Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Othello is a massively complex and important work of literature. It seems somewhat odd to put a finger on a single main idea, but I will do my best. Shakespeare's plays tend to be about human nature more than they are about any particular philosophical perspective or moral value. I...

Get
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Othello is a massively complex and important work of literature. It seems somewhat odd to put a finger on a single main idea, but I will do my best. Shakespeare's plays tend to be about human nature more than they are about any particular philosophical perspective or moral value. I would say that this play is no different. The central idea of Othello is to explore the nature of human weaknesses, particularly in regards to romantic love.

Iago, the villain of the play, uses the weaknesses of other characters to produce tragic results: Cassio's drinking, Othello's romantic jealousy, Emilia's obedience, etc... Shakespeare makes it clear that these characters are good, stable people, with relatively strong relationships. Desdemona and Othello's relationship actually survives Iago's first plot, where he attempts to drive them apart by informing her father of their elopement. Regardless of their good qualities, however, Iago is able to drive them to commit horrible actions simply by planting negative thoughts and circumstances into their lives.

The ease with which a good man like Othello can become his wife's murderer shows the darker side of human passion, the nature of extreme jealousy, and the thin line between strong romantic love and violent hatred. Like most great works of literature, the play concludes little directly; it simply takes the audience through an exploration of these darker sides of human nature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team