Othello by William ShakespeareOthello by William Shakespeare


byWilliam ShakespeareEditorDr. Barbara A. Mowat, Paul Werstine

Mass Market Paperback | January 1, 2004

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In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple’s strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago’s false insinuations about Desdemona’s infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello’s horrifying verbal and physical assaults.

The authoritative edition of Othello from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

-Scene-by-scene plot summaries

-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases

-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language

-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books

-An annotated guide to further reading

Essay by Susan Snyder

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Gra...
Title:OthelloFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 6.75 × 4.19 × 1 inPublished:January 1, 2004Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743477553

ISBN - 13:9780743477550

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! I think this is one of the better Shakespeare plays! I also like this version of it, because it is more appealing to readers as it has old English and modern English side by side. This version is great for students. Not many people like reading Shakespeare because of the language, but mostly all our modern movies and T.V shows are based on his works. #plumrewards
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! I have 2 fav shakespeare books - King Lear and Othello. Worth the read!
Date published: 2018-07-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from IT A LOT like any Shakespeare the plot twists don't end and this one keeps you on your toes, would recommend to be seen as a play
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helpful even in Sr. English level University courses I am currently working on my second degree in English Literature. My first Shakespeare focused paper was on Othello and having not read Shakespeare since high school this book was a God send. I wish I had known about this in high school as it made understanding his writing crystal clear. I would definitely buy others from the series as I take more courses.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not the best :/ I like to think that i am well rounded and have read my fair share of shakepeare but to be honest i thought this was the one play that he wrote that was not my cup of tea, in the way that not all the characters deserved what they got.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Othello The nature of Othello is often confused. It concerns primarily love, trust, and relationships. It fun to note that Jafar's parrot, Iago, in Aladdin is based on Iago from Othello! The way he whispers into ears and plots against everyone causes mayhem and ultimately a tragedy that could have been avoided with proper communication.
Date published: 2017-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love this! Whether you are a student or merely a Shakespeare fan, the Folger edition is the way to go. Excellent and concise introduction, context notes, and well formatted with attractive covers if you collect their entire series.
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from helpful not the best book but having the translation is always helpful
Date published: 2017-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Great read. Not one of my favourite plays, but still mildly entertains me.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love this! The characters in Othello are really rich.
Date published: 2017-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read The story line was great. Some characters were annoying, but overall great story!
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good Deserves honourable mention for one of the best Shakespeare works.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great edition. Great edition to an amazing piece of litterature.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Edition Good edition to a great classic.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the play, not so much the edition This edition is 512 pages and very thick. It is not convenient to use as a reference for study (we photocopied our copies so it would be easier to write on). However, it has a lot of information on Shakespeare, and the history surrounding the play and notes on some of the language that is used. I think it would suit serious students of Shakespeare who want to know more about the background of Othello rather than one who is just trying to read the text.
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rightfully taught in English classes This is a great story of high drama with an interesting subtext colourful characters, riveting storytelling and an ending worthy of the writer Shakespeare. I am glad this is taught in highschool english class
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An interesting morality play--Deserves it's status as a high school teaching tool I enjoyed this play, I enjoyed the high drama the double games, the racial subtext and the wonderful finale. One of the few works that deserves to be taught in an English class.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great play Definitely a good read. Not a big fan as Othello should have trusted his wife instead of allowing himself be open to manipulation, but still a great work by Shakespeare, showing the black soul that some humans have and how in the end corruption does everyone in.
Date published: 2011-05-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Significant I think that this was a very strong play. And it's amazing how relevant the theme is. While I was reading it, I thought it was slow. But in the end, I actually enjoyed it.
Date published: 2010-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memorable Othello: The Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare is an enjoyable drama to read, and this Oxford edition makes it more understandable than other editions. There are definitions and explanations of words on the same page in which they occur that make the dialogues capable of being read, and there is a long introduction too, which I did not read. I liked the fact that there were few characters to follow through the play. The main ones included: Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Emilia, and Cassio. Othello, the army general, has just married Desdemona secretly without her father’s permission. Now, Othello suspects Desdemona of cheating on him with his lieutenant, Cassio, because of all the lies and situations Iago is creating to catch Othello in his trap. Will Othello discover the truth about Desdemona? There were memorable characters in this drama, such as Iago and Othello. Iago was pure evil, the kind of character that would not even repent regardless of what occurred. And Othello was foolish enough to succumb to Iago’s