Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Teaching Resources
• Teaching Modules
Teaching Modules Archive

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

"How to choose a good Wife from a bad...": Were Othello and Desdemona doomed from the start?

Teachers' Rating:
  16 ratings

Alexander Niccholes. A discourse of marriage and wiving. London, 1615

February 2004
Annmarie Kelly Harbaugh teaches English at West Ashley High School in Charleston, South Carolina.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Othello. This lesson works best after students have read the entire play.
What's On for Today and Why
It is easy to reduce Othello and Desdemona's failed marriage to Iago's scheming and Othello's jealousy. But the rules of choosing and keeping a wife were slightly different in 1615, according to Alexander Niccholes's book, "A discourse, of marriage and wiving: and of the greatest Mystery therin contained: How to choose a good Wife from a bad...," and it can be useful for students to examine Othello with an eye toward these standards.

This lesson will take one 50-minute class period.
What You Need

Folger edition of Othello
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

A Discourse of Marriage
What To Do
1. Either for homework or as a class, have students read the handout, "Certaine Precepts to be observed either in Wiving or Marriage" from "A discourse, of marriage and wiving." Be sure to explain to students how to read the document (i.e. how to translate the various letters). You may need to give them this key:
v = u
u = v
i = j
f = s
vv = w

2. Ask students to circle at least 3 rules applicable to Othello and Desdemona's relationship.

3. In groups of 2 or 3, have students locate and record evidence of each of these precepts in the play.

4. Ask students to find at least one precept on the handout that is applicable to Iago and Emilia's relationship. They should find textual evidence for this as well.

5. As a class, have students share their findings. You might want to ask students to compare the two marriages, highlighting similarities and differences.

6. For homework, and with these precepts in mind, have students write journals in which they explore their own precepts for marriage. What does it take these days for a marriage to work? Are any of these rules still applicable? You may want to have them discuss this with respect to their own parents.
How Did It Go?
Did students verbalize their difficulty reading an "old" text? ("Why do all these "s's" look like "f's"?) Did they move beyond that grumbling into deciphering and remarking on the rules for marriage? Have they begun to at least question the responsibility of the married characters in this play? Were they intrigued by the timelessness of the rules of love? If you got high school boys to talk about relationships, you've done good work here.

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

Login or register to post comments.

5 CommentsOldest | Newest

What a great post about selection of good wife. You did work very well. I must follow this instruction which you have mentioned. Thanks for sharing this post here. I'm finding research paper writing service, if anyone have idea about it then must share with m
Sara October 22, 2014 3:18 PM

The Truth about Six Pack Abs Reviews Capture His Heart Review Capture His Heart Review
Traci October 6, 2014 11:01 AM

Thank you very much for the post festa
Sheila August 5, 2014 6:02 PM

For homework, and with these precepts in mind, have students write journals in which they explore their own precepts for marriage. paris en ligne
Christ May 16, 2014 10:24 AM

Its great knowledge have to share with us and help with dissertation available for students online. We write the good essay services.
Amir April 8, 2014 3:29 PM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
How To

Note to Mozilla Firefox Users:

If the PDF documents are freezing, please try the following fix:
Go to Tools. Under Options click the Applications icon. Under Content Type, find Adobe Acrobat Document. Select Use Adobe Reader. If the option already says Use Adobe Reader, try changing the option to Use Adobe Acrobat.

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623