Essay topics about Othello's downfall, his suicide, Desdemona, role of race, and jealousy: which topic is best?These are the topics: 1. write an essay in which you respond to this view: "the...

Essay topics about Othello's downfall, his suicide, Desdemona, role of race, and jealousy: which topic is best?

These are the topics:

1. write an essay in which you respond to this view: "the reasons for Othello's downfall are to be found in his own character."

2. what is the significance of othello's suicide at the end of the play? does it achieve anything?

3. in your opinion does desdemona bear any of the responsibility for the tragedy? why or why not?

4. what is the role of race in the play? how do the other characters react to othello's skin colour and the fact that he is a "Moor"? how does othello see himself?

5. "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy. it is the green-eyed monster." (Act3.3) describe the changes that othello undergoes as iago succeeds in arousing his jealousy.


Which one do you think I should do and could you please give me some information to work with?

Also, keep in mind the essay has to be 600 words so I need a lot to work with.


Expert Answers
wildcattmg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would be torn between answering questions 1 and 5. Each has some similar elements when discussing so I'll tell you what I think and you can decide which best fits your understanding.

The changes in Othello, directly related to his jealousy, are quick, violent, and drastic. The course of the play spans only a few weeks and when you consider this, that seems even more incredible.

When we first meet Othello he is well-spoken, calm, and assured in the reciprocal love between him and Desdemona. He stands up to her father, the Duke, and all of Venetian society to defend a marriage that would be considered taboo and scandalous had any other man tried it. If we are discussing flaws in his character it is obvious at this point that he is blissfully unaware of the bias that exists toward him (he is referred to as "thick-lips" and other obvious black imagery). He is a man who takes everyone around him at face value. At no time does he sit and wonder if maybe people are more than they seem on the surface. If he were at all astute he would realize how angry Iago is; Iago's personality is rather obvious to anyone paying attention.

Another major character flaw of Othello's is his inability to trust his own judgment. He allows his jealousy (his major flaw) to overwhelm his common sense. He is ruled entirely by his passions. Any good leader would be able to temper that intensity with rational thought. You would think that someone as successful in battle would be able to apply those same principles to life itself. Instead, he is a man ruled by physical emotions.

The jealousy is shown in a number of ways. The most obvious device Shakespeare uses is Othello's repeated "illness". These fits of his are evidence to the audience of the dangerous physical effects of the jealousy on Othello. They are conveniently placed at moments in the play when Othello's jealousy overtakes his common sense. They also obscure for him the obvious. He misses the handkerchief falling to the ground. He mis-hears the conversation between Cassio and Iago. He realizes his error when Emilia points out he has been duped.

Overall, Othello's flaws- his inability to look beyond surface appearances, his inability to trust his own judgment, and his overweening jealousy- are direct contributors to his downfall. These elements of his character allow Iago to successfully manipulate him to do the most awful thing imaginable.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with "wildcattmg:" I like numbers 1 and 5.  To add to her astute response...

#5.  Othello turns from a beauty to a beast.  Shakespeare's story is very much like "Beauty and the Beast," except in reverse.  Once on the garden isle of Cyprus, Othello's loses all manners, language, reason, faith, and love.  In the end, he is the "green-eyed monster" personified.  Othello is the Turk that the Venetian Senate so feared in Act I.  Indeed, Othello becomes the beast, the savage, and slave that Brabantio warned about.

Another animal analogy to use is that of the spider and the fly.  Iago is the spider who weaves a web of deceit, jealousy, and false trust.  Othello is the fly who ironically joins the spider.  Little does he know that he's caught in his web.  You see, spiders don't kill right away: they let their prey wrestle in the web and weaken.  Then, they paralyze them and wrap them up to drink them later.  Jealousy is the paralyzing drug that reduces Othello to a mute.

wildcattmg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's hard to prove that Othello isn't responsible for his actions. Yes, I agree that the burden of blame lies on Iago. However, I also see that no one forced Othello to take his jealousy to the extreme that he did. He could have done a number of other things.

Instead, he willfully squeezes the life out of his wife with his bare hands. It is the most personal, the most violent, the most disturbing choice of death for her. I think that Shakespeare chooses to have Othello kill Desdemona in this way to reinforce in our minds that ultimately we are each responsible for the actions we perform. It is not a matter of who or what compels us; it is a matter of what we choose to do with that compulsion.

lostie | Student

Thank you to both of you.