Othello Logs


Log #1

How do you make someone jealous?

People by nature are mean and petty creatures.  If you have something that another covets, they will be jealous of you.  Flaunt it before them and the situation gets even worse because they feel that you are intentionally trying to humiliate them.  Desire is a motivating force in the lives of human beings and jealousy is a byproduct of desire.


Log #2 1.1

Why do people hate Othello?  Why do they follow him?

The only three people that speak in the first scene are Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio.  Each has their own reasons for disliking Othello.  Iago hates Othello because Othello promoted another man, Cassio, to the officer position rather than Iago.  Roderigo hates Othello because Othello elopes with Desdemona, whom Roderigo wants.  Brabantio is Desdemona’s father and hates Othello because Othello elopes with his daughter.  Racism also comes into play, because Othello is a Moor and black.  Brabantio says to Roderigo, “O would you had had her” which shows his discrimination.  Brabantio at first refuses Desdemona to Roderigo but when Othello and she leave together, he regrets that he had not given her first to Roderigo.  Othello is a good and honest leader and the people follow him because of this.  However, if by following, one means that they are chasing after him, the reason is that Brabantio and Iago are trying to prevent the lovers from eloping and leaving the country.  At present, they are at an inn in the town.


Log #3 1.2

Describe Othello.

            Othello is a Moor from Northern Africa.  He is black but is ranked fairly highly in the social ladder.  He is a military commander for the Venetians.  His skills as a general give him prestige and popularity.  He is an honest and trusted man and liked by many.  He is also rather arrogant and very confident in himself, responding to Brabantio with teasing words and jibes.  He seems sure that his skills on the battlefield and his necessity to the people will protect him from the influence of a powerful man like Brabantio.  He cares little about what others think of him.  Even when three nobleman commend Iago to Othello, he chooses another man to be his lieutenant.


Log #4 1.3

Describe Desdemona

            Desdemona is very bold and independent for a woman of that era.  She is not afraid to defy her father and take action according to her own wishes.  She has the courage to elope with Othello, unconcerned with the consequences: loss of status, shunned by society, bad reputation.  When she goes into the presence of the Duke, she speaks confidently and resolutely.  She is not intimidated in the presence of powerful men.  She also voices her desires and suggestions when she asks to accompany Othello to Cyprus.  When the Duke is skeptical, she argues her case.


Log #5 1.3

What is the motivation for the marriage?

            Othello and Desdemona claim that their marriage is based upon love.  However, when Othello describes how they fell in love, the situation seems rather questionable.  Othello, who was a friend of Brabantio, often went to his home and related stories of his adventures and his youth.  Many of those tales were horrific and terrible.  Desdemona was enthralled and pitied Othello.  Othello enjoyed being pitied.  And thus, their love was born.  It seems that Desdemona was enamored by Othello’s mystery and bravado. 


Log #6 2.1

Is Cassio, perhaps, actually interested or lustful of Desdemona?

Cassio, it seems, truly loves and respects Desdemona, in a purely platonic way.  She is a beautiful lady, very elegant and cultured.  She embodies what society of that day expected of women.  Cassio is a close friend of Othello’s and has been with him since he began to woo Desdemona.  He has known all along of their love for each other and would not dream of putting himself between them.  There is no doubt that Cassio admires Desdemona but I think that he is not lustful of her.  He thinks she is very beautiful but he does not want her for himself.  He is happy to be a good friend of both husband and wife.


Log #7 2.2

What is the purpose of this scene?

            This scene has a twofold purpose.  It seems rather ridiculous to have such a short scene and just a herald coming out to make one speech.  However, there is a reason and is a trick of the theater trade.  The curtain falls during this short scene and the herald comes out in front of the curtain.  This allows major changes to be made in the back.  One can move backdrops in and out, change props, and the actors can change costumes.  The other purpose is, of course, to deliver the information that the herald is proclaiming.  The audience does need to know that there is a big celebration and feast going on in the castle because it sets the scene for the next section.


Log #8 2.3

How does Iago manipulate Cassio to do what he wants?

            Iago knows exactly what buttons to push for each person.  He must have spent a lot of time observing and learning about each person’s weakest spot and greatest vulnerability so that he can manipulate anyone to his will.  For Cassio, his vice is a drinking problem.  When he drinks, he drinks until he is drunk.  When he is drunk, he becomes incoherent, indiscreet, and generally not to be trusted until he is sober once again.  Cassio knows this vice himself and sincerely tries not to have even one drink at the party.  Iago, however, appeals to his honor.  He persuades him to have one drink to the great general Othello.  Cassio cannot refuse this because it would be showing disrespect or resentment of Othello.  Either way, it is a losing situation.  If Cassio did not drink, Iago would use that information to tell Othello that Cassio is not a true friend and wants to bring harm to the general.  Cassio does drink and the results are even more disastrous.  When Roderigo goads and insults him, Cassio draws his sword and wounds Montano.  He is fired from his post and all hell breaks loose in the form of Iago’s plan.


