This is a play about gullibility, evil, and jealousy. Iago, the embodiment of evil intent, resents not having been promoted. In the opening scene, he announces his intention to avenge the wrong done him by Othello and Cassio. He devises elaborate schemes to turn Othello against Cassio by implicating Cassio in tryst with Desdemona, Othello's bride.

The scapegoating plan works and in a jealous rage Othello smothers his beloved. When he learns he has been duped, Othello kills himself. The author of the tragic deaths, Iago, is ordered by the new general, Cassio, to torture and execution.


The importance of this play to the medical humanities is its dramatic representation of the human traits of bitter personal retribution, blind jealousy in love, and failure to "get all the facts" before making a "diagnostic" decision. Othello is referred to in derogatory racial slurs repeatedly by his enemy, whom he has bypassed in the promotion process in favor of Cassio. He should have perceived the hatred Iago felt for him, and thus been more cautious in allowing his jealousy to lead to rash and devastating consequences. This foolish man's suicide is reminiscent of some of the Greek suicides of honor.


First performed 1604; appears in print in First Folio of 1623. Also known as The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice.



Place Published

New York




Alvin Kernan

Page Count