Part of Othello’s appeal comes from the intimate issues the play deals with. Unlike Shakespeare’s other great tragedies, Othello centers on the private lives of the characters – Iago’s vendetta against Othello, Othello’s jealous possession of Desdemona, Cassio’s concern over his reputation. The fears and emotions the characters express connect with the audience. For example, Iago compares jealousy to a “green eyed monster”(III.iii.166). This phrase still holds meaning today, and there are plenty of other examples of memorable and relevant quotes from Othello under the Othello section on eNotes.
Many of the characters let their passions overwhelm their reasoning. Iago ruins Othello, convincing him Desdemona is cheating on him with Michael Cassio, because Othello promoted Cassio to lieutenant instead of Iago. Iago’s pride and anger motivate him to manipulate and destroy multiple people’s lives. Iago plants doubt and jealousy in Othello’s mind. Othello trusts Iago completely and eventually murders Desdemona, falsely believing her to be unfaithful. This destructive type of passion is still a common theme in modern media and the balance between emotion and reason comes up frequently in debates on scientific/technological progress. Additionally, our culture also puts a lot of importance on romantic love and relationships, so the ideas in Othello are still very relevant today.
eNotes has an extensive section on Othello that covers the themes of the play more in depth and provides more examples of the passion and treachery seen in Othello.