Log #9 3.1

What is going on with the musicians in the beginning of this scene and why is it there?

            The banter between the musicians and the clown in the beginning of the scene is very lighthearted and very different from the tone of the play thus far.  Cassio sends some musicians to play underneath Othello’s window as an apology of sorts for his behavior of the night before.  Othello evidently thinks the musicians are terrible and sends his clown to get rid of them.  The ensuing conversation is witty and filled with puns.  It is meant to provide comic relief for the audience.  From the beginning until this point, the mood of the play has been relatively serious, dealing with weighty matters.  Suddenly, there is this turn and release of tension during one scene.  However, it begins once again immediately after.  When Casso was relieved of his post, that was the inciting incident of the play.  This scene follows the point of no return and allows some comedy before the situation starts to spiral downwards.


Log #10 3.2

How does Othello treat Iago during this scene?

            Othello treats Iago like a servant.  He tells him to deliver a message and run letters to a ship pilot.  This shows the true relationship between the general and his ensign.  Iago, who in the beginning of the play said that he was staying with Othello so he could get a portion of his fame and glory, seems to be having delusions of grandeur.  It does not matter how powerful a man is, his servant is still merely a servant.  However, it does give the reader a better idea of Iago’s motivation for his evil plots.  He is unsatisfied with his lot in life and endeavors to change it by destroying those around him.

Log #11 3.3

What techniques does Iago use to undermine Othello's trust in Desdemona?

            Iago is subtle in his suggestions.  He first makes seemingly innocent comments that suggest to Othello that something may be occurring between Desdemona and Cassio.  For example, when Iago and Othello enter and see Cassio leaving, Iago says that Cassio would never sneak away so “guilty-like.”  As Othello is ensnared, he begins to make weightier accusations.  He feigns reluctance to speak so that Othello will wholeheartedly believe him.  Finally, when Othello trusts only Iago, he outright accuses Desdemona of sleeping with Cassio.


Log #12 3.3

Why is 3.3 called the “Temptation” scene?

            First of all, this scene occurs in the garden of the castle, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden in the Bible.  Iago definitely plays the role of the serpent.  He sows discord and distrust in Othello.  Iago tempts Othello’s passionate and fiery nature with forbidden knowledge: the idea that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.  Othello’s insecurity as a black in an all white society and his tendency to act first and think later make him bite the apple and wholeheartedly believe everything Iago says.


Log #13 3.4

What is the turning point of this play?

            The turning point of this play occurs at the end of act III when Othello is completely convinced of the truth in Iago’s words.  Symbolically, it occurs when Othello has his epileptic seizure.  Before the seizure, Iago’s words are already driving him to madness.  Subconsciously, he believes what Iago says, but he is still in denial.  He is afraid and confused; he still loves Desdemona yet cannot believe what she has done.  He is very conflicted in him emotions.  He demands that Iago provide proof or else he will be denounced beyond recovery.  When he has his seizure and falls to the floor, it symbolizes his downfall that is soon to come.  After he awakens from the seizure, he says that he will strangle Desdemona with his own hands, in their bed.  He becomes harsh and uncaring, and like Iago, rather sadistic.


Log #14 4.1

What rising action do you anticipate in Act IV?

Iago will continue to make insinuations and burrow himself even deeper into Othello’s confidence.  Othello will be completely taken in and will no longer believe anyone except for Iago.  I think Iago will begin to provide the proof that Othello demanded in Act III scene iii, even though Othello is pretty much taken in already.  Othello himself will be observing Cassio and Desdemona and will see guilt where there is none.  I think he may begin to make accusations against Cassio and Desdemona.


Log #15 4.1

What is Desdemona’s reaction to the slap?

Desdemona reacts very passively to the slap.  Instead of becoming angry, she is surprised and rather bewildered.  She starts crying in front of Othello and the delegation from Venice, including her uncle Lodovico.  She has no idea why Othello is angry with her.  During those days, it was probably taboo for a woman to question or dispute her husband on any matter so she would dare not argue with Othello.  Later, when Othello interrogates her on the matter, she answers in a calm and subdued manner.  Regardless of Othello’s accusations, Desdemona answers truthfully and earnestly.


Log #16 4.1

What can be done to repair O and D's relationship?

