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Shakespeare: Othello

1. Introduction: Part I

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About this Lecture


In this module, we provide a broad introduction to the play, focusing in particular on: (i) the period in Shakespeare’s career in which ‘Othello was written, and the other plays written around the same time; (ii) the differences between the original version of the Othello story in Cinthio’s ‘Hecatommithi’ (1565) and Shakespeare’s play (1603); (iii) the Neoplatonic concept of the Harmony of the Spheres and its relation to the nature of Shakespearean tragedy (and comedy); and (iv) a reading of the play as a tragedy of false comedy.


In this twenty-one part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s Othello. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, Revised Edition, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2019, January 27). Shakespeare: Othello - Introduction: Part I [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Introduction: Part I." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Jan 2019,

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