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Introduction

So you’re going to teach William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic play has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While the play may have its challenging spots, teaching Othello to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into critical thinking and analytical reading skills, as well as important themes surrounding jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, and love. This guide highlights the text’s most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching. 

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Facts at a Glance 

  • Publication Date: Written c.1603; Published 1622
  • Recommended Grade Level: 9 and up
  • Approximate Word Count: 26, 450 
  • Author: William Shakespeare 
  • Country of Origin: England 
  • Genre: Play (Tragedy) 
  • Literary Period: Renaissance 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Self, Person vs. Society 
  • Setting: Venice and Cyprus, 1500 
  • Structure: Five-Act Stage Drama 
  • Mood: Dramatic, Cynical, Bitter


Texts that Go Well with Othello

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, is a comedy from the late 1590s. It shares two important characteristics with Othello. First, the play is set in Venice and, like Othello, is concerned with the geography, culture, and trade of the region. Second, The Merchant of Venice features a character who is an outcast. Just as Othello is attacked for his North African ancestry, so too is Shylock reviled for his Judaism. Both plays treat these characters with alternating sympathy and derision, and both characters’ otherness leads them to tragedy. 

“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. In this 1842 poem , a man of noble birth shows a portrait of his deceased wife to a visitor. As he discusses the merits of the painting at length, he also reveals his jealous, vengeful mind—and why she is no longer alive. This poem could encourage students to discuss other forms of misplaced jealousy (and its sometimes murderous ends), issues of class and rank, and questions about the place of women in the home and in society. 

New Boy , by Tracy Chevalier, is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, a series that commissions well-known authors to write novels based...

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