Othello Themes, Motifs & Symbols – study

Themes Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work
The incompatibility of Military heroism, and love – Othello above all is a solider- Desdemona is Othello’s “fair warrior” he is happiest when he has her with him in the middle of military conquest or business- he predicates his success in love on his success as a solider
The Danger of Isolation -Once Othello moves from Venice to the island of Cyprus, himself, Desdemona, Iago, Emilia, and Roderigo have little to do but prey upon one another.- Iago is an expert at manipulating the distance between characters- self-isolation -> self-preservation -> self-destruction
Motifs Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes
Sight and Blindness -Desdemona is able to see Othello for what he is in a way that even Othello himself cannot-Othello’s color means nothing to Desdemona- Othello is frequently convinced by things he cannot see (Iago’s story of seeing Cassio with Desdemona’s handkerchief)
Plants -Iago is strangely preoccupied with plants- Characters in the play seem to be the product of certain inevitable, natural forces, which, if left unchecked, will grow wild.- Iago plants his seeds in the minds of others
Animals -References to animals convey a sense that the laws of nature are the primary forces governing the characters in the play.
Hell, Demons, and Monsters – This imagery shows the jealousy-crazed characters as grotesque, deformed, and demonic-showing jealousy and betrayal
Symbols Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors, used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The Handkerchief – To Desdemona = a symbol of Othellos love- To Othello = a symbol of faith and chastity- Virginity and fidelity- Manipulated by Iago
The Song “Willow” – The song’s lyrics suggest that both men and women are unfaithful to each other- Desdemona = melancholy/acceptance of her alienation from Othello