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Othello : the Moor of Venice by William…

Othello : the Moor of Venice (edition 1970)

by William Shakespeare, Gerald Eades Bentley

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15,086118305 (3.97)1 / 458
Othello, a Moorish general in the service of Venice, has married Desdemona, beautiful daughter of a Venetian Senator. But Iago, Othello's malignant ensign, is determined to destroy their happiness.
Title:Othello : the Moor of Venice
Authors:William Shakespeare
Other authors:Gerald Eades Bentley
Info:New York : Penguin Books, 1970.
Collections:Your library

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Othello by William Shakespeare


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I hate reviewing Shakespeare (as if I were qualified to criticize The Bard), but I have finished a third reading of Othello and no one gives us more to ponder and dissect than he does. I never read Shakespeare without saying to myself, “now how did I not see that before?”

This is obviously a story concerned with race. Othello is a Moor and as such the only black man present in the play and a representative of the unusual and unknown to his contemporaries. His marriage to Desdemona is spoken of as being “against nature” many times throughout the play and even Othello himself wonders at Desdemona’s willingness to go contrary to “nature.” The reason for his opposition to the marriage, as stated by her father, is:

and she, in spite of nature,
Of years, of country, credit, every thing,
To fall in love with what she feared to look on!
It is a judgment maim’d and most imperfect
That will confess perfection so could err
Against all rules of nature,...

While Othello is able to restrict himself to being a general and a statesman, he flourishes and prospers; it is only when he steps beyond the bounds and marries outside his race that chaos ensues and he is unable to think clearly. He is lead by the nose by an obviously inferior man in Iago, a man who could have never persuaded him against his own knowledge or instinct in choosing a battlefield or conducting a naval maneuver.

I found myself wondering if this had very little to do with Othello’s color and taking this one step further and wondering if it was not meant to be a commentary on class views and restrictions at large. The perils of stepping outside one’s class, outside one’s station, outside the duties to which one was born, could be extreme in this time. Desdemona twarts her father and society in general in her marriage. She rejects suitors who would have been more appropriate in terms of money and position for love of this man. The result is catastrophic--her death, the death of her father, the destruction of Othello. These are not star-crossed lovers, the fates do not destroy them, they destroy themselves. They choose.

As villians go, Iago is one of Shakespeare’s worst. Like MacBeth he is driven by ambition and envy; unlike MacBeth he attacks the weakest and most innocent and feels no tinge of remorse. This is betrayal, but the battle here is clearly between good and evil themselves.

So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all.

His misogyny is evident in his own words to both his wife and Desdemona, and destroying her, along with Othello, is no doubt a bonus for him. He is a written warning to suspect the sycophant and avoid the malicious gossip. And, yet, as so often he does, Shakespeare puts words of insight and wisdom into his mouth.

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on: that cuckold lives in bliss
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects yet strongly loves!

One wonders why everything else Iago says is gold to Othello’s ears, but this piece of advice he allows to sweep over him and die, just as Iago intends.

Again, it is Iago who says:

Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

Of course, Iago knows, for it is Othello’s good name that he is intent upon stealing, and he succeeds in doing so. In the process, he brings destruction upon himself, just as he predicts, for his efforts, rather than enriching him, cost him all.

It is difficult sometimes to put oneself into the Elizabethan audience and not bring modern day sensibilities to the reading. There was no prejudice against Othello, per se. He was esteemed and recognized for his prowess and intelligence; he was valued as a leader, and the Duke is quick to say his own daughter might have been drawn to Othello’s story and to love him. He is never vilified, as Sherlock is in The Merchant of Venice, for being of a lesser ethnic group. What happens to him is a kind of madness. It is a perception of social order being broken that causes the strife. Nature does not intend the match and nature cannot be defied. While few of us would agree with the premise that this marriage was unnatural in any way, it would have been accepted as such by the Elizabethans--not as wrong but as too unorthodox. Perhaps, in a broader sense, it is a tale about wanting what one should not have and losing everything in an effort to attain and hold it.

( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
DNF p.142. I think if I had been familiar with the play and plot before this would have been okay. I like graphic novels but for Shakespeare it doesn't work for me. I do hope other people benefit from this format especially as a means of exposure to Shakespeare.
  pacbox | Jul 9, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Apr 20, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Apr 16, 2022 |
The play derives its plot from Giambattista Giraldi’s De gli Hecatommithi (1565), which Shakespeare appears to have known in the Italian original; it was available to him in French but had not been translated into English.

The play is set in motion when Othello, a heroic black general in the service of Venice, appoints Cassio and not Iago as his chief lieutenant. Jealous of Othello’s success and envious of Cassio, Iago plots Othello’s downfall by falsely implicating Othello’s wife, Desdemona, and Cassio in a love affair. With the unwitting aid of Emilia, his wife, and the willing help of Roderigo, a fellow malcontent, Iago carries out his plan.

Making use of a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona and found by Emilia when Othello has unwittingly dropped it, Iago persuades Othello that Desdemona has given the handkerchief to Cassio as a love token. Iago also induces Othello to eavesdrop on a conversation between himself and Cassio that is in fact about Cassio’s mistress, Bianca, but which Othello is led to believe concerns Cassio’s infatuation with Desdemona. These slender “proofs” confirm what Othello has been all too inclined to believe—that, as an older black man, he is no longer attractive to his young white Venetian wife. Overcome with jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona. When he learns from Emilia, too late, that his wife is blameless, he asks to be remembered as one who “loved not wisely but too well” and kills himself. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Jan 24, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (92 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrews, John F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cajander, PaavoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ejiofor, ChiwetelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farjeon, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Furness, Horace HowardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gentleman, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, G. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hart, Henry ChichesterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herford, Charles HaroldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Honigmann, E.A.J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houseman, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, Henry N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, James EarlForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Pei te HurinuiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jylhä, YrjöTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kastan, David ScottAssociate Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerman, AlvinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kittredge, George LymanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LaMar, Virgina A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lombardo, AgostinoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mason, LaurenceEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAlindon, TomEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMillin, ScottEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Barbara A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neill, MichaelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, William AllanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Connor, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Obertello, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Papp, JosephForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parrott, Thomas MarcEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raffel, BurtonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rasmussen, EricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, Maurice RoyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, NormanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schadee, NoraAnnotationssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seely, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slater, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, H.H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spiekerman, JopAnnotationssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, Robert KeanAssociate Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vitkus, DanielEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Voeten, BertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werstine, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zazo, Anna LuisaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
Never tell me; I take it much unkindly
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.
Trifles light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ;
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But O, what damned minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday.
is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit
and lost without deserving.
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Othello only. Do not combine abridgements, adaptations (graphic or otherwise), modernizations and simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or videorecordings of performances with this work. Please separate any that you find here.

As should go without saying, please also do not combine this with any other play or combination of plays, or any of its many adaptations (audio, video, reworking, etc.).
The "Timeless Shakespeare" editions are simplifications, not the original text of the plays. Do not combine.
Norton Critical Editions contain a sigificant amount of commentary and additional material along with the core text, thus, they are considered separate works. Please do not combine with the play.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
Othello, a Moorish general in the service of Venice, has married Desdemona, beautiful daughter of a Venetian Senator. But Iago, Othello's malignant ensign, is determined to destroy their happiness.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
[R.L. 8.4]
One of the most often staged of all of Shakespeare's plays, this is a tale of love and betrayal, secrets, passions, and intrigue. Psychology and wit pit strength and virtue against jealousy and evil agendas. The results leave no winners, only tragedy.
Haiku summary
Self-hating black man
Goes medieval on blonde wife
OJ's fav'rite book?
A viper's hissing,
Destroys a man's happiness,
A faithful wife slain.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714634, 0141012315

Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

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Sourcebooks MediaFusion

An edition of this book was published by Sourcebooks MediaFusion.

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Recorded Books

2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1456103261, 144987875X


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