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The Tragedy of Othello Lesson Plans

If you haven't read The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare yet, you are in for a crazy soap opera of lies and suspicion! Shakespeare delivers again with this masterful and tragic tale of lovers and traitors. In Othello, racism, jealousy, and prejudice all culminate with sorrow and murder. Captivate your students and keep them on track with this tricky plot by using storyboards!

Student Activities for Othello

Essential Questions for The Tragedy of Othello

  1. How do power and ambition influence a person’s choices?
  2. How are the ethics of a period reflected in the characters?
  3. What roles do prejudice, jealousy, and revenge play in our society and world?
  4. How do our personal ideologies affect our friendships?
  5. Would you date or marry someone that your society disapproved of?

A Quick Othello Summary

Othello is a tale of jealousy and revenge. The play takes place in Venice as two friends, Roderigo, and Iago, are arguing. Iago has unfortunate news: Desdemona, a woman Roderigo hoped to marry, has already been married to Othello, a Venetian general. The audience soon learns that Iago has a personal grievance against Othello: he has promoted a younger man, Cassio, to be his lieutenant, passing over Iago.

The two men decide to go to Desdemona’s father, Barbanzio, and tell him that she was stolen and married to Othello, who is a Moor. Her father finds that she is indeed missing, and Iago decides to rush back to Othello before he is seen at Barbanzio's house.

At his lodgings, Othello receives a message from the Duke; there has been a Turkish invasion in Cyprus and Othello’s help is urgently needed. Before Othello can leave, Barbanzio comes in and accuses the Moor of stealing his daughter through witchcraft. When Othello says he is on his way to see the Duke, Barbanzio goes along to accuse Othello of these crimes in front of the Senate.

At the Senate, Othello explains his case, and Desdemona herself comes to sayshe willingly married Othello. Her father concedes, knowing he lost his battle, and Othello makes ready to depart for Cyprus.

The next day, Cassio, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Iago land in Cyprus.Tthey await Othello’s ship. The audience learns that the night before, there was a great storm, and there are reports that all the Turkish ships were wrecked at sea. When Cassio greets Desdemona, he holds her hand and, in an aside to the audience, Iago states that he will use this to entangle Cassio. When Othello arrives, he declares that there will be a great celebration because Cyprus is safe. Meanwhile, Iago plans to help his friend (Roderigo) by breaking up Desdemona’s marriage. First, he gets Cassio drunk, and sends Roderigo to fight with him. A brawl results and afterwards, Cassio is stripped of his rank.

This does not stop Iago from trying to ruin Othello’s marriage. He again tells the audience that he will try to frame Cassio and Desdemona as lovers to make Othello jealous. Cassio then goes to Desdemona to ask her to speak to Othello on his behalf. When Othello enters the room, Cassio quickly leaves looking very guilty. Iago seizes the opportunity to convince Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. He succeeds, and Othello becomes increasingly jealous.

Iago devises a plan to get Cassio in the room while Othello is in earshot, and states that he will get him to confess to the affair. Cassio enters with Iago, who had just been speaking to him about his lover Bianca. To Othello, it appears Cassio is admitting to an affair with Desdemona. For the rest of the play, Iago weaves a stream of lies that infects everyone.

These lies lead to the deaths of Emilia (Iago's wife), and Roderigo. Othello ends up killing Desdemona in a jealous rage, and then himself when he learns the truth of her innocence. In Iago is found out, and, unrepentant, is imprisoned.

Other Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Create a storyboard that shows each time Iago planted a seed of jealousy in Othello’s ear.
  2. Depict an event from the play that, if it happened differently, would have changed the entire play.
  3. Create a parody or satire of the play.
  4. Depict the important parts of a major soliloquy in Othello with six cells!
  5. Add a presentation to any storyboard project to showcase your abilities! (and hit CCSS Speaking and Listening Standards)

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How To Guide a Discussion on The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice


Give Introduction and Context

Give some background information before introducing the play, "The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice," and then start the debate. Draw attention to the fact that this is one of William Shakespeare's well-known tragedies and provide an explanation of its historical and cultural setting within the larger Shakespearean canon.


Emphasize Important Topics

Identify and offer the key ideas that will serve as the discussion's focal points. Jealousy, manipulation, ethnic dynamics, power, trust, and the results of one's actions are a few examples of these topics.


Ask Thought Provoking Questions

Students should be prompted by thoughtful questions to think deeply and critically about the selected subjects. Questions like "How does Othello's race affect his interactions with other characters?" and "What factors contribute to Iago's ability to manipulate those around him?" are a couple of examples.


Analyze Themes and Characters

Encourage students to examine characters and themes via character analysis. Help them investigate how the traits, drives, and choices of the characters relate to or contradict the chosen themes. Talk about Othello's character difficulties as a Moor in Venetian culture and the development of his relationships.


Reflect and Summarize

Ask the students to summarize the discussion's key points before inviting participants to consider the play's ongoing significance. Talk about the themes' universality and the lessons they contain that may be used in modern-day circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice

What is the central theme of “Othello”?

The devastating nature of jealousy is one of the play's central themes. The drama investigates how envy may result in deceit, mistrust, and terrible outcomes.

What function does Iago serve in the narrative?

The play's major adversary is Iago. He is Othello's ensign who masterminds the web of deceit, fabrication, and subterfuge that results in the terrible events of the play.

What part does Desdemona perform in the play?

Othello's wife and the main character, Desdemona, is. She is a symbol of purity and love, but Iago's scheming and Othello's resentment cause her marriage to Othello to break down.

What result does Iago's manipulation produce?

Iago's deceit causes a string of sad occurrences, including Desdemona's death, Othello's eventual suicide, and Othello's spiral into jealousy. Iago's plans cause several fatalities and considerable emotional harm.

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