I think, by now, the situation has already progressed beyond repair.  Perhaps earlier on in the play, if Othello had spoken to Desdemona and truly talked to her, the situation may have been salvaged.  As it is, Othello has listened to Iago’s poisonous counsel for too long and is starting to become like Iago.  There must be some impartial observer or source that states that Iago is a villain and an evil schemer and be able to provide physical proof.  Unless Iago is discredited and everything he says annulled, Othello’s course to destruction is insured.


Log #17 4.2

Discuss the irony in the scene.

            In this scene, Desdemona asks to speak with Iago to question why Othello has suddenly begun accusing her of infidelity.  It is extremely ironic that Desdemona is asking the man who caused all of her troubles for advice.  Iago answers that it must be some wicked, villainous person who wants to hurt Othello.  In essence, Iago is acknowledging his own evil and murderous intent though none know it but he.  This also demonstrates again how unfeeling Iago truly is by his ability to lie without a hitch.

Log #18 4.3

Stage 4.3.  Include motivation, author purpose, and subtext.



Room in the Castle


Bed with silk or satin sheets (Othello and Desdemona’s wedding sheets)

Nightstand / Table

Burning Candle




The clothing would probably be similar to that of the Elizabethan Era.  Noblewomen like Desdemona wore bell-shaped gowns with large ruffled sleeves usually made of silk.  They usually wear their hair long with head ornament of some sort.

Noblemen wore suits consisting of a doublet, jerkin, and hose.  Venetians wore doublets with very narrow skirts that went down to the mid thigh.  They also wore knee breeches secured by a belt and worn under the stockings.  Othello, Cassio, and Iago would also have an insignia on their attire to show their rank in the military.



Cassio: Matt Damon

Damon is well suited to this role because he looks very smooth, not to mention handsome.  He looks intelligent and earnest, which are a few of Cassio’s important characteristics.

Iago: Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix, Marcus Aurelius’ son in the Gladiator, is very good at playing the evil and scheming villain.

Othello: Denzel Washington

He is very talented and can portray many roles convincingly.  His abilities range from the corrupted and cruel cop from Training Day to the rebellious slave turned soldier in Glory.  He looks very authoritative and passionate.  It is not difficult to seem him easily angered or hotheaded.

Desdemona: Julia Ormond

She appears demure but knows how to speak her mind.  She is often cast in roles where she is the object of many men’s desire; such as Sabrina, First Knight, and Legends of the Fall.

Emilia: Renee Zellweger

She has starred in many different roles and I feel that she will effectively portray the talkative and rather frivolous character of Emilia.


Author Purpose:

This scene is called the “Willow” scene because of the song that Desdemona sings.  Shakespeare uses this scene to foreshadow future events and to discuss controversial gender role issues of that day.  The “willow” song tells the story of a desperate woman whose love has forsaken her.  She laments her loss as she weeps by the willow tree.  Desdemona’s mother’s maid sang this song as she died.  Shakespeare uses this to hint about what is going to happen to Desdemona.  It appears that Desdemona has some idea of what is going to happen to her because she says to Emilia, “If I do die before, thee, prithee, shroud me / In one of those same sheets” (IV.iii.26-27).  The second half of the scene consists of a discussion of the roles of men and women in society.  Desdemona and Emilia hold two conflicting opinions.  Desdemona represents the old-fashioned and conservative way of thinking.  She is very naïve and could not conceive of a woman betraying her husband.  Emilia is more worldly and knows better of the truth in society.  As the lower class, she is acquainted with the more base and physical desires of human beings.  She is also more forward thinking in that she believes that men who are unfaithful to their wives cannot expect their wives to be faithful to them.  She believes women also have desires and they deserve to get what they want occasionally.  Shakespeare is showing the opinions of the old versus the new.  He demonstrates great foresight in advocating this feminist and futuristic outlook on the role of women. 


Character Motivation:

Lodovico: He is on a mission from Venice and his goal is to carry out what he has been charged to do.  Also, he wants to find out what is the matter with Othello.  Earlier in the act, he witnessed Othello slap his wife and publicly denounce her as a whore.  To Lodovico, a cultured Venetian, it is taboo to strike a woman.  He seeks to discover more about this Moor and to learn what has made him change so much since their last meeting.

Othello: He seeks to restore his good reputation in Lodovico’s eyes and to punish Desdemona.  Lodovico, is a gentleman and a messenger from the Duke.  Othello knows that he committed a social faux pas earlier by striking his wife and seeks to remedy this during a walk through the grounds with Lodovico.  Again, it is his reputation that motivates him since Lodovico will report back to the Duke on the circumstances in Cyprus.  Othello plans to kill Desdemona out of jealousy because she chose Cassio over him, in defense of his reputation because he cannot be seen as a cuckold, and out of a twisted sense of right and wrong.  He believes that he will be freeing Desdemona from the sins of her physical body by killing her and allowing her soul to rise to heaven.

