Critical Essay on Othello: A Tragedy of Jealousy and Gullibility

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1415 Words
Date:  2023-01-02


William Shakespeare's Othello is a tragedy play that portrays as Othello, the main character, as a courageous and determined man. However, his greatest weakness is that he is gullible to Iago's tricks that make him jealous out of passion. Iago is jealous because Othello appoints Cassio as his chief lieutenant and not him. This then makes him seek revenge on Othello though false entwining of a love affair between Cassio and Othello's wife Desdemona. Iago learns of Othello's greatest weakness, his love for Desdemona, and uses it to "poison" Othello against Desdemona. Othello eventually kills Desdemona out of this jealousy and racial discrimination.

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Analysis of the Character Othello

Othello is the protagonist of the play as well as a hero. Othello is the general in the Venice armies and a strong Christian. Othello is considered a physically influential and eloquent person whom people around him granted him respect. Despite the fact that Othello has an uplifted status in his society, he is an easy victim to insecurities because of the life he lives being a soldier, his age, and also his race. Othello has an open and free nature which makes it possible for one of his ensigns called Iago; a twenty eight year old man and the Villain of the story who often hopes for Othello's death so that he can be promoted to be a lieutenant; to distort the love Othello has for his wife Desdemona, to a strong and devastating jealousy (Shakespeare I.iii.381).

Iago's Manipulations

Othello is a catastrophe of a noble hero which his downfall occurs due to jealousy instilled on him by Iago. Othello's tragedy is also caused by factors revolving around love, intrigue, trust, racism, self-interest, judgment and hate. Othello is a noble black Moor who has spent most of his life as a mercenary soldier and gets promoted to the position of army general of Venice Republic. Iago resents Othello and decides to plant the idea in the mind of Othello that Desdemona, his wife has been unfaithful. The allegations instigate Othello into a state of devastating jealousy. Iago plays with Othello's insecurities about ethnic origin and race.

Othello is an immigrant who is self-conscious about his status of being an outsider. Despite marrying the Venetian senator's daughter, he is conscious that he is a black man residing in a society that does not have people of his kind. In the first scene of the play Iago and Roderigo referred Othello as "him" or "he", and when they start making it clear who they were talking about, they talk about him using racial expressions such as, "the Moor" (Shakespeare 1.1.57), "the thick-lips" (Shakespeare 1.1.66), "an old black ram" (Shakespeare, 1.1.88), and "a Barbary horse" (Shakespeare 1.1.113). Iago portrays Othello as an outsider who makes him a facile victim for him to control.

Shakespeare makes the readers notice the racist comments made by other characters about Othello. Brabanzio defames Othello by saying that he practiced black magic for his daughter to marry him, he depicts Othello as, and "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe" (Shakespeare 1.1.88). Iago further tells Brabanzio that, "you are one of those that will not serve God if the devil bid you, the moor is now making the beast with two backs" (Shakespeare 1.1.57). This statement proves how Iago greatly hates Othello, and it is driven by racism. He feels that he is from the majority race and deserves to be superior to Iago. His jealousy and displeasure make him come up with manipulative means of making Othello jealous.

Racial Discrimination

Iago identifies Othello's weaknesses of him being insecure about being an outsider. He then uses the vulnerability to exploit him, first by being friendly to Othello to gain his trust and confidence. Iago then advances to confuse Othello with lies about Desdemona. The jealousy in Othello grows until he can't control any longer. During this era, women were possessions of their husbands. Desdemona noticed that her handkerchief was missing. Since it was a gift from Othello losing it could have contributed to doubts by Othello. Iago planned for Othello to find the piece of cloth and lose trust in his wife. Othello finally stops trusting Desdemona, at first he couldn't believe that Cassio would not do that to him but Iago convinces him more and more, he tells him, "Receive it from me. I speak not yet of proof. Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio" (Shakespeare 3.3.92). Othello is finally engulfed by jealousy because he starts resenting Desdemona, he says, "Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her! / Come, go with me apart; I will withdraw. / To furnish me with some swift means of death/ For the fair devil/ Now art thou my lieutenant" (Shakespeare 4.1.120-125). Iago manages to control Othello's mind, and jealousy leads him to kill Desdemona, he regrets later, but it was too late to reverse what he had done and ends up committing suicide.

Othello allowed himself to become a victim of the cruelty that Iago had towards him. His jealousy gets out of hand, making him his own worst enemy. Othello allows jealousy to control him and goes ahead to kill because of it. Shakespeare used the character in Othello to demonstrate the destructive nature of jealousy. Aside from destroying other people's lives such as Desdemona who meets her death early, it also leads to self-destruction as Othello demonstrates. When a person is overcome by jealousy, he or she won't think rationally. Shakespeare is warning his readers to take control of their jealousy as it can destroy the relationship that they have with those they have around. Sometimes people fail to know they are jealous. It is a strong emotion that comes when a person feels that he or she deserves better. Iago felt that e deserved to have been the Lieutenant instead of Othello. Jealousy can also be as a result of being too possessive of something or someone. Othello feels insecure because is too possessive of Desdemona. The feeling of sharing the woman of his dream with someone else makes him kill his love, Desdemona. Therefore, it is a lesson that jealousy makes people misread reality.


Othello is a courageous, good, brave and also trustworthy. Despite all the great traits that he has, he also has weaknesses such as being naive, insecure, too open and gullible. Iago toys with his weaknesses and ends up causing his downfall for Othello commits suicide at the end. His death makes innocent people to suffer, people like Emilia, Desdemona, Roderigo, and Cassio. The audience could sympathize with Othello and feel a certain kind of wastage of a great person at the end of the play. The play is tragic because Othello kills Desdemona then himself which is evident that he fell into Iago's plot of wishing for his demise.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello: The Oxford Shakespeare: The Moor of Venice. OUP Oxford, 2006.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Essay:

How does Othello's gullibility and susceptibility to Iago's tricks contribute to his tragic downfall?

Othello's vulnerability and susceptibility to Iago's manipulations play a large part in his tragic downfall. Although an independent and determined character, he easily falls prey to Iago's false claims about Cassio and Desdemona being romantically involved; Iago takes advantage of Othello's insecurities regarding Desdemona, fuelling jealousy; due to this mistrusting his words without question or suspicion he eventually believes Iago and kills Desdemona and ultimately himself before eventually falling victim himself and to Iago himself.

How does Iago exploit Othello's vulnerabilities, including his race and insecurities about being an outsider?

Iago plays on Othello's vulnerabilities by exploiting his race and insecurity about being an outsider, particularly his race and national origin. Othello, being black in an otherwise white society, is acutely aware of his differences and feels alienated; Iago uses derogatory remarks towards Othello that reinforce this feeling of inferiority while painting him as an outcast to further cast doubt about him; by portraying Othello as being different and questioning his worthiness Iago sows seeds of doubt and feeds into Othello's insecure emotions allowing Iago's manipulation to succeed.

How does Shakespeare convey the destructive nature of jealousy through Othello's character?

Shakespeare conveys the destructive effects of jealousy through Othello's character in his play. Othello is inflamed by Iago's false allegations of Desdemona's infidelity, leading him to act irrationally and ultimately commit acts that ultimately destroy relationships and lead to self-destruction; Shakespeare warns his audience against its dangers while Othello serves as a cautionary tale regarding its power.

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Critical Essay on Othello: A Tragedy of Jealousy and Gullibility. (2023, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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