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Shakespeare's Works
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O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster

Act 3, scene 3, lines 195–196

Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well

Act 5, scene 2, line 404

In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple's strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago's false insinuations about Desdemona's infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello's horrifying verbal and physical assaults.

Othello was performed at court in 1604 and scholars believe Shakespeare wrote it that year or the year before. It was published as a quarto in 1622, and a somewhat fuller text was included in the 1623 First Folio. Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi was the chief source.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1993 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
Stanley Cavell. Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Janette Dillon. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare’s Tragedies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Kim F. Hall, ed. Othello, the Moor of Venice: Texts and Contexts. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.

Graham Holderness. Shakespeare and Venice. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

James Earl Jones. Othello. Actors on Shakespeare series. London: Faber, 2003.

Mythili Kaul, ed. Othello: New Essays by Black Writers. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1997.

Philip C. Kolin, ed. Othello: New Critical Essays. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Alexander Leggatt. Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Violation and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Othello (1995, Castle Rock Entertainment and Columbia Pictures Corporation). Directed by Oliver Parker. Cast includes Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh.

Othello (1965, Warner Bros., British Home Entertainment). Directed by Stuart Burge. Cast includes Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith.

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952, Mercury Productions Incorporated and Les Milms Marceau). Directed by Orson Welles. Cast includes Orson Welles.

Related movie
O (2001, FilmEngine and Lions Gate Films). Directed by Tim Blake Nelson. Cast includes Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, and Julia Stiles.
James Clarke Hook. Othello's description of Desdemona. Oil on canvas, ca. 1852.


Paul Robeson as Othello

Folger Theatre

On Stage: Othello

Production Diary blog: Othello

Inside the Collection

Folios and Quartos from the Collection: Othello

Read the Play

Folger Digital Texts:

Related Items

Sen. Alan Simpson on Hearing Othello in the Classroom

Teacher Resources

Teaching Othello

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