Othello Study Guide


                             Jealousy, Passion, Misplaced Trust

The themes of jealously, passion, and misplaced trust permeate  Shakespeare's towering tragedy, Othello.  The title warrior ruled armies but not his own heart  in this tale set in Renaissance Venice - yet belonging to the ages. The Moor who "loved not wisely but too well" will command our attention as we read the play.


            Act One

  1.  What is Iago's complaint in Scene I?

  2. Who is Brabantio, and why does Iago and Roderigo awaken him in the middle  of the night?

  3. Why does Iago leave Roderigo at Brabantio's house?

  4.  What is Roderigo’s previous relationship with Brabantio and Desdemona?

  5. What is Brabantio's reaction to Othello's marriage to Desdemona?

  6. Why does the Duke send for Othello?

  7. What danger is Cyprus facing?

  8. Brabantio complains to the Duke about Othello's marriage to Desdemona. After listening to  both sides of the story, what is the Duke's reply?

  9. What is Roderigo's complaint, and what is Iago's reply to it?

  10. Who is Othello, and why is he so respected by the Duke?

  11. What warning does Brabantio give to Othello?

  12. Othello and Desdemona have just been married.  Will they stay together or separate?

  13. What does Iago say must happen to Desdemona?

  14. Why does Iago “hate the Moor”?

  15. How would you grade Iago on racial insensitivity? 

    Act Two


  16. Where are we as Act 2 begins?  What is the situation at sea?

  17. What has happened to the Turkish fleet?

  18. Which ship from Venice arrives first? 

  19. Which ship arrives second?  Why is it surprising that  it arrives before Othello’s?

  20. What does the discussion between Desdemona and Emilia tell us about their relationship?

  21. Who is Emilia?

  22. How does Cassio greet Desdemona and Emilia?

  23. Why does Iago want Roderigo to anger Cassio?

  24. What is the purpose of Iago's plan?

  25. What evidence is Iago using to rationalize his plan?  Is his evidence solid?

  26. What keeps Roderigo from seeing  the truth instead of Iago’s lies?

  27. What emotion seems to be governing Iago’s thoughts and actions?

  28. How does Iago see Desdemona, and how does Cassio see Desdemona?

  29. Why does Iago want Cassio to drink more wine?

  30. What is the outcome of Cassio’s drinking?

  31. What lie does Iago tell Montano about Cassio?

  32. Why does Othello strip Cassio of his rank?

  33. Why does Iago want Cassio to ask Desdemona for help in restoring Othello's faith in Cassio?

  34. How does Iago get back in Othello’s good graces?

  35. What is Roderigo’s complaint, and how does Iago answer it?

    Act Three


  36. Why does Cassio bring musicians?  What is Othello’s response to them?

  37. What does Emilia tell Cassio that Desdemona is already doing for him?

  38. What responses do Iago and Othello have to seeing Cassio leave Desdemona?

  39. How successfully does Desdemona plead for Cassio? What is Othello's response to Desdemona as she leaves?

  40. Why doesn't Iago simply tell Othello right away that Desdemona and Cassio are having an  affair?

  41.  Othello’s love for Desdemona is solid as can be seen through line 93 of Act 3, Scene 3.  Why does he become a man in “misery” by  his next speech (3.3.190).  What has moved him from love to jealousy?

  42. How can anyone provide proof of fidelity?

  43. What thing does Emilia find and give to Iago? What does Iago intend to do with it?

  44. What is Iago's reply when Othello demanded proof of his wife's disloyalty?

  45. What does Othello decide and command at the end of Scene 3 ?

  46. How likely is it that Othello will keep an open mind until he has seen real proof? How much have Iago's suggestions about Desdemona's "nature" worked on Othello?

  47. Is there any chance of his changing his mind or of Desdemona's convincing him of her innocence after this speech?

  48. What is Emilia's relationship with Iago? Desdemona?

  49. What, according to Othello, is the history of the handkerchief (3.4.53-73)? Is Othello telling the truth here? What else might he be doing?

  50. What does the argument in 3.4.75-95 show about both Othello and Desdemona?

  51.  What is Emilia's view of men (3.4.99-102)? How justified is she?

  52. Who is Bianca? What is her relationship to Cassio? What does he ask her to do? What is her emotional response? Sound familiar? How does Cassio get the handkerchief?

  53. Who had the handkerchief at the end of Act  3? Why? 

    Act  Four

  54. After Iago lied and told Othello that Cassio confessed going to bed with Desdemona, what advice does he give the overwhelmed Othello?

  55. What happens to Othello in Scene 1?  How does Iago respond?

  56. How does Iago trick Othello into thinking Cassio is gloating and bragging about his affair with Desdemona?

  57. Why is Bianca angry with Cassio?

  58. How does Bianca's return with the handkerchief help Iago?

  59. Why does Othello hit Desdemona?

  60. Who is Lodovico, and why has he come to Venice? 

  61. What is Lodovico's reaction to Othello's behavior towards Desdemona? How does Iago later  explain Othello's behavior to Lodovico?

  62. Why does Othello ask Emilia about Cassio's affair with Desdemona, and what is her reply?

  63. How correctly does Othello identify his weakness in Scene 2 ?

  64. To whom does Desdemona turn for help after Othello calls her a strumpet?

  65. Why does Iago tell Rodriego to kill Cassio? Why does Roderigo consent to think about it?

  66. If Roderigo kills Iago, what promise  has Iago taken care of?

  67. Give Scene 3, between Desdemona and Emilia, is it at all possible that Desdemona could ever be unfaithrul to

  68. What is the effect of the “Willow Song” and the interruptions to it?

    Act  Five


  69. How would Iago gain from Roderigo's death? Cassio's?

  70. What happens when Roderigo attacks Cassio?  Who actually wounds Cassio? 

  71. What does Othello assume has happened?  Is he correct?

  72. After Bianca appears, what new part of his plot does Iago begin in Scene 1, starting at line 107?

  73. Who will get the blame for the attack on Cassio if Iago has his way?

  74. What justification does Othello try to give the murder of Desdemona in Scene 2?

  75. How does Othello kill Desdemona?  What interruption occurs while he is doing it?

  76.  Whom does Desdemona blame for her death?  Does Emilia believe her?

  77. How is Desdemona faithful to Othello to the end?

  78. What happens when Iago tells  his wife not to speak and to go home, orders which good Renaissance wives should follow without question?

  79. What is Emilia’s reaction when Othello tells  her that Iago has revealed Desdemona's affair with Cassio to him?

  80. What is Othello finally beginning to realize at 5. 2.205 ?  What has happened to Desdemona’s father?

  81. Why does Othello attack Iago?

  82. What is Othello’s reaction to having his sword taken away?

  83. How does Othello use the second sword his finds in the room?

  84. How do Roderigo’s pockets conveniently help to clarify much of what has happened?

  85. What happens to Othello, Iago and Cassio in the end?

  86. Who gets Othello’s estate?  Why?



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What was Emilia's reaction when Othello told her that Iago had revealed Desdemona's affair with Cassio to him?

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