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High School Discussion Questions: Othello

Compare and Contrast

  1. Compare and contrast the relationship between Othello and Desdemona with that of Cassio and Bianca. How are they healthy and unhealthy?

  2. Compare Iago with other Shakespearean villains. How does he rate on the wicked scale?

  3. Examine the similarities and differences in class, freedoms, and wisdom of the three women, Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca, in the play. 


  1. What struggles do those who marry interracially or inter-culturally face today? 

  2. Why, even after being strangled, will Desdemona not name Othello as her murderer and instead say, “Nobody; I myself. Farewell: Commend me to my kind lord.” What does this have to do with abusive relationships? 

  3. Othello is referred to as “the Moor” nearly sixty times in the play, but is called by his name only about twenty times. What might the effects of this labeling be on a person?


  1. Iago tells Cassio, “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without deserving. You have lost no reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser” (2.3.268–71). Do you agree or disagree?

  2. Speaking about the involuntary nature of love, Iago says, “Virtue! a fig! ‘tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are
    gardeners” (1.3.319–21). Look at the love stories within the play. Do you find this
    statement to be true?

  3. After being caught in his lies, Iago refuses to explain his actions, saying, “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know” (5.2.303). Review what he says earlier about his motivations. Do they substantiate his actions? 

Shakespeare’s World

  1. Look at the textual references to Othello’s race to better determine the impact of racial relations within the tragedy. What is Shakespeare saying about race? 

  2. Re-read the conversation between Emilia and Desdemona at the end of Act 4, Scene 3. Who do you think Shakespeare agreed with? What might he have been trying to tell the audience? 

  3. Considering both the good and bad, especially the pathetic end most of the characters meet, in the play do you think Shakespeare was or wasn’t ahead of his time in
    consideration of racial and gender ideals?

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