Background to Othello - MsNewtonsEnglishClass

• What does it mean to be two-faced? Do
you know anyone who is two-faced?
• HW tonight: In your opinion, what is the
most important/interesting line in Act 1.1?
Record it on an index card and attempt to
memorize it for tomorrow.
• Quiz Friday: Quiz on Othello Act 1, plus
Othello Vocabulary Act 1
preferment: (n) a promotion
obsequious: (adj)excessively obedient
lascivious: (adj) lustful or lewd
deluding: (adj)deceiving
promulgate: (v) to announce or declare
beguile: (v) to charm or delight
alacrity: (adj) cheerful willingness
Shakespeare did not
invent the story of
Othello, although he did
take some liberties with
it, adding characters and
• Set in
16th Century Venice
• The crown jewel of sixteenthcentury Italy. A major
Mediterranean seaport and
center of commerce, it was
also home to the incredible
richness of literature,
painting, architecture, music,
and all the other art forms
that flourished during the
Italian Renaissance.
• At that time,
Venice was a
city-state, ruled
by a Duke
• Laws were also made by a
body of senators
• The military
was run by a
• The General’s
second in
command was
a lieutenant
• The General’s
servant and
third in
command was
called an
“en-sin”) [Iago]
• Othello is a Moor [a
native of North Africa,
usually a Muslim]
• His actual race is
unclear in the play,
but it is clear that he
looks different.
• Othello, once a slave,
has been accepted
into Venetian society
and has converted to
• As a general, he is
well respected by the
majority of Venetians.
• A strategically located island which
yielded substantial harvests of olives,
grapes and various grains.
• Valued by many throughout its history.
Assyrians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans,
and Byzantines all fought over and
occupied it.
• England’s King Richard I, the LionHearted, conquered Cyprus in 1191 but
later ceded it to the French. Venice
seized the island in 1489 and in 1571 the
Ottoman Turks brought Cyprus under its
Paraphrase: Express the meaning of (the
writer or speaker or something written or
spoken) using different words, esp. to
achieve greater clarity.
Paraphrasing Shakespearean language
helps us put the text into our own words so
we can analyze search for deeper
“I am not what I am”
O sir, content you.
lined their coats,
I follow him to serve my turn upon him.
Do themselves homage. These fellows
have some soul,
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,
Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago.
That (doting on his own obsequious
In following him, I follow but myself.
Wears out his time much like his master’s Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end.
For naught but provender, and when he’s For when my outward action doth
old, cashiered.
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, ’tis not long after
Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
Keep yet their hearts attending on
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.
And, throwing but shows of service on their
Do well thrive by them. And when they have
Exit Slip
• Briefly describe the setting of Othello.
• Describe Iago. What are his feelings
toward Othello? What does he mean
when he says, “I am not what I am?”
• Who has received the promotion Iago
• Describe Roderigo. Why is he so unhappy
in Act 1.1?