Desdemona: She is the most naïve and sheltered girl to grace this stage.  She only seeks to please her husband and discover what she has done to anger him.  She does not realize and understand the accusations that Othello has made against her.  She is bewildered and wants only to obey and to regain his love.

Emilia: She is concerned with helping her mistress and obeying her requests.  She commiserates with her mistress and attempts to offer comfort.  She also discusses with Desdemona and attempts to answer her pressing questions.



Iago is not in this scene, so subtext is used very little.  In the first few lines, Othello decides to walk with Lodovico about the grounds.  He uses two very different tones of voice for Lodovico and Desdemona.  With the Venetian gentleman, he is bantering and flattering in an attempt to make him forget the slap from earlier.  To Desdemona, he is brusque and commanding.  The connotations of Desdemona’s speeches and the “willow” song suggest that she has death on her mind.  She asks Emilia to lay the wedding sheets on the bed, which imply that she knows what Othello has planned and tries to appease him.  Generally, Emilia and Desdemona speak very plainly, meaning what they literally say. 














  1. Enter Othello, Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia, and Attendants
  2. Exit Othello, Lodovico, and Attendants
  3. Emilia bustles back and forth preparing Desdemona for bed.

Log #19

Predict the end.

            Unfortunately, I have already read the end because my group is acting out the very last section of the final scene in the play.  However, predicting what happens would not be too difficult because Iago and Othello have made plans already which the reader knows all about.  First off, Iago has promised to murder Cassio.  He uses Roderigo, typical of Iago not to do any of the dirty work, and goads him into ambushing Cassio as he leaves a meeting with Bianca.  Roderigo stabs Cassio but does not kill him.  Cassio also wounds Roderigo and cries for help.  Iago, who was watching in the darkness, runs in and kills Roderigo then turns to Cassio and concernedly asks what happened.  When Lodovico and Gratiano enter, Iago pretends not to know anything that transpired and implies that Bianca may have had something to do with it.  Meanwhile, Othello murders Desdemona by smothering her with a pillow in their bed.  Othello, at this point, is rather deranged and allowing Emilia to come in, tells of his dreadful deed to her.  Appalled, she learns from Othello that her husband was the one that accused Desdemona of infedility.  She is enraged and cries for the others.  Everyone returns, including Iago, Emilia immediately confronts Iago.  The truth finally comes out and Othello returns to sanity and realizes the gravity of his actions.  Iago stabs Emilia in a final attempt to silence her and runs away.  Othello takes his own life, Cassio is made governor on Cyprus and Iago is sentenced to death by torture. 


Log #20 5.1

 What is Iago's reaction to the events of 5.1?


            The events of 5.1 do not go exactly according to plan.  Iago meant for Roderigo and Cassio to kill each other, thus removing two obstacles in one fell swoop.  However, Roderigo fails to kill Cassio and Iago only has time to stab Roderigo before emerging from the darkness in response to Cassio’s cry.  He cannot afford to arouse suspicion on himself.  He is forced to act concerned about Cassio and to help him.  In the end, he says that, “This is the night / That either makes me or fordoes me quite” (V.i.146-147).  This is the first time his plans have not proceeded perfectly and he realizes that if something goes wrong this late in the game, he will be destroyed.  He seems matter of fact and faces the truth will only a little fear and nervousness.  Either he succeeds utterly or dies a most painful death. 


Log #21 5.2

Does Othello indeed "love not too wisely but too well"?

I think that his statement is partially true but it certainly does not absolve him of the guilt for his murder of Desdemona.  There are three main reasons that he kills Desdemona.  First of all, it is to punish her for cheating on him.  If Othello really loved her too well, he would have been willing to overlook her indiscretions and forego the punishment.  The second reason is a selfish one.  He wants to uphold his reputation and if word gets out that he is a cuckold, he will be ridiculed and disrespected wherever he goes.  This has nothing to do with loving Desdemona, but rather loving his own honor and reputation.  The third reason is the only plausible one for this statement and when considered in today’s society, rather absurd.  He believes in the Christian idea that he is freeing Desdemona from the sins of her physical body.  He is doing her a favor by killing her because she can no longer sin in the eyes of God.  He frees her soul from the shackles of life on Earth and allows her to ascend to heaven and have eternal life.  This is the only reason that substantiates his statement of loving “not to wisely but too well.” However, logically, it does not make any sense.  In the very secular society of modern day, this is the worst kind of murder because he thinks he is doing the right thing by killing.  In fact, he thinks he is making a great sacrifice in killing his wife.