How To Write An Essay On Othello: Example and Tips
Othello is one of William Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, written in the 17th century. The story is based upon two predominant characters, Othello, a Venetian general and his son Lago. This literary treat is one of Shakespeare's most famous pieces of work. It explores many ideas such as betrayal, love, jealousy, revenge and racism. It has been adapted throughout the world, in film and on the stage countless times. No wonder it serves as one of William Shakespeare’s most influential pieces of work.
And it is with this piece of work that one can base a brilliant essay upon. A brilliant play deserves a brilliant essay to do it justice. With Shakespeare, there is certainly a lot to write about. Othello illustrates a variety of different language techniques, themes, motifs and symbols that you can discuss in great detail.
There is a lot of irony within the work of Othello and this can be one of the key things to discuss within an essay. Shakespearean plays can sometimes pose as strange reading as the vocabulary is old and difficult to understand, but the literary techniques are to be well admired. Shakespeare is renowned for his use of verbal and dramatic irony, particularly within this play. This quintessential play uses various literary techniques throughout every act. Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony creates suspense in the story, guiding the audience as to what is happening regarding the characters.
One example of dramatic irony within the play is the underlying plot to ruin Othello's life and the only person who knows about the plot is his son. Shakespeare leaves the audience questioning if anybody will find out if Lago will revenge against Othello. Verbal irony is used to contrast between what the character speaks and what he means. Shakespeare uses this technique to reveal characters intentions in a different manner, without allowing other characters in the play to understand what is happening and become suspicious. Throughout the whole of the Saga, Lago strongly manipulates all of the characters around him for his own purpose. You can tell when Shakespeare is deploying verbal irony, for instance when Lago tells Othello how much he loves him - this dishonesty is unfortunately trusted by Othello.
The use of language in Shakespeare's Othello is cleverly deployed in order to bring out the best of the tragedy. You wouldn't dream of writing an essay on one of Shakespeare's best pieces of work without giving the language true consideration. There is so much to discuss about Shakespeare's literary techniques to fill an entire book, however you can focus on a few key aspects of language in Othello.
The play tells us about the power of words, i.e. Othello believes all the words that are being said, leaving him ultimately to his demise. We are reminded as readers that we shouldn't take everything that is being said to us as gospel and that language is a powerful tool in influencing and deceiving people. The play of Othello is written in prose and blank verse. Blank verse contains unrhymed pentameters, with five syllables in each line. Shakespeare makes use of this form rather flexibly throughout the play to achieve different effects. Idioms are often used in order to create drama around characters, for example in the opening speeches with in Act 1 Scene 2. Here, you can clearly see that the idiom shows a blank verse, establishing Othello’s heroic figure. Shakespeare creates idioms specifically for each of his characters throughout the play. The themes in Othello are deep and meaningful, so you’ll want to talk about at least three of them; race, isolation and manipulation.
Othello is a play that highlights key ideas about race and racial prejudice. Othello’s character is black and Desdemona’s is white, which poses some problems for them both. It is not actually clear at first, however as the audience soon find out this black skinned Venetian military general makes Othello an obvious outsider and a scapegoat for ridicule and racist behaviour. The play shows an obvious fear of mixed race marriage and sexual relationships. Nearly everywhere you look in Othello, there is some point which can be made about gender and sexuality. Shakespeare has cleverly created a heroic character that is not a stereotypical general, ultimately putting him around all sorts of racist behaviours.
The play is rife with themes of isolation - everywhere you read you can hear soliloquies from different characters, especially Lago. Besides the soliloquies, Othello is also left alone on the stage with the bodies of Desdemona and Emilia in isolation. The theme of race into the theme of isolation to, Othello’s character remains visibly distant because of deep racial issues, his physical size and his skin colour. Lago becomes an expert at increasing the distance between size and characters, making them isolated so that they wither away according to their own obsessions. Ironically, Lago’s character Falls victim to obsession because of isolation too. Shakespeare explores how isolation is dangerous and can lead people onto a path of dangerous self destruction.
All throughout the play Lago is a treacherous manipulator, able to create a false sense of reality, twist around information, deceive and ultimately convince Othello that Desdemona is being unfaithful towards him. Throughout no point of the play does Lago offer Othello even a scintilla of proof to substantiate his claims. Shakespeare was trying to make a point by bringing in a master manipulator character about manipulation - we should take more care and not take what everyone says as gospel.
So take some of these ideas on board and make use of them when structuring your essay. Needless to say, you’ll have to employ perfect use of grammar, structure and coherence within any essay, just like Shakespeare did throughout his career. The best thing for you to do is to get inspired by Shakespeare and strive to make your essay as good as his work. It's best to aim high after all - you won't want your essay to turn out like a tragedy!