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Othello Questions

Kira Geary, period 1


1. Analyze Desdemona and Brabantios father/daughter relationship.
At the beginning of Othello, Brabantio is introduced as the classic over-protective father.
Brabantio wants Desdemona to have a husband that can provide for her and uphold his familys
high reputation. Roderigo, who had been nearly stalking Desdemona in hopes that she would
marry him, tells Brabantio about how Desdemona had eloped with Othello, a Moor and friend of
Brabantio. Roderigo informs him with the help of Iago, who with crude and over-sexualized
imagery is able to further upset an already distraught Brabantio. He is enraged at the fact that his
daughter had so viciously deceived him, and claims that he would have rather had Desdemona
marry Roderigo than Othello, despite the fact that Othello was a respected, well-seasoned soldier
and leader, and Roderigo was not very accomplished at all. Because of Othello being a general in
the army, Brabantio also knew that he would hardly see his daughter anymore, which is another
reason why he was so angry.
Desdemona and Brabantios father-daughter relationship is somewhat complicated. While
Brabantio deeply loved and cared for his daughter, he also protected her and was, in some cases,
very unkind to her. He also believes that he knows how to make decisions for Desdemona,
because she is supposedly easily enchanted and is easily deceived. Brabantio even insists that
Othello used drugs and magic to get Desdemona to marry him, and that she did not actually fall
in love with him. He even goes as far as to interrupt a meeting of Senators and tries to arrest
Othello for stealing his daughter away from him with potions and spells without permission.
While he does care for Desdemona, this largely shows that he also sees her as property that can
be stolen away from him. In fact, a great deal of time goes by between the time that Brabantio
found out about Desdemonas secret marriage until the time when he actually asked Desdemona

to tell her side of the story. When Desdemona finally speaks on her own behalf in some of her
first lines of the play, she says this:
My noble father,
I do perceive here a divided duty:
To you I am bound for life and education;
My life and education both do learn me
How to respect you; you are the lord of duty;
I am hitherto your daughter: but here's my husband,
And so much duty as my mother show'd
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor, my lord. (I.3.180-189)
Desdemona acknowledges what her father has given her and her duty to him, but she also
knows that she has a higher duty to Othello because he is her husband. When Brabantio realizes
that he is not going to stop Desdemona from staying with Othello, he leaves, and is not heard
from again for the rest of the play. His last lines give a warning to Othello;
Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see;
She has deceived her father, and may thee. (I.3. 293-294)
This final line is especially eerie and foreshadows the mistrust that Othello will feel
toward Desdemona later. While Brabantio deeply loves Desdemona, he feels so betrayed that he
even claims that she is dead to him. For the rest of the play, the relationship between Desdemona
and Brabantio is not mentioned at all until the very last scenes. When Desdemona is murdered by
Othello, Gratiano, one of Brabantios kinsmen, says this:
Poor Desdemona! I am glad thy father's dead:
Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief
Shore his old thread in twain: did he live now,
This sight would make him do a desperate turn,
Yea, curse his better angel from his side,
And fall to reprobation.(IV.2. 205-210)

Gratiano meant that Brabantio had died heartbroken over Desdemona leaving with
Othello, and hearing of such a horrific event as Othello murdering his daughter would have truly
destroyed him. Even though Brabantio was not present for the events that caused the tragedy of
his daughters death, he still was destroyed by Othello and Desdemonas marriage and was
another victim of Iago, who had aggravated and upset Brabantio. Despite Brabantios hate for
Othello and Desdemonas love, it parallels his own love for Desdemona in several ways. While it
is strong and passionate, it is also very easy manipulated, and ends badly. And while Desdemona
had never actually betrayed Othello, jealousy and mistrust overcame Othello so much that he
ended up feeling the same way that Brabantio did. He loved Desdemona, but felt so betrayed that
he could not live with her anymore, just as Brabantio felt.
2. Analyze two main characters by their language.
Throughout Othello, Othellos language changes dramatically, and only comes back
together at the very end before he takes his own life. In the beginning, Othellos language is quite
dramatic and charismatic. In Othellos first scene, he lovingly speaks of Desdemona, saying,
But that I love the gentle Desdemona,
I would not my unhoused free condition
Put into circumscription and confine
For the seas worth (I.2. 25-28)
He speaks in flawless verse, and his speech is smooth and easy to listen to. However, as
he becomes filled with jealously and hate, his flawless, sweet language turns sour, and he begins
speaking in a darker tone.
He also begins to use animal imagery just as Iago did, showing the darkness that fills
Iago has also found its way into Othello. In Act IV, he even compares Desdemona to a cistern

