Essay Sample on Exploring Marxist Theory in William Shakespeare's Othello

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  2031 Words
Date:  2023-03-29


In Shakespeare's plays, there are needs for the depth insight to explore the more profound meaning hidden in the story. However, it is worth considering the use of theory which tries to describe the story accurately. In this regard, it is required for the incorporation of the Marxist Theory in the interpretation of Othello by William Shakespeare. In this paper, the Marxist philosophy is deeply explored through the society of Venice depicted in the play. It is, however, essential to realize that Othello's play depicts military service, politics, and love. And most importantly, the politics and military service of Venice seems to be highly affiliated by the racial identity and class. Thus, this provides the basis at which the ideas of Karl Marx can be incorporated.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

As the story is starting, Roderigo seems to be highly consumed by the desire to have Desdemona as his spouse. This desire continues into the entire account, although Desdemona is later married to Othello, a Moor (Shakespeare, 45). Roderigo considers Othello as a foreigner from a low social class; hence he does not deserve a beautiful girl from an elite family of the Venice society (Shakespeare, 59). Therefore, this reflects the ideology of Marxist Theory which describes life as the struggle for power between classes. In Karl Marx's ideas, society is primarily comprised of the two types that are always deemed to struggle for energy through cooperation with people of the same class (Jackson, 24). In this perspective, the proletariats come together for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie who hold high positions in society.

In the play, it is depicted that Othello is a Moor who had rose in the high position of the military of Venice. Even though Moor people are regarded as the lower class, Othello had become famous for his brave actions that helped the military command of Venice (Shakespeare, 178). For example, when the Turkish army offensively attacks the island of Cyprus, he is sent to hold the highest command for the restoration of stability and fight against Turks invaders. Upon his deployment to Cyprus, he is accompanied by Roderigo, Lago, Emilia, and Desdemona. However, their intentions are different and this makes it easy for conflicts between them. And this implies their ignorance of the primary purpose of their coming to Cyprus. Lago is depicted as the most notorious soldier with high skills of deception, but in the love affairs rather than militarily (Shakespeare, 243). Besides, the fictional love affairs of Desdemona and Cassion is created by Lago to ensure that Othello becomes unable to focus on his work, and become confused for separating with his wife, Desdemona (Shakespeare, 121). Nevertheless, these deceptions are carried out in the name of class struggle, as Karl Marx explained it in theory mentioned above.

The literary lens of Othello play can be seen in the behaviors of Roderigo and Lago toward Othello, general of the Venice army. Even though Othello became a superior officer in the military, he was a foreigner from the Moor people whose social class is low to the Venice elite society that surrounding him in all his sphere of life (Shakespeare, 260). For instance, he secretly married Desdemona, for she is the daughter of a Venetian senator, and the woman angered her father, Brabanzio who was willing to marry her to a rich man, Roderigo. Lago convinced Roderigo to join his hand for plotting against Othello to separate him from Desdemona (Shakespeare, 207). This is a clear sign of the conflicts between the proletariat and bourgeoisie.

It is also worth understanding that Othello believed Lago and made him an ensign. But in the play, it is portrayed that Cassion was promoted to the rank of lieutenant regardless of his inexperience, and Lago was left behind (Shakespeare, 98). When he said, "I follow him to serve my turn upon him." (Shakespeare, 207). It is an indication of the struggle of the bourgeoisie to end the proletariat's control of the societal and military hierarchy. According to Karl Marx, the bourgeoisie are sleeplessly struggling to hold members of the proletariat class under their control for maintaining their opposition (Jackson, 58). However, this does not signify that a member of the proletariat cannot move to the higher ladder of the leading society. For example, Othello was highly promoted to the military rank of general regardless of the color of the skin. In this context, the promotion of the proletariat into the bourgeoisie class is carried out on a small scale to maintain order (Jackson, 76). Thus, this does not hinder the desire of the latter to seek a higher position.

The Role of Racial Identity and Social Class in Othello: A Marxist Perspective

The literary lens of Othello through the Marxist Theory opens the eyes to the racial identity in the western countries. And it is through the class struggle that Othello of Shakespeare is built upon. The love affairs of Othello and Desdemona were perpetrated into secrets between the two for avoiding the confrontation form her father, who considers himself of a higher class than Othello (Shakespeare, 65). In the entire play, the jealous suitor of Desdemona does all things possible for accompanying the two to Cyprus as a way of creating romance opportunities with her (Shakespeare, 163). But instead, the affairs change through the promises of Lago who seems to be highly engaged in confusing Othello with a false allegation of the unfaithfulness of Desdemona.

According to Marxist Theory, the bourgeoisie are primarily the central controller of the resources, and they managed the hierarchy of ranks in society (Jackson, 43). In Othello, it is quite clear that the latter seems to control every activity in Venice society such as military operations. For example: when the Turkish army attacks Cyprus, the Duke of Venice calls Othello for a meeting aimed at preparing him for deployment in that war zone (Shakespeare, 207). The clarification of the group of people which is deemed to have the highest authority, is portrayed when Othello is called back in Venice, and he was ordered to be replaced by Cassio. Therefore, this is an indication of the hierarchy of power in Venice society. And furthermore, this can also be explained through the exploration of the way matters are solved, and how the complaints are given regarding unsatisfied solutions for the problem (Jackson, 51). In this context, the characters in Othello are mainly arranged into classes. The provision of Marxist Theory can insightfully describe the understanding of the types portrayed.

