Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is a short summary of Shakespeare's Othello?

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Phoebe Eason eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shakespeare's Othello is a fascinating and complex tragic play that depicts the marriage, downfall, and ultimate demise of the main character, Othello. Othello, a Moor and a general in the Venetian army, marries a Venetian noblewoman, Desdemona, without the blessing of her family. Iago, the villain of the story, plots with Roderigo to essentially destroy Othello. Iago cites several reasons for his vengeance, including Othello overlooking him for a promotion and giving the position to Michael Cassio instead, and Othello possibly sleeping with Iago's wife, Emilia. Roderigo, who is used by Iago because he is rich, is in love with Desdemona and works with Iago because he is promised that he will win Desdemona if they are able to defeat Othello.

Iago's plans become progressively more manipulative and complex as he preys upon Othello's insecurities and convinces him that his new wife is having an affair with Cassio. In his rage, Othello kills his wife, despite her protestations of her own innocence until the end. Once it is discovered that Desdemona has died, Emilia is killed by her husband when she begins to realize the role he played in Desdemona's death. Othello wounds Iago (who is then taken into custody) before killing himself, thus bringing to an end a life marred by tragedy.

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Othello is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. It was probably written in 1603 and was first performed in 1604. It is based on the 1565 story Un Capitano Moro ("A Moorish Captain") by Cinthio. 

Othello is set in the sixteenth century. The play opens in Venice and concludes in Cyprus. The protagonist of the play is Othello, a Moorish soldier who has been promoted to the rank of General in the Venetian army due to his military skill. He falls in love with Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian noble, and ends up marrying her despite the initial objections of her father.

The antagonist in the play is Iago, of Venetian descent. He is a racist who is prejudiced against Othello. He also resents that Othello has promoted Cassio, a younger man, rather than himself. He plots the downfall of both Cassio and Othello by planting evidence to convince Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. Inflamed by jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona, but Iago's plot is revealed. Othello kills himself and Iago, who has killed his wife Emilia, is apprehended for murder. 

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