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A scene from Othello

Introduction to the play

In Othello, William 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.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Othello

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

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, lines 403–404

From the audio edition of Othello

Full recording available from Simon & Schuster Audio on CD and for download.

Othello in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Othello. Find more in our digital image collection

Edwin Booth as Iago. Photograph by Napoleon Sarony.
Carl Van Vechten. Portrait of Paul Robeson as Othello. Silver gelatin photographic print, 1944
James Clarke Hook. Othello's description of Desdemona. Oil on canvas, ca. 1852
Robert Edmond Jones. Costume design for Paul Robeson as Othello. Ink and gouache drawing with fabric swatches attached, 1943

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare


Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Othello
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Othello

Early printed texts

The textual history of Othello is opaque. The play was first published in 1622 as a quarto (Q1) and then, a year later, in a different version in the 1623 First Folio (F1). F1’s version of the play is about 160 lines longer than Q1, with some of those lines clustering into distinct passages that do not have an equivalent in Q1. There are also different readings of hundreds of words including, most famously, the discrepancies between Q1’s Othello reporting that Desdemona rewarded him with a “world of sighs” while F1 has a “world of kisses” (Act 1, scene 3). There is no scholarly consensus on the origins of these differences or on which text to use as the basis for an edition. The Folger edition is based on Q1, indicating Q-only words with pointed brackets and F-only lines with square brackets.

See more primary sources related to Othello on Shakespeare Documented