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Othello Themes, Motifs & Symbols - study

Categories: Othello
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 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)

-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

-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 are objects, characters, figures, and colors, used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

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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

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