What are the 2 most important questions in Othello?What are the 2 most important questions in Othello?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several fundamental questions in Othello.  You will find many different answers to this question.  For my bet, I think that one of the most basic questions that arise out of this drama is how individuals deal with insecurity and doubt.  Shakespeare was wise enough to understand that the modern condition is one fraught with different conceptions of the truth.  Absolutism and dogmatic notions of the good had been challenged by other varying conceptions of consciousness.  In this process, the complexity and intricate nature of human beings was to emerge.  This multi- layered conception of self is something that Shakespeare probes through the protagonist.  Othello must wrestle with both the exterior notions of success and glory, but also must fight the demons that exist within him that doubt the establishment of such endeavors.  Whether it is his role as an “outsider” becoming appropriated by the “insiders” or if it is due to his race or the fact that he simply cannot believe that someone like Desdemona would be in love with someone like him, Othello is a man filled with insecurity and questions.  It is at this where Iago strikes, causing Othello to succumb to such insecurity and acquiesce to a realm of self- destruction.  The question becomes how does one find the moral fortitude to listen to insecurity and doubt, but not act in concert with it?

I think that another question that comes out of the work is what does evil look like?  Iago’s construction is a fairly persuasive end that shows malevolence in human form.  Rarely is seen a force with so much negative power that it overwhelms both the reader and the characters in the drama.  Iago is that force embodied.  Shakespeare sets out to design someone that represents the very essence of “thanatos” or the “death instinct” that seeks to destroy everything that is considered good and beautiful.  In this, a major question about what constitutes the essence of evil is addressed in the drama.


Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I thought I would take a little bit more casual bent on the question and say what goes through my mind every time I read this play:  Is jealousy really worth it?  Othello spends so much of his time stewing and brewing about his good wife Desdemona, when if he would have paid her a bit more attention, … and further, if he would have concentrated more on communication, jealousy wouldn’t have even been necessary.  It seems to me that most every incidence of jealousy could be cured with some heartfelt communication.  If couples would just talk about things more, … if they would share their feelings, … happier relationships would result.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think another question raised in this play has to do with the nature of love.  Does Othello really love Desdemona?  Is it possible for true love to be so jealous?  Is it possible for someone to distrust the person they supposedly love?  Othello's jealousy and lack of trust for Desdemona bring up major questions in this play.