Argumentative Essay Topics For Othello

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for Othello by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Othello in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Othello at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Introduction of the Character Othello

Structurally speaking, one of the more important elements of the beginning section of Shakespeare’s Othello, is the fact that the reader is not able to meet him until Scene 2. Before Othello is introduced, there are a number of perceptions we already have of him. For instance, since it is the villainous Iago speaking, we come to think of Othello as some kind of exotic animal or as a man that has no place in Venetian society. However, at his introduction, the reader finds out quite easily and rather quickly that Othello is not a savage and certainly not someone who does not belong in his society; he is well-spoken, elegant, and noble. In short, this narrative act of waiting to introduce Othello until after Iago has had his say and begins to use his power of language in Othelloand makes the reader the first one to fall victim to the manipulations of Iago. For this essay discuss how this opening scene is Iago manipulating reader perceptions and how this relationship with the audience continues.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: How Important is Race in Othello?

One of the most salient features of this play is the numerous references to Othello’s race, not only by Iago, but by other characters as well. In fact, at the beginning of the play, we don’t even know Othello’s name yet but we are well aware that he is dark-skinned and different. However, Othello is anything but the “barbarian" he is described as and is actually rather more elegant than many other characters in the play, particularly in terms of his verbal ability, martial position, and general personality. As a result, despite any emphasis put on race by other characters, it can be easily argued that race is not, especially as the play progresses, a primary factor by any means and in fact, this story could have just as easily been told if Othello were a white man. While certainly race is one of the most salient themes in Othello discussed in many essays and classrooms, take the high road for this essay and go for a challenge. Write an argumentative essay on Othello in which you evaluate the ways race is not important. A hint: Use quotes that pertain to race but back them up with examples of Othello behaving against the negative stereotypes these terms invoke.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic: #3 The Significance of Animal Imagery in Othello

Images relating to animals are a constant throughout the text and as one might imagine, many of these are used in reference to Othello. Called a “Barbary horse" that would make “the beast with two backs" as well as an “old ram" the parallel between Othello’s race and the perceived savagery is clear. Animal images in Othello could be used to counter the above thesis statement (#2) that race is not important. In addition to Othello being equated with animals verbally, there are other examples in the text as well, including swans, goats, etc. For this essay, go through the text and look for references to animals and attempt to determine what they symbolize. Another important question to ask yourself is how animals and animal behavior function within the larger narrative.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Classic Archetypes in Othello

Part of what makes Othello such a resonant play, even with modern audiences, is the fact that the characters and situations are so universal. Part of this universality is based on the fact that every one of the major characters is a classic archetype. For example, Iago is the classic villain—an evildoer with extraordinary manipulative powers and the ability to create chaos. Desdemona is the classic damsel in distress (despite her feminist pipe-ups, she is the unwitting victim here) and Othello….well…he fits a number of classical categorical definitions. Some have suggested that Othello is a tragic hero, like Achilles or like in a more modern sense, like Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart. He is a good man, he just is willing to be manipulated and from there, all turns to hell. For this essay, look to other works of literature for classic definitions or examples of these character types or archetypes and conclude with a statement on how this creates a timelessness about the work and makes it universally understood.

* A few helpful articles on the topics listed here and others include Perceptions of Race in Othello by ShakespeareThe Power of Words in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and OthelloSin and Villains in Doctor Faustus and OthelloPrejudice in Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice

This list of important quotations from Othello by Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Othello listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers, or line and scene numbers.

“You’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, / you’ll have your nephews neigh to you, / you’ll have coursers for cousins and jennets for germans" (I.i.113-16).

“For if such actions [Othello marrying a white woman] may have passage free, / bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be" (I.iii.98).

“[Desdemona’s] father loved me, oft invited me, / Still questioned me the story of my life / From year to year" (I.iii.127–129).

“Keep your bright swords, for the dew will rust them / Good signor, you have more command with your years than with your weapons" (I.ii.58).

(Othello) “Rude am I in speech, / And little blessed with the soft phrase of speech" (I.iii.83-84).

(Iago of Othello) “Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains— / Yet for necessity if present life / I must show out a flag and sign of love" (I.i.156-58)

“Strumpet, I come. / Forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are blotted. / They bed lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be spotted" (V.i.35-37).

* For several freely accessible essays and articles on Othello and other works by Shakespeare, visit the literature archives at ArticleMyriad *


Have you been studying Othello in class so long that you’re on a first name basis with the title character?

Do you feel even though you’ve spent so much time studying the play in class you’re still unsure of the play’s major themes?

Do you need to write a paper analyzing a theme, such as jealousy in Othello, and need a bit of inspiration?

If so, you’re in luck, as this blog post provides seven tips for analyzing jealousy in Othello.

Read and Learn to Analyze Jealousy in Othello

First, you’ll actually need to read the play. You should also watch it if possible. (After all, Shakespeare is meant to be seen!)

Next, think of what you’re supposed to be doing: analyzing.

Analysis is a lot like argument; your goal is to convince someone of your opinion. And to convince someone, you’ll need examples to support your ideas.


