been noted, and often pirated without his consent, following a performance. It was then printed in 1623 as part of the First Folio
The settings for Othello
The settings for Othello are Venice and Cyprus.
The play is categorised as a Tragedy
Number of words
The number of spoken words in Othello, according to the Complete Public Domain Text is 27,953.
Most important characters in Othello
The most important characters in the play are: Othello, Iago and Desdemona
Famous Quotes / Quotations from Othello
The quotes are amongst Shakespeare's most famous including 'wear my heart upon my sleeve' and 'T’is neither here nor there'. Details of these famous quotes follow, complete with information regarding the Act and the Scene, allowing a quick reference to the section of the play that these quotations can be found in. Please click here for the full text of the script of the play.
"‘T’is neither here nor there." - (Act IV, Scene III).
"I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at". - (Act I, Scene I).
The Bard coined the phrase, "the beast with two backs" meaning intercourse in his play Othello.
A Moor was a Muslim of mixed Arab and North African descent. The word Moor derives from the Latin word, Mauri, used to describe the residents of the ancient Roman province of Mauritania in North Africa.
William Shakespeare's Main Source
Hecatommithi (One Hundred Tales) by Giovanni Battista Giraldi (1504-1573) which was published in Italy in 1566
Inspiration from Othello
The play has inspired other works such as the movie starring Orson Welles and the opera by Verdi featuring Placido Domingo
The Cast and Characters
Click the link to access a list of all the cast and characters.