Examination Questions on Othello
Question: Discuss the play of Othello as a whole; its rank among Shakespeare's plays; its lessons?
Answer: As in Lear the play turns upon the breaking of the tie, which binds father and children, in Macbeth, the tie which binds subject and sovereign, so in Othello we have
the breaking of the tie between husband and wife, of the most sacred of all sacred ties. There is also the breaking
of the tie between father and daughter.
Hudson, I believe, says that Othello is the "best organized" of all Shakespeare's plays; that as a dramatic structure it is splendid. Johnson says that, had the play been opened in Cyprus and the events of the first act been narrated occasionally, '"little had been wanting to a drama of the most exact and perfect regularity." "But this would
have destroyed the regularity of the substance." (Rolfe or Hudson said this.)
Macaulay thinks that Othello is "perhaps the greatest work in the world"; Wordsworth, that it is one of the most pathetic. Mr. Hudson says it has not "the impressions and
elements of moral terror" found in Macbeth, the variety and
breadth of characterization of Lear, the compass and reach
of thought of Hamlet, but it has this interest, that its scene is laid in domestic life, and it therefore appeals to the sympathies of all.
Its lessons seem to be summed up in the few and simple words: "Thou shall not lie": "To thine own self be true."
Every character in the play who suffers in that final scene
of agony is but paying the penalty due to injured moral laws.
Look at lago - at Othello's story of the charmed handkerchief - Desdemona's untruth about the same - Emilia's
countless evils. Intellect untempered by moral obligations, sentiment unaccompanied by sense of moral law indeed,
nowhere can there be perfectness and harmony without moral ideas.
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How to cite this article:
Ragland, Fanny. Shakespeare Examinations. Ed. William Taylor Thom, M. A. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1888. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/othello/examqo/othellobest.html >.
Lectures on Othello: Play Construction and the Suffering and Murder of Desdemona
Lectures on Othello: Othello's Jealousy
The Moral Enigma of Shakespeare's Othello
Othello as Tragic Hero
Stage History of Othello
Othello: Plot Summary
Othello: Q & A
Quotes from Othello
How to Pronounce the Names in Othello
Iago Character Introduction
Othello Character Introduction
Desdemona Character Introduction
Iago's Motives: The Relationship Between Othello and Iago
Shakespeare and Race: The Relationship Between Othello and Desdemona
Othello: Essay Topics
Shakespeare's Sources for Othello
The Problem of Time in Othello
What is Tragic Irony?
Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama
Shakespeare Timeline: Part 1 (1558-1599)
A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 2 (1600-1604)
A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 3 (1605-1616)