The Original Othello

Hecatommithi (1565) is a collection of tales by Giraldi Cinthio.

Cinthio’s is a sordid, melodramatic tale of sexual jealousy….The heroine, called Disdemona, does not elope with the Moor (whose name is not given); her family agree to the marriage, though with some reluctance; and the couple live together in great happiness in Venice.  The Moor is appointed to the command in Cyprus (Cinthio makes no mention of the Turkish danger).  The Moor and his wife travel on the same boat.  The villain’s sole motive for his actions is his unsuccessful love for Disdemona, for which he blames the Captain (Shakespeare’s Cassio).  His plot is directed not against the Moor, but against Disdemona; and he is sexually, but not professionally, jealous of the Captain.  The latter draws his sword upon one of the guard.  He is not make drunk by the Ensign and there is no Roderigo.  The Ensign steals the handkerchief while Disdemona is caressing his child.  The Captain finds it in his house and, knowing it to be Disdemona’s, he tries to return it; but he leaves hurriedly on hearing the Moor’s voice.  The murder of Disdemona is carried out by the villain and the Moor together; they knock her senseless with a sandbag and make the roof fall, so as to make the deed look like an accident.  Finally , the Moor is killed by Disdemona’s kinsmen.  The Ensign is tortured to death for another crime; and his wife was privy to the whole story.  We have some pity for his victim, but no sympathy for the Moor.

(source: Kenneth Muir, The New Penguin Othello, 1968)

Domestic Violence and Othello


Read the ABC Fact Check report into domestic violence reporting in Australia.

Now look at this infographic detailing Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence.



How might Othello be seen as a tale of domestic violence?

Consider what references to acts of violence against women do we get in the play?

How are we positioned to view Othello’s actions towards Desdemona?

Would an Elizabethan audience have a similar reaction? Why? Why not?

Language Analysis: we got feelings

It’s like The Flight of the Conchords: “We’re rappers…That hurts our feelings when you say we’re not rappers.”

When you write about how an author uses language to persuade their readers they are usually trying to stir up some kind of feeling.  Arguments might involve logic but they also involve emotive language designed to evoke a particular feeling in the audience.