by William Shakespeare

Othello essay questions.

How is Othello's race a factor in the play?

Othello ascends to the rank of the Venetian military, a city - much like Elizabethan England when the play was written - rife with racism. A general in the army, Othello holds a distinguished place in the Duke's court due to his victories in battle, but not an equal one. He suffers barbs and preconceived notions, yet Othello is esteemed and wins the love of the daughter of a nobleman. However, Brabantio is enraged by Othello's marriage to Desdemona and claims Othello used magic to compel her to run to his "sooty bosom". Race is a factor in the tragedy both in those who seek to destroy Othello, and the victims of the schemes - Othello and Desdemona. Perhaps the most pernicious form of race as an instrument of division is Othello's own view of himself as an outsider, which makes him more susceptible to Iago's plan.

How does Shakespeare's use of language reveal character?

Often Shakespeare uses verse lines written in iambic pentameter to illustrate nobility. It is illustrative of Iago's duplicitous nature that he tends to speak in verse when he is with Othello and in prose for his soliloquies. One way in which Iago is a master in manipulation is his tendency to use Othello's own words to disguise his active role of instigator and make it seem that any dark thought came not from him but Othello's own mind. Othello's speech is very sophisticated at the beginning of the play, and in his soliloquy at the close of Act V, but when he is consumed with jealous rage, his eloquence falters. Shakespeare uses dialogue to convey the innerworkings of his characters.

Othello is often called a tragic hero. Discuss his heroic qualities as well as his flaws which lead to his demise.

At the beginning of the play Othello is presented as an honorable man of noble stature and high position. In the end it is his misguided attempt to maintain that honor which brings about his, and Desdemona's, demise. However, Othello is not simply the victim of a plot. Iago is able to engineer Othello's downfall in part because of Othello's own insecurities. His pride blinds him to his weaknesses, and he puts his faith in Iago over the word of his love, Desdemona. Othello is obsessed with his reputation, and ends up killing his wife to save face. Only to a flawed man would murder seem like a solution to a problem of reputation. Othello is spurred on by lies and misrepresentations, but he brings about his own undoing.

What motives, stated and implied, does Iago have for taking revenge on Othello?

Iago's stated reason for taking revenge on Othello is that he has been passed over for Cassio's post. But is this enough for him to "hate the Moor"? It is clear that he is jealous of Othello's ascension in the court and successful wooing of Desdemona. Othello's race and status as an outsider also seems to fuel this rage, as well as the rumor that Othello has slept with Iago's wife, Emilia. None of these motivations, however, seem to add up to inspire the violence that unfolds. Iago remains one of the most purely evil of Shakespeare's villains.

Discuss how loyalty is presented as a positive and a negative quality throughout the play.

Othello's lack of loyalty is what incites Iago's plan for revenge. Iago's ability to fool Othello that he is loyal while secretly plotting his demise is what makes his revenge effective. It is Othello's belief in Desdemona's lack of loyalty that seals their fates. In these ways loyalty, when misconstrued, can be dangerous. However Desdemona's loyalty to Othello even in her death and Othello's loyalty to her once his mistake is revealed are seen as ennobling aspects of their characters.

Compare and contrast the jealousy of Othello to that of Iago.

One major theme in Othello is revenge - Iago's revenge on Othello and Othello's revenge on Desdemona. They both believe death will bring justice. Iago's revenge is cooler, plotted out over time where Othello's is an act of heartbroken passion. Iago wears his lack of morals as a badge of honor where it is Othello's moral code that leads to his tragic end.

Although Othello is the title character in what way is Iago the main character?

Often in Shakespeare's plays such as Hamlet or King Lear , the title character is the main character and protagonist. In Othello this is not the case. Iago has almost 20% more lines than Othello, and has more asides with the audience. While it is Othello's decisions and actions that provide the dramatic structure for the play, it is Iago who sets in motion those decisions and spurs him to action. Othello is the tragic figure of the play, along with Desdemona, and it his characteristics that lend itself to most of the themes - jealousy, race, trust. However, Iago is the character who drives the plot.

How does Desdemona's dying assertion that she killed herself effect how you see her character?

From a modern feminist viewpoint Desdemona may be judged harshly for answering Emilia, when she asked who has mortally attacked her, "nobody; I myself. Farewell." Furthermore, she seemed resigned to her fate at the hands of her husband. While contemporary audiences may interpret these actions as unfathomable, they highlight the goodness of her character. Desdemona is described by others in the play with words that symbolize goodness - light, white, fair, delicate, alabaster. By the end of the play, Desdemona begins to symbolize goodness itself, so her reaction to her murder becomes another element in Othello's tragic end. Desdemona still loves Othello, though he is mistaken, and she goes to her death professing her husband's reputation. A modern audience may wish for a response that is less melodramatic, but that is not the world that Shakespeare has created in this play.

