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Shakespeare’s Othello – the story of vulnerability of love

Updated on August 24, 2012

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Othello themes - Love

“Othello” is, no doubt, the greatest tragedy written by William Shakespeare. The play is about a sad story of Othello, a black general belonging to the Italian army and Desdemona, his wife. In this tragedy play, Shakespeare indirectly introduces strong themes that capture the heart of audience. Love and betrayal are few of such themes. Combination of these two themes makes ‘Othello’ an awesome tragedy play. Other Shakespearian plays involve themes of political conquest and fight for power. Unlike Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear, the tragedy in Othello does not erupt from a quest for power, it stems out of the fragility and corruption of love and love's vulnerability to hate.

Analysis of Othello

Love is the most evident theme in Othello, the celebrated Shakespearian tragedy. Love is found to be a major driving force that triggers the actions of all the major characters of the play. The love between Othello and Desdemona is the backbone of the play. Desdemona’s love for Othello made her conceal the truth (about her missing handkerchief) to her husband Othello. She was very much aware how much it meant for him and did not desire to hurt him by revealing that she lost the handkerchief. Othello’s extreme love for his wife Desdemona is the reason for all the betrayals in the play. The betrayals would not have resulted in deaths if Othello had not loved Desdemona strongly. His love for her made him kill himself (after killing her) after he understands that it was all Iago’s betrayal and his wife Desdemona was innocent. Othello loved Desdemona so dearly that he did not desire to live as he killed her.

Othello Critical Analysis

Othello and Desdemona – the story of corrupted love: Love between Othello and Desdemona is the most crucial theme of the play that resulted in all betrayals and deaths. The fragility and corruption of love and love’s vulnerability to hate made the play a tragedy. Corruption of love is yet another theme of Othello. Othello believes Iago blindly, ignoring the words of his loyal and noble wife. Iago’s lies makes Othello decide to kill his wife Desdemona. Love is corrupted if it is not able to trust the person. Love without trust is corrupted love. Othello did not trust his wife though he loved her. We find him killing her by believing that she is not faithful to him. Othello finally believes that Desdemona no longer loves him, and is in turn in love with Cassio. Othello’s love is corrupted here. If his love was not corrupted he would not have decided to kill his dear wife.

Corrupted love in Othello

Quotes from Othello: In the beginning of the play we find that Othello is in full control of his relationship with Desdemona. We find no indication of mental corruption in Othello. Othello loved Desdemona and trusted her. Othello speaks of their love in Act I, Scene 3: "She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them" (Shakespeare). We find him believing in his wife's loyalty. This however changes dramatically as the cunning Iago began playing his game of betrayal. Iago lies to Othello several times and succeeds in generating doubts in his heart about his loyal wife. Through Iago’s manipulation and blatant lies, Othello finally believes that Desdemona doesn’t love him, and she is having an affair with Cassio. Iago makes Othello think that the only solution is to kill Desdemona. Othello’s corrupted love refuses to believe his loyal wife. The tricks of Iago were powerful enough to change the love of Othello.

Othello character analysis

The corrupted nature of love makes Othello a tragedy. Desdemona's love for Othello was a kind of submissive love. Desdemona’s love for Othello was formed by her admiration for his honors and valiant actions. She did not bother his appearance. She did not wanted to be away from him even in the time of a potential war. We find her telling "That I did love the Moor to live with him/ My downright violence, and storm of fortunes,/ May trumpet to the world (Shakespeare)." His statements of submission and love for Othello are evident in her words "My heart's subdued/ Even to the very quality of my lord (Shakespeare). I saw Othello's visage in his mind,/ And to his honors and his valiant parts/ Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate (Shakespeare)." Othello's love for Desdemona is different, however. Though he will later speak of his sense of contentment to be united with her after a perilous trip toCypruswith such rapturous words as "it is too much of joy, he is content not because he feels she is his "soulmate;" rather, he loved her because she fell in love with him through his stories (Shakespeare). Othello’s love for Desdemona cannot be considered as true love. It is a kind of corrupted love. He could harden his heart to kill her because his love was corrupted.

Strong themes in Shakespearian plays

All Shakespearian plays contain wonderful themes that are blended in perform form so that it makes a wonderful story, often a touching tragedy. Othello, the most famous of Shakespearian tragedies also involves touching themes that are merged beautifully to make up the story. The beautiful application of the most powerful theme ‘love’ makes the beautiful tragedy Othello. Love rules the characters too much that it resulted in their death ultimately. Majority of the people in the play is killed in the final phase. Love paved the way for betrayal and betrayal led to killings and deaths. Beautiful blending of the themes of love formed the wonderful tragedy Othello. Fragility and corruption of love and love's vulnerability to hate makes Othello a tragedy. ‘Othello’ thus become the greatest of all Shakespearian tragedies.


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    • dhannyya profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Dear phoebe Pike

      thanks for the comment. Your argument is true in a different angle. Love cannot hurt, Love cannot kill is a different point of view.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      8 years ago

      "Othello" is actually one of my favorite plays. I personally disagree with your statement "Othello’s love for Desdemona cannot be considered as true love. It is a kind of corrupted love." Love cannot be corrupted. Even if it causes hurtful acts, it was still true. If it had not been pure, Othello would not have taken his own life. Othello was a powerful man who had literally killed thousands... that was his occupation. To kill became second nature. There was a beautiful monologue in it about putting out a candle... the very fact he thought about it in such depth proves that the love was not corrupted. He loved her so much that he could not handle the idea of losing her in life, so he followed her in death.

      Truly, their love was stronger than Iago had ever imagined. He wanted Othello to suffer because he was jealous of him, but at the end, he did not speak at all. He was so struck by all those events that he decided to silence his vile tongue.


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