Study Guide

Othello Warfare

By William Shakespeare


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Since the play's protagonist is a military general, war is always hovering in the background in Othello. But the only actual battle the play promises is avoided, thanks to bad weather. The real battleground of the play, it turns out, is the mind. Many critics read Othello as an extended war allegory: it is possible to see Iago's machinations as the strategic planning of a general, individual victories as minor battles, and the three resulting deaths the casualties of psychological combat. The play also dwells on the relationship between masculine identity, war, and sexuality.

Questions About Warfare

  1. How does Othello's profession as a general shape his sense of identity?
  2. Does Othello seem torn between his role as a soldier and his role as a lover? If so, when? Why can't he be both?
  3. Why does Desdemona want to join Othello in Cypress?
  4. Do characters ever use the language of warfare to describe their domestic disputes?

Chew on This

Othello is uncomfortable with being a lover, and this makes it easier for Iago to sway him from being gentle and loving to being a furious killer.