OTHELLO by William Shakespeare Jealousy Betrayal Racism Murder Love Passion Honour Loyalty Introduction to Othello Othello is set in the 16th Century in Venice, Italy and in Cyprus Othello is the name of the play’s protagonist (‘protagonist’ is the word for the central character in a play – the one the audience sympathises with and supports) Tragedy Othello is a tragedy. What are the generic features of a tragedy? 1. A tragic hero who has a fatal flaw 2. Death or downfall of innocent people 3. Death or downfall of the protagonist 4. Usually the story revolves around kings, queens, dukes or anyone higher up in society. A Tragic Hero · Very simply, in tragedy we see the downfall of a great man, someone respected and held in high esteem by the community. He would have performed brave deeds and shown his ability as a leader. We would know of (or have seen) his acts of compassion and understanding, his righteous feelings for his fellow human. · However, because of a fatal or tragic flaw in his character - something that leads a man to disregard the Divine or to disobey a moral law - he will make wrong choices, going with his 'darker side' rather than confronting the forces of evil and selfishness. · Aware of the alternatives, he goes ahead with unwise decisions - decisions that result in his personal decline into a state of misery and personal torment, leading to eventual death. In the process the community in which he lives and functions might well also suffer. · The audience should feel pity and fear at the decline of a great man into sin and disgrace. Tragic-heroes examples: Oedipus Macbeth Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader A tragic hero Summary Fall of a great man/leader Disobeys the laws of nature (such as fate) ‘Hero is aware of the choices but chooses unwisely The decline evokes empathy from the audience Context Othello is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies Othello is set in Cyprus against the backdrop of the wars between Venice and Turkey, which raged in the latter part of the 16th century. · Shakespeare's choice of a black man was strikingly original. (Othello is called a Moor, which can suggest Arabic descent, but the language of the play insists that he is a black African.) · Blackness in Elizabethan England was a colour associated with moral evil, decay, and death, and “Moors” in the theatre were usually stereotyped villains. Othello embodies none of the characteristics typical of the "Moor"; instead of being lecherous, cunning, and vicious, he is a noble,towering figure whose fall is therefore all the more difficult to watch. Characters Othello - The protagonist and tragic hero of the play. A Moor commanding the armies of Venice, he is a celebrated general and heroic figure whose "free and open nature" will enable Iago to twist his love for his wife Desdemona into a powerful jealousy. Iago – The antagonist of the play and Shakespeare's greatest villain. His public face of bravery and honesty conceals a Satanic delight in manipulation and destruction. Passed over for a promotion by his commander, he vows to destroy the Moor. Desdemona - The daughter of a Venetian Senator; Othello's bride. The most sympathetic character in the play, she is deeply in love with her husband, and her purity contrasts strongly with Iago's wickedness. Cassio - Othello's lieutenant, promoted in place of Iago. He is an inexperienced officer but an honest man, with a great concern for his good name. Emilia - Iago's wife and Desdemona's attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is deeply attached to her mistress. Roderigo - A jealous suitor of Desdemona. A vain, melodramatic fool, he follows Desdemona and Othello to Cyprus and acts as a willing tool for Iago. Brabantio - Desdemona's father, a Senator in Venice. A friend of Othello, he feels betrayed when the Moor marries his daughter in secret Have you been listening? What is a protagonist? What has to happen in a play for it to be called a tragedy? What is an antagonist? Who is the antagonist in this play? Where is Othello set? When is Othello set? What could be considered to be Othello’s fatal flaw?