The Othello play begins in Venice, Italy where there is a wealthy, well ordered and well-behaved community, controlled by strong laws and established conventions. The action moves to Cyprus, an unruly place with rough inhabitants, drunks and prostitutes, where crime and violence are the norm. See a map of Othello settings

Date written: 1603

Read the full original Othello text

Read Othello in simple, modern English

Genre classification: Othello is regarded as a tragedy.

Othello Characters: Othello is a black general in the army of the Duke of Venice. He falls in love with Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio, an influential senator, and secretly marries her. Othello’s standard-bearer, Iago, is a bitter officer who resents being overlooked for promotion in favour of another officer, Cassio, and vows revenge, both on Cassio and Othello.

Other characters are Roderigo, a Venetian who is in love with Desdemona and follows the army to Cyprus; Iago’s wife Emilia; Bianca, a prostitute in love with Cassio; Gratiano, Brabantio’s brother; Lodovico, a kinsman of Brabantio, and Montano, the governor of Cyprus. See a full list of Othello characters.

Themes in Othello: The play is concerned with jealousy, which is the main theme. The gullibility of Othello as a victim of Othello’s manipulation is another major theme.

Other themes are deception – Iago uses countless deceptions of all the other characters and the theme is comprehensively explored. Love is examined and there is a sense in which the play can be seen as a tragic romance. And, as usual in Shakespeare, appearance and reality is well developed, with Iago’s manipulations.

Kenneth Brannagh looking at the camera in brown tunic as Othello

Kenneth Brannagh as Othello

That’s all the information we have on Shakespeare’s Othello play. Anything that we’re missing or that isn’t clear? Let us know in the comments section below.


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