The story of an African general in the Venetian army who is tricked into suspecting his wife of adultery, Othello is a tragedy of sexual jealousy. First performed around 1604, the play is also a pioneering exploration of racial prejudice.

Othello by William Shakespeare, written around 1603, is a tragic play that delves into themes of jealousy, betrayal, and racism. Set in the Venetian Republic, the play follows Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, and his ensign and antagonist, Iago. Othello’s marriage to Desdemona, a Venetian woman, becomes a focal point for Iago's manipulative schemes. Exploiting Othello’s insecurities about his race and his marriage, Iago sows seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind, leading to tragic consequences. The play investigates the harmful effects of jealousy and the vulnerability of trust in relationships.

In the broader context of Shakespeare’s works, Othello is often regarded as one of his four great tragedies, alongside Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. It stands out for its exploration of racial and cultural issues, offering a nuanced portrayal of a protagonist who is an outsider in a predominantly white society. The play delves into the complexities of human nature, exposing the fragility of love and the destructive nature of unfounded suspicions.

Numerous film adaptations have brought Othello to the screen, with Laurence Olivier’s 1965 version and Oliver Parker’s 1995 adaptation being notable examples. These films showcase the enduring relevance of Othello and its exploration of timeless themes that resonate across different cultures and time periods.

Read the full play summary, an in-depth character analysis of Iago, and explanations of important quotes from Othello.

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