In Shakespeare's play of Othello, there is a need for an understanding of the beliefs of the writer to explore the group people which he believes can lead. Even though the bourgeoisie is always struggling to remain in power due to their desire to own resources in society, the proletariat is incredibly capable of driving themselves but face the resistance form their leaders (Jackson, 37). For effective operations, the bourgeoisie uses the middle-class people to keep the proletariat down on their shoes. The rising of Othello to the high command of the army of Venice is an indication of the belief of Shakespeare in power of the lower class. Nevertheless, this is also complemented by the request of the Duke of Venice to replace general Othello with Lieutenant Cassio (Shakespeare, 312). In this regard, this is often depicted in the play when Othello ignores the experience of Lago to promote Cassio instead. Therefore, this reveals how much the writer of the game believes in the ability of the bourgeoisie.

The Venice society is merely divided into classes which are arranged depending on the level of acquisition of resources, and as well as the ability of individuals. These classes include the owners of the support such as Roderigo, Brabanzio, Desdemona, Montano, Othello, senators, and Duke of Venice. In the play, the characters such as Lago, Emilia, Cassio, Loderico, and Graziano can be classified as middle-class people (Shakespeare, 289). Furthermore, they are other characters who seem to fall in the lower class, and they include Bianca and Clown. Most importantly, the existence of the social course in Venice society represents the capitalism ideology of leadership (Jackson, 52). Thus, this is the reason why co-workers challenge some of those who hold power as a way of struggling for staying power.

Power Dynamics and Hierarchy in Venetian Society: An Analysis through Marxist Theory

The understanding of essential values depicted in the play needs to be looked through through the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. When Desdemona said to her father that, "My noble father... To you, I bound for life and education. My life and education both do teach me how to respect you...But here's my husband, and so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you before her father..." (Shakespeare, 187) The breaking of norms and values of Venetians reflects the changing values in the society of Venice, hence the sharing of power. On the other hand, the complaints of Lago over the promotion of Cassio show a lot about strength and government in this society (Shakespeare, 267). Thus, Shakespeare emphasizes high values put on experience rather than the ability to bring changes. In a community experiencing the social and political challenges, it is required for consideration of knowledge and skills for the attainment of highest goals and political domination (Jackson, 26). This is opposed to the family history and color of the skin which had dominated the Venetians' politics. Concerning this, Shakespeare's work primarily focuses on the changing society's perception regarding the power holder.


In conclusion, this paper is primarily investigating the portrayal of the class struggle in Shakespeare's play, Othello. However, it is also worth understanding the depth insight of the class struggle through the Marxist Theory of Karl Marx. In this regard, the paper focuses on the use of social class in the play for the depiction of the ancient Venetians' society. On the other hand, it further explores the racial discrimination portrayed in the play through the rise of Othello to the rank of general in the Venice army. The tension accelerated when he married a Venetian senator's daughter, Desdemona. Thus, this forms the basis for continuing conflicts where Lago is used for fooling Othello with false information about the secret romance of Cassio and Desdemona. This is carried out in the name of putting down both Cassio and Othello for Lago and Roderigo, respectively, so that to occupy their positions. Nevertheless, this is a reflection of the class struggle as Marxist Theory explains.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Vol. 6. Classic Books Company, 2001.

Jackson, Leonard. The Dematerialisation of Karl Marx: Literature and Marxist Theory. Routledge, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Essay:

How does the Marxist Theory provide insights into the class struggle depicted in Shakespeare's Othello?

Marxist Theory provides a framework to analyze Othello's portrayal of class struggle through depictions of both bourgeoisie and proletariat, particularly through Othello and Desdemona's relationship. Othello and Desdemona represent proletariat forces rising up against an oppressive society dominated by the bourgeoisie; Roderigo's disapproval over Othello marrying Desdemona as well as Iago's manipulation of class differences further underscore this struggle; using Marxist lenses helps illuminate both social and political forces at work within Othello.

How is the theme of racial identity intertwined with the class struggle in Othello?

Othello explores how racial identity intersects with class struggle in Venetian society. Othello, being Moorish and foreign, was seen by others such as Roderigo as belonging to low social class; consequently his ascension challenged hierarchies and disrupted norms within elite Venetian society. By applying Marxist thought analysis, we are given insight into how race identity shapes power dynamics, class struggle dynamics and prejudice/discrimination of characters such as Othello.

How does Shakespeare depict power dynamics and hierarchy in Venetian society in relation to the Marxist Theory?

Shakespeare uses Marxist Theory to depict power dynamics and hierarchies within Venetian society depicted in Othello. Characters like Brabanzio and the Duke of Venice represent bourgeoisie societies who hold positions of authority while controlling resources within society; middle-class characters such as Iago are used by them to maintain power and suppress proletariat movements while using lower classes such as Iago to manipulate and control lower classes - providing a Marxist lens through which to analyze these struggles for power as well as hierarchical structures within society depicted within Othello.

Cite this page

Essay Sample on Exploring Marxist Theory in William Shakespeare's Othello. (2023, Mar 29). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism