10 Analytical Essay Topics on Othello

Topics and ideas
Posted on February 16, 2017

Welcome to the first of our three guides on writing an analytical essay on Othello,  composed by the famous playwright, actor and poet William Shakespeare. Everyone knows Shakespeare as the greatest English writer of all time, and one of the world’s most prominent dramatists. But understanding Shakespeare’s plays can be quite a daunting task. However, you don’t have to worry since you’ve hit the jackpot!

  1. Shakespeare is known to be a playwright, who was always more influenced by the real-world rather than by abstract imaginations. The majority of his plays were based on tales, short stories and real events. Othello was no exception. This play was strongly influenced by Cinthio’s short-story “Un Capitano Moro.” In fact, all the characters had prototypes and were mentioned solely by their ranks and titles in the initial Italian version. Desdemona was the only hero whose name Shakespeare borrowed directly from Cinthio.
  2. Othello is the main character of this play. At the same time, if you have read this play not knowing its title you would suspect it is called “Iago”, because this secondary character surpasses Othello both in terms of dialogues and overall significance in the plot. Iago, the main villain of the story, had pronounced some of the most memorable lines in the history of drama, can still be heard in the everyday language of playwrights. He is also considered to be the most verbose character of the play.
  3. Othello was a pioneer play in shining a spotlight on the subject of interracial marriage as a mainstream entertainment of that time. In this matter, Shakespeare was ahead of his time, because the dilemma of interracial marriages has not been discussed for 350 years since then. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” play and movie was the first mass piece of art dedicated to the same topic in the modern history.
  4. Othello is a very complex, and subtly nuanced play. It describes the story of Othello, a valiant army general, his wife Desdemona, and his ensign (second lieutenant), Iago. Since Iago doesn’t get promoted to the rank of a lieutenant, which he desperately wanted, he plots a deceit that makes  Othello accept the idea of his wife, Desdemona,  being unfaithful to him.Due to the personal tragedy, Othello becomes desperate to escape from the pressure of this nightmare. These sufferings blind him and make him kill the love of his life. When he finds out that he was tricked into believing gossips about his wife having an affair, he commits suicide out of regret, shame and moral pain. Such ending has very strong allusions to the “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles. Iago gets executed in the end of the play, which is remarkable for Shakespeare, who never pursued the idea of the immediate punishment for evil.
  5. Shakespeare was inspired by Cinthio’s Un Capitano Moro, and most of the story, along with some plot twists based on it. However, we find that there are some characters, such as Roderigo, not existing in Cinthio’s Un Capitano Moro.
  6. Othello became so popular and famous in the 1900s. Its first film version was made in 1909. The originally titled film, Othello was directed by Ugo Falena. It was filmed in Venice, which made “Othello,” the first Shakespeare play filmed in its actual location. Amazing sights, strong group of actors and Ugo Falena’s impeccable taste brought the film to the top of numerous charts and Shakespeare once again got his well-earned recognition.
  7. Othello was interpreted and turned into movies more than 20 times by relentless Hollywood. These include Stuart Burge’s 1965 and Oliver Parker’s 1995 classic adaptations, as well as Tim Blake Nelson’s eccentric “O” filmed in 2001.
  8. Othello, the tragic hero in the play of William Shakespeare’s Othello, comes from the name of an ancient Roman emperor, Otho, which means “wealth”. At the same time you shouldn’t take it for granted as it is only a speculation that’s been made by historians.
  9. Honesty is one of the words that is intensely repeated throughout the play, at least 52 times to be exact. It may be due to the fact that the whole play is about ‘honesty’ and how Desdemona was very faithful to her husband, while Othello suspected otherwise, because Iago’s cunning plan.
  10. Othello was first performed in Whitehall Palace 1604. According to the history of Othello’s premier, the play is said to be performed on the Halloween day, November the 1st. The adaptation of the play, however, wasn’t adapted during the Restoration Period – whereas, most of Shakespeare’s plays were adapted in that era.

These facts will surely come in handy when you’re about to write an analytical essay on the play. We’ve also included seven references from where we’ve gathered these facts. This will save a lot of your time as you can use these links to find more information on a specific topic. It will allow you to concentrate more on actually writing the essay.

But before you start writing, we urge you to read our second guide, 20 Othello essay topics, first – where you’ll find relevant topics on Othello, along with a sample essay helpful in  avoiding  any confusion when composing your paper. Of course, we have also included a final guide on how to write a killer analytical essay on Othello, which is a must-read. In this guide, you’ll explore how to write and compose a sublime and exemplary paper on Othello.


  1. Bullough, G. (1973). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare’s: Major tragedies. Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Volume VII (Vol. 7). Columbia University Press.
  2. Veldhuijzen, D. G. J. (2016). Feminism and Feminisms: An Analysis of Paula Vogel and Toni Morrison’s Feminist Play Appropriations of Othello (Bachelor’s thesis).
  3. Simmons, A. M. (2016). Supporting Critical Literacy in High School English by Using Systemic Functional Linguistics to Analyze Fantasy, Canonical, and Non Fiction Texts. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 13(3), 183-209.
  4. Smith, I. (2016). We are Othello: Speaking of race in early modern studies. Shakespeare Quarterly, 67(1), 104-124.
  5. Stella, C. (2016). Italian Studies: Cinquecento (1500–1599). The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies, 76, 276-283.
  6. Dwivedi, A. V. (2016). Othello: Language and writing [Book Review]. Australasian Drama Studies, (68), 195.
  7. Mondal, S. Race, Ideology and Theatre: A Classroom Reading of Othello.
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