Summary of Othello by William Shakespeare

Develop your reading skills. Read the following text about Othello and do the comprehension questions

Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603.

Othello and Desdemona

A short summary of Othello by William Shakespeare

The story revolves around two characters, Othello and Iago. Othello is a Moorish general in the Venetian army leading his army into a war with the Ottoman Turks over the island of Cyprus. Iago, however, is angry because Othello has promoted Cassio to be his lieutenant instead of him. Othello has secretly married Desdemona, a pretty and rich white Venetian, much younger than he is, against the wishes of her father. Iago maliciously provokes his master's jealousy until the normally stoic North African murders his beloved wife in a fit of temper and kills himself.

Themes in Othello

In Othello, Shakespeare explores themes such as jealousy, racism, and reality versus appearance. 

Jealousy motivates the main characters of the play. Iago is depicted as a jealous character from the beginning. In the first scene, he expresses dissatisfaction when Othello promotes Cassio instead of him. His strong aversion has also its origin in suspecting Othello having an affair with Emilia his wife. His intense jealousy pushes him to take revenge on Othello although these suspicions are only rumors. By maliciously goading his master's jealousy, Iago makes Othello suffer and experience the torments of jealousy towards Desdemona and her supposed lover.

The play also describes some characters as racist. Othello is referred to as a "Barbary horse", a " thick lips", or a "lascivious Moor". The racist characters use these words to portray Othello as an animal or beast, not as a human. He is, thus, considered an outsider to the white Venetian culture, deserving less respect.

Another theme explored in Othello is reality versus appearance. Iago maliciously uses all his wits to manipulate others and make them believe what he wants. He attempts restlessly to mislead other characters, particularly Roderigo and Othello, by encouraging them to misinterpret what they see. His intention to use Othello's honesty as a tool to deceive him serves as a warning for the audience to be cautious about appearance. Reality is not what one sees.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. Othello is a Venetian.
    a. True
    b. False
  2. Cassio is jealous of Iago.
    a. True.
    b. False.
  3. Othello killed his wife and himself.
    a. True
    b. False

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