Othello Background Information

What is Othello about? Othello is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. The play tells the story of a powerful general of the Venetian army, Othello, whose life and marriage are ruined by a conniving, deceitful, and envious soldier, Iago.
When was Othello written? Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603.
What is the play based on? It is based on the story Un Capitano Moro (“A Moorish Captain”) by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565.
Why is Othello referred to as a Moor? The question of Othello’s exact race is open to some debate. The word Moor now refers to the Islamic Arabic inhabitants of North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century, but the term was used rather broadly in the period and was sometimes applied to Africans from other regions.
Othello General in the Venetian army; “The Moor”
Desdemona Othello secretly marries her; Young, beautiful, noble
Roderigo Secondary antagonist, dissolute Venetian lusting after Desdemona
Iago Main antagonist of the play; pretends to be Othello’s friend but resents him for passing him up for a promotion
What is the setting of the play? Setting in Othello. Othello takes place in Venice, the famous Italian city, and Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea colonized by the Venetians at the time. The play is set during the early modern period, roughly Shakespeare’s time in history.
What are dominant themes in the play? Some of the major themes in this play include racial prejudice, manipulation, and jealousy. Specifically, Othello is regarded as a beast by other characters because he is black. Iago is jealous of Cassio because Othello promotes him to a higher military position.