Shakespeare’s Othello and Its Cultural Aspects


William Shakespeare once again successfully maneuvers between various human emotions, constantly changing the reader’s attitude to what is happening. The play’s structure implies a division into actions and scenes, where each subsequent element of the story may well be contrasting. The work shows and indicates what the people around you may be like. Shakespeare shows Desdemona as a woman completely immersed in love and not seeing anything around. Iago is a rather cunning, agile man who has never seen anything good in his life; there is one greed on his part, which ends with his execution, and was it worth it all, you ask. Yes, it was worth it, people like Iago – “offended by life”, just at the expense of their selfishness and cunning, are trying to achieve the best in life. However, it is worth going over their heads, just for the sake that then your head will not be. For a long time, Othello was perceived as the simplest Shakespearean tragedy, devoid of symbolic meanings, based on a modern family and household novel and possessing the greatest historical and geographical specificity.

Man and Environment

The Theme of Jealousy

The conflict in Shakespeare’s tragedy is extremely tense, acute, and irreconcilable, and it unfolds as a clash of two antagonistic forces. The author clearly demonstrates this in his performances: the best, noble, intelligent people die under the influence of evil, fall into tenacious nets of lies and get confused in them (Merhotra, 348). After all, even the most intelligent, noble, and intelligent people could not resist deception, hypocrisy, and flattery for selfish purposes. Such views on life and values are characteristic of the end of the Renaissance, as the goals of humanists during this period failed miserably.

Othello’s Personality

Othello with such personality traits that do not fit well with his profession as a successful military commander and commander. Simplicity, infantile credulity, and inability to understand people do not agree with the image of such a character in any way. The people around him largely cause Othello’s jealousy. In the society in which he lived, it was not customary to leave unanswered infidelity on the part of a woman. Moreover, women in principle, had much fewer rights and were lower in status compared to men. Consequently, jealousy did not even require any proof to show. The reflection of the problem of “man and environment”, a reader sees through the juxtaposition of the worldviews of the main characters: Othello and Iago (Merhotra, 349). Therefore, comparing the views of these two characters has the most striking contrast.

Iago’s Role


The text of the play allows us to reconstruct the biography of Iago quite completely. At the same time, however, it is necessary to rely mainly on his own statements; and the properties of his soul are such that many of his statements should be treated with caution. Another important topic raised by Shakespeare is racism. As it is known, Othello was black, therefore, this fact is also the reason for Iago’s hatred. The reader observes his attitude towards all the people around him: he does not consider women and hates black people. He reshapes the concept of “everything for man” into “everything for himself”. In addition, his character is manifested in the following words: “I have told thee often, and I retell thee again and again, I hate the Moor. If thou canst cuckold him, thou dost thyself a pleasure, me a sport” (Othello, lines 736-741). In addition to everything, Iago uses women and does not know any tender feelings. Desdemona is just a tool for him to destroy Othello, and Emilia is an assistant who performs small errands.

Reason for Iago’s Relation

Iago is a racial hostility that expresses the attitude of the entire Venetian elite towards the Moor. This serves as the basis for Matthews’ conclusion that it is not a native of a less civilized country who descends to the former barbaric state. Still, Iago is a European barbarian who is trying to lower the civilized to his brutish level. The first statement is not groundless because of Brabanzio’s reaction to his daughter’s marriage is unacceptable precisely for racial reasons. However, the attitude towards the Moor of Cassio, the Cypriots, and the Doge’s admiring words about Othello, whose sincerity there is no reason to doubt, is against such generalization.

Othello’s Role

An Outsider

In addition, in the tragedy, Othello is an extra person. And it is this detail in the plot that is the most convincing. Who has never felt in Othello’s place? The feelings of an “extra person” are familiar to everyone: a student who comes to a new class, a mature person who has changed jobs. It is always difficult to be a beginner: but in most cases, you can get rid of the novice label in a short time (Schalkwyk, 239). A teenager will make friends with classmates, an adult can easily get used to a new place. But Othello will remain a stranger.

Othello in society

Moreover, he is destined to be black in the world of white people. Desdemona was conquered by Othello, of course, not only by the status of an outsider. The black general is brave, honest, and sincere, but it is these traits that make him especially vulnerable, which is what the insidious Iago uses. Shakespeare complicated his play with unnecessary hype around a lost handkerchief. For about three hours, the action continues, reflecting the experiences of the Moor. Whereas he can convey all his torments in one phrase: “Do you love me?” (Othello, 1958). This is the question Othello should have asked Desdemona. But self-doubt and doubts, typical of every outsider, direct him in a completely different direction.


In conclusion, readers see a battle between good and evil, which is taking place in the public arena and in the human soul. This struggle reveals the best spiritual possibilities of the hero, but it also causes bad things. The hero is painfully searching for truth as well as justice. Moreover, Shakespeare pays attention to such social problems as racism, disrespect for the female sex, and the problem of hypocrisy, lies, and betrayal. Therefore, “Othello” is not a simple domestic tragedy, as it seemed to many generations of viewers, actors, critics, and historians of literature and theater. Its symbolism is complex and dates back to the first mystery. Shakespeare shows which way a person of the new time can go: a person could become bright and morally beautiful or base, immoral. The rapid transition from heroics to blindness testifies to the vulnerability of a person in danger of becoming subject to dark passions and selfish interests. The actions of the tragic heroes of Shakespeare, outstanding people, affect the whole society. The heroes are so significant that each of them is an entire world.

Works Cited

Merhotra, Vivek. “Malignity and Motive in William Shakespeare’s Othello”. Journal of Critical Reviews, vol. 7, no19, 2020, pp. 346-350.

Schalkwyk, David, and Silvia Bigliazzi. Shakespeare’s Others in 21st-century European Performance: The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021, pp. 209-258.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice. Penguin Random House LLC, 1958.