Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Othello book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why did Othello kill his wife, Desdemona, and himself?

Expert Answers info

Danielle Johnson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write21 answers

starTop subject is Literature

An argument can be made that societal prejudice leads to Othello's actions. He begins the play in a position of power in two ways—through the military and through his marriage. Because Othello is black, this would have been a problem in Venetian society, both when Othello was written, in the early 1600s, and slightly before, when its parent text was first published. Because of his race, the power that Othello gains is viewed as ill-gotten, especially by Iago (who is ultimately his undoing).

If it was only society that questioned the validity of Othello's position, he may have been able to persevere despite the prejudice. I would argue, though, that Othello's true fatal flaw is his self-doubt. He is entrenched in racist attitudes so far that he believes the worst in himself. As such, he values his reputation more than his own convictions. When he first considers the possibility of Desdemona's infidelity, he becomes angry.

Her name that was fresh

As Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black

As...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 720 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

janihash24 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write114 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

litgeek2015 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write379 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial