Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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I need help writing a critical analysis of a key incident in Othello. 

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Susan Smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What an interesting assignment.  Shakespeare's Othello offers many choices. You can choose an incident that is a turning point in the play--when the incident results in a character's or characters' change in fortune, such as Othello succumbing to Iago's persuasion in Act 3, scene 3, or Cassio getting drunk in Act 2, Scene 3.  In this case, you would analyze the causes and effects of the scene and how Shakespeare constructed this scene to show these causes and effects. You might analyze each character's motivations as portrayed in the scene, and the various conflicts that are present.  Don't forget to include a discussion of the staging techniques used--which characters are on stage, what they are doing, what tone is created.  

Another approach might be to choose a scene that you think is especially key in understanding a particular character's situation or plight.  You might discuss such a scene as Othello spying on Iago and Cassio in Act 4.  This one works so nicely because it shows a stark contrast to the Othello we saw in Act 1.  Instead of standing tall, self-assured of himself and his love, we see him literally hiding and spying on who he thinks is his wife's lover.  They dynamics between Othello, Cassio, and Iago have completely changed, and this change is reflected in not only their words, but also their positions on stage.  Instead of Cassio being Othello's chosen one, Othello now believes that he deserves to die, and Iago has now become Othello's eyes, ears, and interpreter, as Othello hides and watches as Iago interacts with Cassio.  The dramatic irony in this scene intensifies the audience's reaction to these characters.  We KNOW that Cassio is discussing Bianca, not Desdemona, and we watch in horror as Iago makes Othello believe what would have been inconceivable to him in the first act.  There are more aspects of this scene to discuss-- Othello's changed speech patterns, his feelings of loss and betrayal, Iago's mastermind and methods, Othello's intense and explosive reactions.  

When you choose your scene, think first what the purpose of this scene is.  Or what would be lost if this scene were omitted.  Then look more closely to see how Shakespeare crafted the scene to achieve this purpose.  Good luck with this assignment.  

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