Sample Essay Othello


Sample Essay Othello

Shakespearean plays have textual integrity. How is this idea supported by your studies?

Shakespearean plays such Othello have been closely studied internationally for almost 400 (four hundred) years due to their high degree of textual integrity. Textual integrity is how well the certain text is built in terms of structure, ideas and appeal while creating unity and coherence within the text. Texts with high textual integrity are usually considered to have universality, which is the text’s ability to survive the texts of time. The textual integrity of the tragedy Othello (1622) allows the text to be critically studied and evaluated deeply, as the issues addressed in the play resonates with audiences of different social contexts and has the ability to provoke responders of different times and places as they all share various perspectives. (save for discussion) This gives Shakespeare’s Othello to have universality because the characters, structure and language are ingeniously crafted. Shakespeare accentuates pertinent issues that exist in society, including racism, discrimination, gender differences and misogynistic views while exploring the nature of humanity. The various issues Shakespeare explores resonate with modern day issues and are relevant to modern society also allowing audiences to relate.

(You save some of the details here for your discussion. This is a little long for an introduction.)

Shakespeare explores the idea of racism and discrimination through his characterisation of the protagonist Othello, a moor within hegemonic Venetian society. The universal concerns of racism and discrimination give a sense of timelessness, as the issue is still present from the Elizabethan age to the modern age. Although Othello is portrayed as a tragic hero of the play, the racism and class-based discrimination is evident from the beginning of the play: Othello himself states “for I am black”, symbolising his awareness of his racial difference, which is mirrored through other characters who subject Othello to racist comments and marginalisation throughout the play: evident in the sibilance of “the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor”. The harsh lisping sound suggests a harsh and discriminative attitude towards Othello. Racism and discrimination is further evident through Iago’s constant refusal to refer to Othello by his name, instead addressing him through racial slurs such as “the Moor”, along with sexually crude animalistic imagery often associated with the stereotypical views of Moors as savage and brutes: “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe”. Juxtaposition of the black ram and white ewe emphasizes the racial difference between Desdemona and Othello, supporting the universal idea of discrimination and exclusion within society. Thus the ideas in Othello about racial prejudice give it a high degree of textual integrity, which helps stand the test of time. (This is a colloquialism – you can simply be direct and say it retains relevancy within a contemporary context.)

(A good argument – well done.)

Shakespeare explores the nature of humanity through the characterisation of Othello, and his many flaws, following the paradigm of Aristotlean tragedy. (A paradigm reflects that it follows the structure of an Aristotlean strategy. This is one point you must argue, not assume. A small point, but I think it is better that this goes as your first body paragraph. The rest of the paragraph needs to be organised further.) Othello’s hamartia arises from a magnified sense of jealousy, hubris and misplaced trust brought about directly by Iago’s diabolical intellect and a growing sense of insecurity. It is these uncontrollable emotional factors that assist in his collapse from respected general to deluded murderer. The interactions between the protagonists of the play as well as strong characterisation allows for the emergence of one of Othello’s fatal flaws, misplaced trust. The Machiavellian character of Iago perpetuates the tragedy of the play by provoking the hamartia within Othello. As soon as the play commences, dramatic irony allows us to realize that Othello has labelled Iago, whom we (avoid we) know to be “Janus-faced” and deceptive, “I am not what I am”, as “a man of exceeding honesty”. The constant declarations of Iago that he “hates the Moor” are juxtaposed with the repeated description of an “honest Iago” in order to build up empathy for Othello. Iago’s ability to take advantage of people’s flaws and situations when they arise also allows him to manipulate Othello’s, “free and open nature” through the “pour[ing] pestilence into the ear of the Moor” and provide evidence through the planting of Desdemona’s handkerchief, a symbol of the love between Othello and Desdemona, in “Cassio’s lodgings”. Othello’s adherence to his warrior values and accepted gender role is the main catalyst for his last tragic flaw, hubris. Othello’s background as a “brave” and “valiant” soldier experienced through the accumulative “battles, sieges and dangers” instils in him values of courage, pride and insensitivity towards death. It is this background, which also sees him more familiar with actions than words. (This is a figurative statement, you need to be specific and say ‘what’.) At his return to Cyprus he “cannot speak enough of this content” but can act and kisses her (Desdemona?) there, thus Othello is the foil character to Iago, who’s cunning with words ignite the flame of Othello’s pride and unleashes the alliterative “waked wrath”. Iago’s knowledge of the nature of gender is revealed through his metaphor, “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls” and it is through Iago’s intimate knowledge of the importance Othello places on gender roles in assisting him in his assimilation into Venetian society, that he is able to inspire “monstrous” hubris within Othello. By insinuating Desdemona is a “whore” and “strumpet”, Iago is able to persuade Othello into murdering Desdemona, “If I quench thee..I can again thy former light restore” thus bringing about catharsis and downfall of Othello. Thus Othello’s last fatal flaw, hubris, a remnant of his soldier ethos causes him to believe that honour may only be restored through the correction of gender roles and in doing so brings about his downfall. Therefore the interaction between the foil characters actions and Aristotlean tragedy conventions, which give this text a high degree of textual integrity a human motivations are exposed.

