Shakespeare’s Othello Analysis: General Plot and Themes


Othello is one of the many well-known plays by William Shakespeare, a grand scale play that evolves from a military romance to a sorrowful and claustrophobic tragedy. The events take place in various areas from huge open exteriors that describe Othello’s heroism, to cramped and small interiors where the character can’t breathe, both figuratively and literally.

This play is influenced by a collection of stories written by Giraldi Cinthio. This is a general review of the plot and themes for this popular tragedy.

Shakespeare’s Othello: General Plot Analysis

Othello is a military man, and an esteemed general praised for his work on the battlefield – a hero, honorable, trustworthy, and confident. But, due to his misjudgment and conflict of emotions, he destroys himself and his marriage.

The grand romance ends catastrophically when Othello smothers his wife in an extremely cramped room and then kills himself shortly after.

The one event that sets all of these dramatic conflicts into motion happens before the start of the play, the moment Othello selects Cassio as his lieutenant.

Lago, the main antagonist in the story, feels completely cast out from not getting that promotion. He believes he is now an “ancient,” a title reserved for the lowest of the low military men. He is furious with Othello with having decided to pick Cassio over him.

For Lago, this is degrading. To top it all off, Lago hears rumors about both Cassio and Othello having slept with his wife, leaving the audience to sympathize with Lago and align with his interests. At this point, the audience views Lago as a victim, someone to sympathize with.

Lago, however, becomes the mastermind, and all his actions slowly reveal his plan. He is the complete opposite of all the other characters. His deceptions, manipulations, and lies reflect his cynical and scheming nature. While all the other characters are honest and trusting, they can’t see through Lago’s schemes. At first, his actions seem not dangerous. He successfully gets Cassio drunk, manipulates him into fighting Roderigo, just for the sole purpose of convincing Othello to get him fired. But, as the tension increases, his plans become more dangerous.

How Does Othello From a Hero Become the Antagonist?

When Othello is introduced, the audience quickly shifts to his side. Othello’s love story is exceptional and captivating. Desdemona and Othello are madly in love with one another. Desdemona is even willing to get disowned just to be with Othello.

Cassio, Desdemona, and Othello are virtuous characters where Lago is now a liar. The conflict of evil and good forces come in contact when Othello kneels before Lago and swears to take his revenge on all of those who’ve cuckolded Lago.

The protagonist completely trusts Lago and appoints him a lieutenant. Lago uses this opportunity to implement new false accusations into Othello’s mind and convinces him that his wife is cheating on him.

Through constant manipulations, Othello becomes deranged, utterly succumbs to jealousy, and blames Desdemona for her unfaithfulness, and he fails to acknowledge her innocence. As the tension increases, Othello becomes less of a hero, and more of an antagonist.

From here on, it doesn’t matter what Desdemona does; in his eyes, she will be guilty. In the last two acts, the audience finally gets a glimpse into Lago’s actual treacherous and brutal plan. Lago conspires with Othello to get him to murder both Cassio and Desdemona. Despite Othello’s love for his wife, he decides to trust his friend rather than to heed the pleads of his wife. He murders her. Othello realizes his mistake, but it’s too late. Instead of living in a world where honesty and honor have no worth, he decides to take his own life.

Othello Themes: Jealousy, Treachery, and Justice

Shakespeare’s play has plenty of universal and fundamental ideas that have been explored in his work. There are many research paper about Othello online. For school or college literature research, they can come in handy, particularly for any college student that has a paper due on William Shakespeare’s plays. Here are some of the most important themes for this tragedy.


Jealousy is the center of conflict for all the events in the play. It begins with Lago’s resentment towards Cassio and Othello, and it later shifts to Othello and his wife, Desdemona. Lago is also jealous after hearing the rumors that Othello has slept with Emilia, his wife. This jealousy becomes so intense that it becomes a psychological torment.


Treachery: Deception and Manipulation

The protagonist believes the honest people in his life are the ones who are deceiving him while failing to see the real mastermind behind the deceit and treachery. He is naïve and oblivious to Lago’s true intentions, which are his downfall.

For any college research assignment on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, the original play can be of use. It will give you the inspiration you need to write your paper. Analyzing the original sample for school is crucial for outstanding work. Whenever you are ready, you can get a copy of the book here.


The first character that seeks justice is Brabantio, the father of Desdemona. He can’t bear the fact that Desdemona is marrying someone, not the same race. He seeks legal restitution. Another example is Othello, as he feels entitled to punish his wife and himself for getting justice for her infidelity.


This tragedy is an emotional rollercoaster full of negative emotions, mostly jealousy that prevents the protagonist from acting thoughtfully. From a powerful and confident individual, Othello shifts to an insecure and easily manipulated person. This emotional chokehold serves as the ideal representation to show the contrast for what the protagonist is like on the battlefield, compared to what he can be at home.