Think about it this way:  Let’s say you just left a job you hated, and your friend tells you he wants to work at the same company.  You’ll likely try to convince him not to work there, right?  And to do so, you’ll give him plenty of examples, like describing the rude boss, terrible hours, and miserable working conditions.  All of these examples support your argument.

So if your task is to analyze jealousy in Othello, you’ll need specific examples from the play to support your ideas.  Choose important speeches and conversations that will convince your readers.

7 Tips for Analyzing Jealousy In Othello

Don’t quite know where to begin? Still need some inspiration? Start by reviewing these seven ideas for writing a convincing analysis about jealousy in Othello.

  1. In what ways is Iago jealous of Othello? Consider how his jealousy sets up the entire plotline of the play, and how his jealousy affects other characters.
  2. Think about what Iago does to create jealousy within Othello. How does the jealousy affect Othello internally?  How does it affect his marriage?  How does it affect other characters?
  3. What do Iago’s actions say about his character? What do Othello’s actions say about his character?
  4. In Othello, it’s obvious that Othello and Iago demonstrate jealousy through their words and actions.  Consider how other characters, such as Roderigo and Bianca, demonstrate jealousy. How does this jealousy affect other characters and affect the plot?
  5. Though Desdemona doesn’t express and feel jealousy like the other characters, she is affected by the jealousy of others (particularly Othello).  How does jealous affect her?  How does Desdemona’s character change during the course of the play?
  6. At the end of the play, (spoiler alert!) readers learn that there was really no reason to be jealous because most of the actions of suspected jealousy didn’t actually happen.
  7. Jealousy is a key theme driving Othello, as nearly every character experiences or is affected by jealousy.  What does this say about jealousy and how it affects and changes people (or characters)?

Create a Thesis and Find Evidence to Support Your Ideas About Jealousy in Othello

Look over the ideas above, and decide what aspect of jealousy you’ll use as the focus and thesis for your paper. (The thesis is a one sentence statement, generally at the end of the introduction that informs readers of the subject and purpose of your paper.)


No matter what you decide to write about, remember the purpose of your paper: analysis.

Your task is to look at the play as a whole, break it down into smaller parts, and tell your readers what it all means. In this case, you’ll examine some aspect of jealousy and convince readers of its importance in Othello.

To do this, look for specific sections of dialogue, specific conversations, and specific actions to back up your statements and convince readers of your point.

Do you really need specific examples to support your ideas?  The short answer is yes.  

Think back to the earlier example of trying to convince your friend why he shouldn’t work at the company that treated you miserably. If you simply tell him he shouldn’t work there, he’ll ask “why not”?  He won’t believe you unless you provide specific reasons to support your point.  Thus, in your attempt to convince him, you’ll list all the reasons why he shouldn’t work there.

Writing an analysis is similar to convincing a friend; no one (especially your professor) is going to believe your arguments about jealousy in Othello unless you provide specific examples to support your claims.

Cite in MLA

Don’t panic at the thought of citing. It’s really not that hard (but it is required).

If you don’t cite your sources, you’re essentially saying that everything you’ve written in your paper is your own.  You’re saying that all the ideas and information you learned from your sources (including information from Shakespeare’s own quill) is your own original thought.

Failing to cite your sources means you’re plagiarizing your paper.  Plagiarism is a serious offense: one that could get you kicked out of college!

To avoid plagiarism, cite in proper format.  It’s that simple!

In most humanities and English courses, you’ll use MLA documentation. MLA documentation is a citation style used to give credit to sources.

Put simply, each time you paraphrase, summarize, or quote information from a source (such as a line of dialogue from the play), you’ll need to give credit to the source.  To do this, you’ll use both in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Both must be included in order to properly cite and to avoid plagiarism.

In-text citations:

  • In-text citations are placed in parenthesis immediately after a paraphrase, summary, or quote and contain the author’s last name and the page number where the information appeared.

An in-text citation might look like this: (Shakespeare 453).

NOTE:  In MLA, there is no page number abbreviation or punctuation between the author’s last name and page number.

Works Cited:

  • The Works Cited is the final page of your paper that contains the full bibliographic information of the sources you’ve cited.  You’ll need to include items such as the author’s name, title of the piece, page numbers, etc.

A Works Cited entry for a book might look like this:

Smith, Jane. Ten Tips to Writing Great Papers. Chicago: Golden Press, 2012. Print.

For additional assistance with MLA documentation, visit Purdue’s OWL or Cornell University Library’s MLA Citation page.

Need more help creating Works Cited entries? Try EasyBib.

Still worried that your paper isn’t cited quite right? Why not have one of the great Kibin editors review your writing?

“…A Word or Two Before You Go” –Othello

Image credit: ultimateZ

Before drafting your paper, spend some time outlining. Create and organize your main arguments with ample supporting evidence for each key point. If you develop a clear, focused outline, writing your analysis essay will be that much easier.

And because you’ve learned so much from this article, your essay will be amazing—so amazing in fact, that others will be jealous of your writing!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

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