(Firstly, this paragraph is way too long. Secondly, you are interpreting three characters in the same paragraph, and going forwards and back between them. It is nigh on impossible to understand what you are clearly arguing for each. You can sub-divide this into three separate paragraphs – one describing Othello’s characterisation, and one each for Iago and Desdemona. Doing this will make your point(s) much clearer.)

Women are an integral part of Othello, revealing the misogynistic views of certain characters and the (It’s not the women who do this, it’s the men) imbalanced gender equality within the Venetian society. Shakespeare explores this idea of gender, which continues to exist even in our modern (contemporary) society. This idea is explored throughout Iago and Othello’s views towards women.  Iago’s misogynistic attitude towards women is prominent in exposing the idea of gender inequality. He tells Emilia that women are a list of antitheses: (Do you mean he uses antitheses to describe women?) “pictures out of doors, Bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchens, Saints in your injuries, devils being offended, Players in your huswifery, and huswives in your beds”, meaning that women are generally unpleasant and disobedient. He later uses alliteration to set up a sexual joke: “She never yet was foolish that was fair, For even her folly helped her to an heir”. (You need to describe how this represents misogyny or it has no reason to be here) Iago’s cynical attitude towards women continues throughout the play, as he talks of women as being foolish and unfaithful creatures. Othello’s views on women are more complex than Iago’s. Othello loves and praises Desdemona in the play even enough to lose his freedom to her. He tells Iago, “But that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhoused free condition Put into circumscription and confine for the sea’s worth”. Othello tells his wife that he “cannot speak enough of this content…it is too much of joy” showing that Elizabethan men see marriage as confining. (Do they? You’ve thrown a broad net over everyone here… You could argue the same today? As you are now talking about Othello, and not Iago, you can start a new paragraph.) After he believes that Desdemona is being unfaithful, his attitude changes dramatically. He becomes cynical and hostile, even hitting his wife. He accuses her, calls her a strumpet, and murders her because of her perceived infidelity. Othello’s attitudes towards women transform from idealisation into hatred. There is a conflict in Othello between traditional views of women and more feminist views, as well as a conflict between the idealisation of women and the resentment of women. Emilia is a feminist, assertive, independent model of womanhood, while Desdemona plays the ideal and passive female character. Therefore, imagery and motifs of women play a prominent role in contrasting the gender differences within society and give the text a high degree of textual integrity relating back to the modern issues that lie within society.

(Some good points, but again this is quite long and can be divided into two paragraphs.)

Ultimately, Shakespeare’s Othello has a high degree of textual integrity as it explores the many pertinent universal ideas within society. Shakespeare sends warnings to audiences and the society, to avoid gender inequality along with discrimination and racism, as such social issues will lead to tragedy as they provoke flaws that lie just under the surface of every human being.


There are some good points and your paragraph on racism is a good guide for how a cohesive response should sound.

The rest of your essay, unfortunately, does not achieve the same level of cohesion. In short, your paragraphs are much too long.

You need to avoid ‘blanket’ terms such as a ‘society’. Society has multiple definitions. If you mean a modern audience, just say contemporary. If you mean Elizabethan, say that too. You also can’t assume values of a particular time. Some points could have further clarity.

The rest of your essay, unfortunately, does not achieve the same level of cohesion. In short, your paragraphs are much too long.

You need to avoid ‘blanket’ terms such as a ‘society’. Society has multiple definitions. If you mean a modern audience, just say contemporary. If you mean Elizabethan, say that too. You also can’t assume values of a particular time. Some points could have further clarity.

Try our Comprehensive English Courses!