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Othello, the Moor of Venice

Othello is the main protagonist and anti-hero from the Shakespeare tragedy of the same name.

Othello

The story begins on a street in Venice where the Moor Othello's diabolical ensign, Iago, and his henchman Roderigo argue. Roderigo is determined to win back the heart of Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio, a senator. Iago despises Othello because he has given the title of lieutenant to an inexperienced soldier, Michael Cassio.

Iago and Roderigo cry out to Brabantio that Othello had stolen and married Desdemona against her will. Brabantio summons some officers to find Othello, who is arrested. Cassio arrives with a message from the duke that Othello's help is needed in a battle against the Turks. Brabantio accuses Othello of cursing his daughter with witchcraft. The Moor explains that he won Desdemona's heart not by witchcraft, but by the stories of his travels and wars. Desdemona arrives and announces to her father that her allegiance is to Othello.

The Turkish fleet is destroyed in a storm at sea, and Othello's army is victorious. Othello greets his wife and everyone celebrates...all except Iago and Roderigo. The evil man plots to bring down Cassio by starting a brawl, which he does by getting him drunk. Roderigo sounds the alarm.

Othello arrives to break up the fight and dismisses Cassio from the army as punishment. Cassio laments to Iago that he has been stripped of his job. The villain plots to frame Cassio and Desdemona for deceiving Othello to make him jealous.

Cassio sends some musicians to play beneath Othello's window, but our hero sends them away. Iago suggests Cassio request Desdemona to convince her husband to give Cassio his job back. Desdemona helps Othello when he falls ill using her handkerchief. She drops it and Iago's wife, Emilia, picks it up, since Iago sent her to steal it for him. He puts it into Cassio's room as "evidence" of him falling in love with Desdemona.

Othello demands proof that his wife is unfaithful, and Iago tricks him into believing that Cassio "wiped his beard" with it. The handkerchief was the first gift that Othello gave Desdemona, and the Moor vows revenge on her and Cassio. Iago convinces Othello that he'll help him. Othello demands tha handkerchief from Desdemona, but she tells him she does not have it, and Othello flies into a blind rage. Cassio, wondering about the handkerchief, is greeted by a prostitute named Bianca and asks her to take it and copy its embroidery for him.

Falling for Iago's sinister treachery, Othello becomes consumed by jealousy and falls into a trance and a fit of epilepsy. As soon as he recovers, Iago tells him of a meeting he has planned out with Cassio. He convinces Othello to hide and pumps Cassio for information about Bianca, who enters with Desdemona's handkerchief. Bianca reprimands Cassio for tricking him. When Desdemona enters with Lodovico and he gives Othello a letter from Venice calling him home and establishing Cassio as his replacement, Othello strikes Desdemona in a fit of anger.

Later that night, Othello accuses Desdemona of sexual treachery, ignoring her protestations. Iago tells Desdemona Othello is very upset about matters of state. Othello tells Desdemona to wait for him in her bed and send Emilia away. Iago assures the concerned Roderigo that his plan is coming to fruition: Roderigo must kill Cassio and win back Desdemona's heart.

Iago tells Roderigo to ambush Cassio, but Roderigo misses his mark and Cassio inflicts a wound on him. Iago mutilates Cassio and escapes. Othello hears Cassio's cry and assumes that Iago has murdered him. Lodovico and Graziano arrive to help; Iago, enraged, murders Roderigo and Cassio is taken to have his wound tended.

Under Iago's influence, Othello smothers Desdemona in her bed despite her pleas. Emilia enters the room and tells Othello that Roderigo is dead. Before drawing her last breath, Desdemona changes her story and claims that she committed suicide. Emilia asks Othello what happened, and he tells her he caused Desdemona's death for her infidelity.

Iago, Montano, and Graziano come into Desdemona's chambers and the wicked man attempts to silence Emilia, who realizes the truth about his treachery. Othello insists that Iago had told them the truth, citing the handkerchief as evidence. After Emilia tells him how she found it and gave it to her evil husband, Othello cries over Desdemona's body. He tries to kill Iago, who callously murders Emilia. Iago makes a getaway but is captured by Lodovico and Montano, who bring in the wounded Cassio. Othello wounds the villain and is disarmed. Lodovico tells Othello that he must return with them to Venice to be tried. Othello makes a speech about how he should be remembered, then commits suicide with a hidden sword. In the end, Lodovico gives Othello's house and goods to Graziano; Iago is taken prisoner and sentenced to death for his crimes.

Trivia

  • Othello has been played by an assortment of actors, ranging from Laurence Olivier and Anthony Hopkins to John Kani, Laurence Fishburne and Eammon Walker.

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Books
Romeo and Juliet: Romeo Montague | Juliet Capulet | Mercutio
Hamlet: Prince Hamlet | Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Queen Titania | King Oberon | Puck
Macbeth: Macduff | King Malcolm
Othello: Othello | Desdemona | Cassio
The Tempest: Prospero | Ariel | Miranda | Gonzalo

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