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Othello Theme of Identity

In Othello, Shakespeare explores factors that play an important role in the formations of one's identity – race, gender, social status, family relationships, military service, etc. Othello is also concerned with how an individual's sense of identity (which can break down and be manipulated by others) shapes his or her actions.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does Othello's identity transform over the course of the play? What about Desdemona's?
  2. How does Othello and Desdemona's relationship impact each of the characters' identities?
  3. Why does Cassio lament that he's lost his "reputation"?
  4. Do we ever get a chance to see the real Iago? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Othello's rage at Desdemona's infidelity has nothing to do with his love for her; rather, for him, it signals the destruction of his own identity as a successful and loved man.

In Othello, a man's reputation seems to hinge on military duty and public behavior, while a woman's identity often hinges on her sexual reputation.

Iago's true identity is ultimately unknowable – for the play's characters as well as the audience.

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