plots. The dialogues are entertaining and I remember laughing several times. Overall, the story is short and will not be forgotten. There were memorable themes too, such as otherness, which Othello experienced since he was an outsider, the only person of colour in the drama. Thus, he may not understand the Venetian norms. Othello is in somewhat of an odd category since he is a male, which is that he is the self, but he is also an outsider, which makes him the other. And not only that, Othello possesses characteristics thought to be feminine, which also make him the other because females are thought to be the other, such as passion, emotion, and jealousy. Also, Othello was a military man and was trained to kill whenever he was threatened, thus he may not have had a great understanding of women having been surrounded by men all day. There may have been flaws in Othello’s character depending on the reader’s opinion, such as Othello being too naïve, foolish, gullible, and not a Renaissance man, thus not deeply thoughtful. Othello trusted Iago too easily and so he made the greatest mistake ever. Othello was written in the time when Greek texts such as The Odyssey by Homer were revived, since they were previously unavailable for the public. There are many connections to Othello and The Odyssey, such as men that aren’t thoughtful die. Othello made his past seem epic, by telling Desdemona of his past battles, and how he saw men whose heads grow beneath their shoulders, and cannibals too, which makes his past like Odysseus’s past with many mythical creatures and events. 5/5
Date published: 2009-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Drama that demonstrates How Passion, Vengeance, and Jealousy create an intertwined effect Othello is a play that highly emphasizes the human aspect of passion, vengeance, and jealousy, all of which are featured throughout the play. Shakespeare uses metaphors consistently in the play in order to emphasize and outline the degree to which a character desired or hated someone or something. The human aspect of the play, however, only occurs within the situations and minds of few characters. Those characters are: Othello, Iago, Desdemona, and Cassio, and the innocent Emilia. Othello becomes involved in many difficult situations through the play. However, the most difficult situation he faces in the play is when he suspects Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. This provokes Othello into finding the truth, which is further provoked when Iago creates lies about Desdemona's situation by creating plans and schemes to trick Othello. While mourning for Desdemona, Othello explains the love he once used to have for her and the hatred he has now for her. He also feels threatened by Cassio thereby developing the need to have revenge on Cassio. Two more characters that are involved in these complicated situations are Desdemona and Emilia. Both Desdemona and Emilia do not receive enough love from their respective lovers although Desdemona receives at certain points in the play. Both Emilia and Desdemona do not commit any wrongs but they are reluctantly thrown into the series of cataclysmic events. Desdemona is "forced" to calm Othello from his uncontrollable rage and set things right by assisting Cassio to get him reinstated as a lieutenant. Emilia, on the other hand, is dragged into theses situations because of her "evil", manipulating, demonic Iago. Emilia had no choice but to steal the hankerchief that was dropped by Desdemona. This was because Iago Iago personally loves Desdemona, and had begged Emilia, to an extent much greater than stated, to obtain it when the circumstances are right. Emilia was simply forced to tangle the matters at hand because of Iago's passion and lust for Desdemona. The last two characters that go through the most complicated situations is Cassio and Iago. The times when each of them suffers is different. Cassio suffers after he gets demoted and fired by Othello when he committed an outrageous act. Cassio swears the he is not at fault and begs Othello to be reinstated. However, Cassio's pleads all fail and then he seeks Desdemona for help. Desdemona gladly helps Cassio but Desdemona's pleas also fail. Iago however, does not suffer until the end. Iago is the most evident and important example in the play when it comes to dealing with passion, vengeance and jealousy. Iago is driven by his hatred for Othello and seeks vengeance on him. Iago is also jealous of Cassio because of his lieutenancy. If it wasn't for Iago and his passion for revenge on Othello and jealousy towards Cassio, this tragedy could have been avoided. This play overall demonstrates the human aspect of passion, vengeance and jealousy. Othello itself is a play that defines how corrupted one's morals can be and what it can be become it one lets it get influenced too easily.
Date published: 2009-04-02

Read from the Book

Shakespeare's Life Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading -- especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible -- and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratford-upon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrote their own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament. Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammar-school experiences -- for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s. We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody of a line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron. It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career. So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s. In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays -- among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest -- presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall. Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio). The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy -- the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge -- who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"). As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds -- both North and South America -- were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs -- religious, scientific, and philosophical -- cannot be overstated. London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London -- the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade -- was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London -- the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon -- references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds. That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It -- and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories. Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend -- or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records -- some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by an aristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries -- and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems. Copyright © 2003 by The Folger Shakespeare Library