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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Online Booknotes
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PLOT ANALYSIS (Structure)

The structure of Othello is in the classic form for a Shakespearean tragedy. Act I constitutes the exposition of the play, where the audience is introduced to the time and place of the drama, to the major characters, and to the situation that will be developed in the plot. The conflict is developed through the rising action found in Acts II and III, where Iago plants and grows the seeds of jealousy in Othello’s mind. The climax is reached early in Act IV when Othello publicly strikes Desdemona, showing that he has lost self-control and succumbed to the wickedness and lies of Iago. After this, the plot rushes through the falling action to the tragic ending.

The plot is unified through time, place, and character. From the time the play opens until Othello kills himself, only a few days pass. The time is so short that the audience (or reader) has to stretch its imagination to believe that so much could happen in so short a time, that a man could do such an abrupt change in his basic being in such a few days. The play is also unified in place. Although the opening chapter takes place in Venice, the real setting for the drama is Cyprus, and all the action of the play takes place on that small island within a few locations. The play is also unified by characters, with Othello and/or Iago dominating most of the scenes and most of the action.


The entire play revolves around the temptation of Othello by Iago. In the beginning, he is a brave and noble General, an intelligent and well-spoken statesman, and a gentle husband. He dearly and deeply loves and admires his new, young bride for her beauty, her purity, and her strong will. Unfortunately, he does not know her well, just as he does not well know social graces or worldly wisdom. As a result, he easily falls prey to the evil Iago, who fans the flames of jealousy in Othello. The more Iago convinces the General of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, the more enraged and irrational he becomes. He loses his logic, his self- control, and his self-confidence. He is in such anguish and grief that he publicly strikes his bride, showing that he is in Iago’s control. From that point forward, it is all downhill for Othello. He is easily persuaded by Iago to kill his bride in the bed that he believes she defiled. As he stands staring at the sleeping beauty that he is about to murder, he is truly a tragic figure. He cannot resist kissing Desdemona and weeps over what he is about to do. As soon as she is dead, he realizes what a monstrous thing he has done. Then he learns that she was truly innocent and that he has been totally duped by the villainous Iago. He cannot stand to live with his guilt, so he stabs himself and dies on the body of his precious Desdemona.

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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Summary
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