for foul toads / To knot and gender in, (IV.2. 61-62), and yells away! Away! Away! at her,
breaking his usual smooth verse and loving speech towards Desdemona, yelling and repeating
words in rage. At the beginning of the play he would have never spoken to Desdemona so rudely,
but his feelings toward her were overshadowed by his violent jealousy, just as his language was.
In his famous It is the cause soliloquy, his language is smooth, but he, again, often repeats
himself. His sweet, effortless verse has become slightly choppy as he plans to kill his wife. This
is the last time that Othello speaks charismatically; for the remainder of the play his speech is
crude, harsh, and at times nearly incoherent. His speech in Act 5, Scene 2 shows how his own
emotions take control over the way he speaks. In lines276-283, he repeats himself again, yelling
O cursed, cursed slave and O Desdemon! dead, Desdemon! dead! / O! O! O! when he finds
out that Iago had deceived him the entire time and he had killed his wife for nothing.
Desdemonas language also significantly changes throughout the course of the play.
While she is very innocent, she also at the beginning of the play easily asserts herself. In her first
speech (Act 1, Scene 3) she defends her relationship with Othello to her father, asserting that she
has a higher duty to Othello than to her father, ending suspicions that she had been lured into
marrying Othello against her will. Desdemona is bold enough to stand up for herself and even
rejects her father in public without fear. Later, when she arrives in Cyprus, she interacts with
Cassio and Iago as if she was their equal, and is still quite strong-willed.
However, as the story progresses and Desdemona and Othellos relationship became
more and more damaged, Desdemonas speech became more and more passive. The most pivotal
point in Desdemonas language comes after her handkerchief is stolen. When Desdemona is
accused of cheating, she becomes weak. Othello even slaps her in front of others in Act IV, Scene
1, and instead of being bold like she was in the beginning of the play when confronted in public,

she instead says I have not deserved this (IV.1. 258) and begins to weep. While she did mildly
defend herself, she did not do anything to assert herself. This is a significant change from her
language at the beginning of the play when spoke against her own father. And later, instead of
speaking lovingly of Othello, she tells Emilia that she is afraid of him, and fears of displeasing
him (IV.3. 18). However, she doesnt share this with anyone else, and sings nervously as she
waits for Othello to return.
Her weakest and most passive speech comes in the moments before her murder. She begs
for her life when speaking with Othello, and while she denies ever having an affair with Cassio,
she doesnt become angry or stand up for herself, and instead become sad. Othello calls her a
strumpet and a liar, but she simply continues to beg. After Emilia comes into the room, sees that
Desdemona is dying and asks who has killed her, Desdemona says,
Nobody: I myself. Farewell;
Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell! (V. 2. 122-123)
Even though her own husband murdered her, she would not say that Othello did it.
Desdemona goes from being strong-willed to being ultimately submissive towards Othello even
as she was stricken in public, humiliated, called names, and ultimately murdered.
3. Iago preys upon weaknesses of others. Choose 3 characters; analyze their weaknesses,
and discuss how Iago used them.
Iago was a mastermind at manipulation and preying upon the weaknesses of others to get
revenge. His primary goal was to seek revenge on Othello, who had given Cassio a lieutenant
position instead of him. Iago didnt care if others had to get hurt in the process of getting his
revenge; all he cared about was ruining Othellos life.

