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TERM PAPER IDEAS

CHARACTERS

• Discuss Iago's motive for planning Othello's ruin.

• Compare Desdemona and Emilia as wives to their respective husbands.

• Analyze Desdemona's character from two points of view: the world of the play and the world of today.

• How does Othello's race affect the outcome of the play? (You might want to do some research to find out the Elizabethan view of Moors.)

• What is Roderigo's function in the play?

• Discuss the techniques Iago uses to manipulate others.

• In what ways can Iago be seen as the perfect actor?

• How does Cassio and his personality affect the outcome of the play?

• Discuss the pros and cons of Brabantio's behavior.

• What role does Bianca play in the drama on Cyprus?

• Discuss Iago's view of human nature.

• How does Othello regain his nobility in Act V after the earlier disintegration of his character?


• Is Iago a tragic figure?

• What do Iago's soliloquies tell us about him?

• In what ways do Desdemona's mistakes contribute to her death?

• Discuss the ways in which Othello shows he was born a pagan. Then discuss the evidence that shows he is now a Christian.

• Analyze Othello's statement that he was a man who "loved not wisely but too well."

• Describe Othello and Desdemona's courtship.

• Point out the ways that Iago makes mistakes in Act V.

• Chart the movement of Othello's emotions from Act III, Scene iii, line 38 to the end of the scene.

THEMES

• Discuss the uses of appearance vs. reality as they affect the play. • How is jealousy used as a theme throughout the play?

• Discuss the different ways the term loyalty can be applied to Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio, and Iago.

• How does friendship-both false and true-operate as a theme?

• Discuss the difference between professional jealousy and sexual jealousy as they affect the characters.

• What are the views on adultery of Othello, Iago, Emilia, and Desdemona?

• In what ways does the innocence of Desdemona and Othello affect the play's outcome?

• How is hate shown to be a destructive emotion?

• Compare the way society might treat Othello today as compared to the way he is treated in the play.

• In what ways does pride affect Othello, Iago, and Cassio?

• Discuss the use of humor in alleviating the dramatic tension of the play.

• Discuss vanity as it affects Othello and Iago.

• Describe the ways in which sex is important as a thematic device.

• Compare the theme of jealousy in Othello with the same theme in A Winter's Tale

. • Compare the depiction of evil in Othello with that in Macbeth or King Lear.

• IMAGERY AND LANGUAGE

• Compare Othello's language in Act I with his language in Act III and Act IV. How does it show his moral disintegration?

• Analyze the use of demonic imagery.

• How is animal imagery used to show Othello's infection by Iago's spirit?

• Discuss the use of black/white and darkness/light motifs throughout the play.

• Discuss the use of sexual imagery as it's used by Iago, Othello, and Emilia.

• Analyze the images used in one of Othello's speeches in Act V: the speech before he kills Desdemona or the speech before he commits suicide.

• Analyze Iago's language. What does it tell you about his character?

• MISCELLANEOUS

• Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the "double clock."

• Discuss the use of music and songs in the play.

• Read a copy (or detailed synopsis) of Shakespeare's source for Othello. Discuss the changes Shakespeare made in adapting the story.

• Show how Elizabethan stage conventions affected Shakespeare's writing of Othello.

• Analyze the structure of Othello, identifying the exposition, rising action, crisis, climax, and falling action. See Dramatic Construction by Edward Mabley (New York, 1972).

• Read various critical interpretations of the play (see Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, E.E. Stoll, H.B. Charlton, Lily B. Campbell, etc.). Compare and contrast two of these views.

• Research Elizabethan social customs and behavior. Describe how their views on marriage, adultery, military discipline, etc. affected the writing of Othello. See, for example, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England by Louis B. Wright (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1935).

• Research various historical productions of Othello from its original production to Laurence Olivier's famous stage and screen portrayals. Choose two or three to compare and contrast. See Theatre for Shakespeare by Alfred Harbage (Toronto, 1955) or Shakespeare and the Actors: The Stage Business in His Plays (1660-1905) by Arthur Colby Sprague (Cambridge, Mass., 1945).

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