Theme of Cruelty in "Othello"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 554 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 554|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Cruelty towards Othello
  2. Othello's own cruelty
  3. Cruelty towards other characters
  4. Conclusion

The theme of cruelty in William Shakespeare's play Othello is a complex and multi-faceted one that permeates the entire narrative. Throughout the play, the characters engage in acts of cruelty, both physical and emotional, towards one another, which ultimately leads to tragic consequences. This theme is central to the play's exploration of power dynamics, jealousy, and the destructive nature of human relationships. In this essay, I will examine the various manifestations of cruelty in Othello, exploring how they contribute to the overall themes and messages of the play.

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Cruelty towards Othello

One of the most prominent examples of cruelty in Othello is the treatment of the protagonist, Othello, by the antagonist, Iago. Throughout the play, Iago engages in a relentless campaign of manipulation and deception, designed to undermine Othello's trust in his wife, Desdemona, and ultimately drive him to madness. Iago's cruelty towards Othello is both psychological and emotional, as he preys on Othello's insecurities and vulnerabilities to achieve his own ends. This manipulation culminates in Othello's brutal murder of Desdemona, an act of violence that is a direct result of Iago's cruelty.

Othello's own cruelty

Furthermore, Othello himself is not immune to acts of cruelty. His treatment of Desdemona, particularly in the later stages of the play, is characterized by a profound lack of empathy and understanding. Othello's jealousy and insecurity lead him to accuse Desdemona of infidelity, despite her protestations of innocence. This accusation is a form of emotional cruelty, as it betrays Othello's lack of trust in his wife and his willingness to believe the worst of her. This ultimately leads to Desdemona's tragic death at the hands of Othello, a stark illustration of the destructive consequences of cruelty in the play.

Cruelty towards other characters

The theme of cruelty is also evident in the treatment of other characters in Othello, particularly women. Emilia, Iago's wife, is subjected to emotional abuse and manipulation throughout the play, as Iago uses her to further his own schemes without regard for her well-being. Emilia's eventual defiance of Iago is a powerful rejection of the cruelty that has defined her relationship with him, and her death at his hands is a tragic consequence of her defiance.

Additionally, the character of Roderigo is a victim of cruelty at the hands of Iago, who exploits his love for Desdemona to further his own agenda. Roderigo is manipulated and deceived by Iago, who uses him as a pawn in his larger scheme. Roderigo's eventual death at the hands of Iago is a stark reminder of the destructive power of cruelty in the play.

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The theme of cruelty in Othello serves to underscore the broader themes of power and control, as well as the destructive nature of jealousy and insecurity. The characters' willingness to engage in acts of cruelty towards one another reflects the toxic power dynamics at play in the play, as well as the tragic consequences of unchecked jealousy and insecurity. The theme of cruelty also serves to highlight the vulnerability of the characters, particularly women, in a society that is dominated by male power and privilege. Ultimately, the theme of cruelty in Othello serves as a powerful exploration of the destructive consequences of unchecked jealousy and insecurity, as well as a reminder of the tragic consequences of cruelty in human relationships.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Theme of Cruelty in “Othello”. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Theme of Cruelty in “Othello”.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
Theme of Cruelty in “Othello”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Theme of Cruelty in “Othello” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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