The first person that Iago deceives and manipulates in the play is Roderigo, whose
principle weakness is his love for Desdemona. His affection clouds his judgment, and he
becomes very gullible and easily manipulated when he is given hope that he will one day be with
Desdemona. Roderigo is also a very trusting person, and believes Iago when he lies to him and
uses his love for Desdemona to get Roderigo to do things for him. The story opens with an
argument ensuing between Iago and Roderigo, because Roderigo had been paying Iago to update
him on Desdemonas life, but he just discovered that she had eloped.
Roderigo complains about Iago taking his money and not getting much in return, and is
even slightly resentful that despite his payments, Desdemona still eloped and Iago did not tell
him of it until then. However, Iago knew how easily manipulated Roderigo is, and still convinces
Roderigo that he hates Othello and to trust him. Later, In Act 2, Scene 2, Iago even convinces
Roderigo that when Desdemona grows tired of Othello that Roderigo should be there for her, and
that it is possible to still have her (2.2. 222-245). He uses this to lure Roderigo into attacking
Cassio because he is a possible threat to Roderigo and Desdemonas relationship. Roderigo is not
stupid, and doubts Iago at first, but his love for Desdemona is so strong that he eventually
believes Iago.
The only time Roderigo shows any independence from the grasp of Iago is in Act 4,
Scene 2. Roderigo says,
Every day thou daffest me with some device,
Iago; and
Rather, as it seems to me now, keepest from me all
conveniency
than suppliest me with the least advantage of hope. I will
indeed

no longer endure it; nor am I yet persuaded to put up in


peace
what already I had foolishly suffered (IV.2. 175-183)
Unfortunately, this bout of independence is again short-lived, and Iago manages to scrape
Roderigos trust for him back together for just long enough so he can manipulate him one last
time. Because of Iagos manipulation, Roderigo later attacks Cassio again, and is wounded. Iago
then, in the dark, wounds Roderigo in the leg. After being manipulated and used by Iago, Iago is
the one who ends up killing Roderigo, knowing that he would not be able to use Roderigo again.
Iago also manipulates Brabantio with violent and sexual rhetoric. Brabantios weakness
that Iago preys upon is his intense over-protectiveness of Desdemona. Iago convinces Roderigo
to tell Brabantio of his daughters secret marriage, knowing that by telling him he would drive
the first stake into his plan to destroy Othello. A Venetian Senator with an upstanding reputation,
Brabantios deepest wish for his daughter is for her to marry someone who will also help his
reputation and better their family. While he is friends with Othello, he is still prejudiced against
him, and knows that Desdemona marrying him would hurt his reputation, and Othellos lack of
money also bothers him. When Roderigo first informs Brabantio of the marriage, he doesnt
believe him, but Iago uses animal imagery to incite and offend him, saying,
Youll have your daughter covered
with a Barbary horse; youll have your nephews neigh to you;
youll have
coursers for cousins, and gennets for germans. (I.1. 110-113)
Brabantio values his daughters innocence, and by using animals and crude language,
Iago deeply upset and offended Brabantio. This causes Brabantio to try to arrest his own friend,
Othello, for using potions and magic to steal his daughter away from him. Iago uses Brabantios
possessiveness over Desdemona to cause harm to Othello.

However, out of all the characters that Iago preys upon and manipulates, Othello is the
character that he most vehemently victimizes. Othello is a man of honesty and pride, but when he
feels emotions, he feels them very violently. His love for Desdemona especially strong, and once
Iago is able to convince him that Desdemona has cheated on him with Cassio, he becomes
violently jealous and angry as well. Othello even admits this, saying,
My blood begins my safer guides to rule,
and passion, having my best judgment collied,
assays to lead the way (II.3.164-166).
Iago knows that Othello is passionate and hot-headed, and uses this to his advantage. Othello
trusts Iago deeply, and Honest Iago ensures Othello than any decision that he makes is the best
choice, feeding into another one of Othellos strongest weaknesses; his excessive pride. Othello
knows that he is a war hero, and constantly strives to better his own reputation. Not only is
Desdemonas supposed affair with Cassio painful because he is so passionately in love with her, but
it also damages his reputation because his own lieutenant would be sleeping with his wife, making
Othello a laughingstock. Iago largely uses nearly every other character to trick and deceive Othello
into believing his lies. He even makes up stories of hearing Cassio speak of Desdemona in his sleep,
and claims that Desdemona gave Othellos handkerchief to Cassio as a symbol of her love for him,
and manipulates nearly every other character in the play to make Othello believe his lies.

4. Why does Othello trust Iago more than Desdemona?


While Desdemona is Othellos wife, whom he loved deeply, Iago has worked with
Othello for years. Their relationship is supposedly one of mutual respect, seeing as they had
served together in the military. In Othellos eyes, Iago is his equal, while Desdemona was not.
Not only this, but Iago is infamous for being very honest and trustworthy. Throughout the play,
Iago is even referred to as Honest Iago by multiple people because he gives advice and has a

reputation for being especially honest and straightforward. Othello himself even says A man he
is of honesty and trust" (I.3.284). This is especially important because Othello valued reputation
more than many of the other characters. Iago had a reputation for being honest, and Othello
acknowledged and respected this.
While Othello respected Iago, their relationship also did not have the same passion that
Desdemona and Othellos relationship did. Othellos feelings were violent, and when he felt
deceived he could not change the way he saw things because for him, everything was black or
white, and his strong feelings for Desdemona only made it worse.
Despite Othellos love for Desdemona, he also knows that she is not perfectly innocent.
Even at the beginning of the play, Othello is warned of Desdemona being deceitful by her own
father when Brabantio, in his final words, says she has deceived her father, and may thee (I.3.
293-294). Othello knew that Desdemona was capable of leaving him, and since she was so
beautiful, he also knew that many men desired to be with her. Iago even convinces Othello of
this, saying,
She did deceive her father, marrying you;
And when she seemd to shake and fear your looks,
She loved them most (III.3. 204-206)
Othello then praises Iago for his honesty and advice, not even slightly suspecting that
Iago would deliberately lie because of his reputation of honesty.
Finally, one of the most prominent reasons why Othello believed Iago over Desdemona
was the fact that Iago backed up his accusations with proof, and he had no real reason to lie.
When Iago first suggested that Desdemona may be sleeping with Cassio in Act III, Scene 3,
Othello became upset that Iago would even accuse her of such a thing and demands proof when
he says Ill see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove (III.3. 190). Iago promises proof, and he
does give Othello proof later. In the meantime, Iago comes up with grand lies such as his story of

Cassio speaking about loving Desdemona in his sleep that upset and shock Othello. Iago sets up
a conversation with Cassio about Bianca, and Othello overhears, thinking that they are speaking
about Desdemona. Iago also sets up a plot in which Cassio has a handkerchief that Othello gave
to Desdemona in his possession and because of this Othello thinks that Desdemona gave it to
him.
By the time that Desdemona even has the chance to try and convince Othello that she
had not cheated on him, Iago had already given Othello enough proof, and his love for
Desdemona had changed to jealousy and rage. Othello hardly even speaks to Desdemona about
her supposed unfaithfulness until he already believes Iagos words to be true. Not only this, but
Iago had no reason to lie to Othello, but Desdemona did. By the time that Desdemona even had
the chance to defend herself, Othellos mind was already made up, and it was her word against
Iagos. This is what Iago had intended to happen the entire time. In the very first scene of the
play, Iago spoke with Roderigo about his hate for Othello, and said "I follow him to serve my
turn upon him" (I.1. 45), meaning that he would make it seem like he was at Othellos service
and gain his trust so that Othello would never think that Iago could deceive him.
5. Analyze the theme of appearance vs. reality.
The large majority of the tragedy that ensued during Othello was due to deceiving
appearances, and more specifically, Iagos ability to not only deceive others, but also deceive
himself. Iago is confident in his ability to control his will, and his belief that you can make
yourself into whatever you like when he says,
Virtue! a fig! 'tis in ourselves that we are thus
or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which
our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant
nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up

thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs, or


distract it with many, either to have it sterile
with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the
power and corrigible authority of this lies in our
wills (I.3. 319-326)
Iago genuinely knows that he control the way that others perceive him. Iago also knows
that Othello can be easily manipulated into believing people if they just seem honest. He says,
"the Moor is of a free and open nature
that thinks men honest that but seem to be so; and will as tenderly be led by th' nose
as asses are" (II.1.391-394)
Iago does a very good job at creating appearances. In the very first scene of the play, Iago
creates false appearances twice; he makes it seem like Othello is a sub-human creature and that
Othello and Desdemonas relationship is bestial to Brabantio, and also convinces Roderigo that
he hates Othello for the sheer reason that he gave Cassio a lieutenant position instead of him.
Later we learn that Iago also has suspicions that Emilia, his wife, had slept with Othello, which is
another reason why he despises Othello so deeply. While this is completely untrue, Iago has
convinced himself that this was reality.
Later, when Iago attempts to convince Othello that Desdemona has been sleeping with
Cassio, he creates scenes in which it appears that Desdemona has, but in reality all of it is false,
such as when Iago sets up a conversation about Bianca with Cassio that Othello overhears, or
when he makes it seem like Desdemona had given Othellos handkerchief to Cassio. Othello is
unable to see past the appearance of the situation and is unwilling to listen to reality when
Desdemona tries to convince him that she has not cheated on him.

Iago also creates an appearance of being honest and truthful. Othello refers to Iago as an
honest creature and a fellow of exceeding honesty. This is because Iago carefully created an
appearance of being truthful when he lied. When he was telling Othello about Desdemona
supposedly cheating on him, he warned Othello,
"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on." (III.3. 165-167)
This helped him convince Othello that he wanted what was best for him, when in reality
he made it his personal goal to see Othellos life destroyed. When he convinced Roderigo to do
things that he wanted him to do, he made it seem like he genuinely wanted what was best for
him, and believed that Roderigo still had a chance with Desdemona, which made Roderigo
believe this himself. And when Roderigo is wounded by Cassio, Iago wounds Roderigos leg in
the dark, but makes it appear like he had nothing to do with Roderigos eventual death. He
appeared to Cassio like a trustworthy person, but hid his actual intentions, and later literally hid
in the dark as he betrayed Roderigo.
Iago is not the only character in Othello that is concerned with their appearance.
Reputation is a key concern of several characters with the play. Brabantio worries of him losing
his good reputation by Desdemona marrying a moor. Cassio, who is one of the consistant
charcters, has a major flaw of being too concerned about his own appearance to others. When he
loses his job, he says,
Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost
my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of
myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,
Iago, my reputation! (II.3. 252-255).

Not only is Cassio concerned with reputation, but Othello is also. He already knows that because
he is black, he does not have as good of a reputation as others, but takes pride in his
accomplishments as a general. He does care about his appearance to others, and one of the
reasons why he is enraged that Desdemona is supposedly cheating on him is because he would
appear as less of a man to others.
The final scene of Othello is the culmination of nearly all the false appearances Iago has
created. When Iago is finally revealed at the end of the play as the mastermind behind all of the
tragedy that ensued, Othello realizes his mistake and ends his life. But before he stabs himself,
his final plea to those with him is to tell people that he is not a murderer, but a person caught in
violent emotions, and who loved too much. Even in his final words, Othello is concerned that he
will appear to be a murderer, when in reality he was a victim of his own violent emotions.