In what ways do Othello's suicide strengthen or undermine his heroism?

Though suicide is not usually the chosen end for a heroic figure, it is Othello's only escape from the crimes he has committed. Though the victim of Iago's trickery, Othello is still the author of his own demise. For Desdemona's death to be answered by anything less than his own would have felt false.

Describe how Othello's pride leads to his fall.

At the beginning of the play Othello is proud of himself and his achievements, but when Iago looks to punish Othello for his perceived slight, it is his pride that he preys upon. The belief that Desdemona has tainted his honor ignites Othello's rage, but it is his pride that blinds him to the fact that the evidence of her acts are lies invented not by a loyal friend but an enemy bent on his destruction.

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Othello Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Othello is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

what attributers of the green eyed monster jealousy are made painful apparent as the scene progresses

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster in this scene. In Act 3 scene 3 Othello pretty much displays his jealousy,

desdemonas speech here confirms the masterly nature of iagos plot with what words does she assure cassio that she will do her best to get him reinstated

What is your question here?

why does othello ignore the cries for help?

Othello is hurdling towards self-destruction: sadly, by the deaths of people closest to him. Like tragic heroes such as Macbeth, Othello's senses are dull to tragedy and screams of terror. Roderigo and Cassio fight, and both are injured; Othello...

Study Guide for Othello

Othello study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Othello
  • Othello Summary
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Essays for Othello

Othello essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Othello by William Shakespeare.

  • Iago and Edmund: The Silence and Complexity of Evil
  • Unity in Shakespeare's Tragedies
  • Inevitability and the Nature of Shakespeare's Tragedies
  • Witchy Women: Female Magic and Otherness in Western Literature
  • Racism in Othello

Lesson Plan for Othello

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Othello
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
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E-Text of Othello

Othello e-text contains the full text of Othello by William Shakespeare.

  • List of Characters

Wikipedia Entries for Othello

  • Introduction
  • Date and sources
  • Themes and critical approaches

othello possible essay questions

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Othello: Essay Questions

A list of potential essay questions to form revision and speed planning practice:

Jealousy is at the core of all the tragic events that occur in Othello.’ In the light of this statement, explore the dramatic function of jealousy in Shakespeare’s play. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors.

‘Despite his suffering, Othello learns nothing.’ In the light of this statement, explore Shakespeare’s presentation of Othello in the play. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors.

‘Othello depicts a world riddled with corruption and prejudice’. In the light of this statement, explore Shakespeare’s presentation of the values of the world in which the play is set. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors.

‘Irony is a powerful device that Shakespeare uses to heighten the tragedy of Othello.’ In the light of this statement, discuss Shakespeare’s use of irony in the play. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors

‘Othello’s foolishness, as much as Iago’s cleverness, is responsible for the tragedy that unfolds.’ In the light of this statement, explore where responsibility for the tragedy might lie. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors.

‘The settings in Othello are not just times and places in which action happens: they are deeply symbolic and add greatly to the meaning of the play as a whole.’ In the light of this statement, explore Shakespeare’s use of settings in the play. In your answer, you must consider relevant contextual factors.

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Othello Knowledge Organiser

An Othello Knowledge Organiser, based on William Shakespeare’s seminal play, including key vocabulary and crucial literary allusions and comparisons. My knowledge organisers distill important information from the text in clear and manageable pieces of information for both students to revise from, and teachers planning new curriculum content.

The Knowledge Organiser is structured into three key areas: Critical Theory, Intertextuality and Context as well as Biblical Allusions. Whilst also incorporating key quotations for each character in short sharp, high utility phrases which can be used in a range of essays.

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Discussion Questions

Why do you think Shakespeare chose to write Othello as a Moor and Desdemona as a Venetian? How do their respective races affect the plot? Support your answer with evidence.

In Act I, the Venetian Senate asks Othello to defend Cyprus against the Turks. All of the play’s major characters sail to Cyprus, but a storm stops the Turkish fleet in Act II, eliminating the reason for Othello’s journey to Cyprus. Why do you think Shakespeare moved the action of the play to Cyprus, rather than leave his characters in Venice?

Which character does Iago have the easiest time manipulating, and why might some characters be more susceptible to his manipulation than others?

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Essay questions on 'Othello'

Essay questions

Seven exam-style essay questions on  Othello , with a range of critics' comments on the text to develop A-level students' understanding of key themes and characters in the play. 

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107 Othello Essay Topics & Research Questions + Examples

If you’re searching for ideas for your paper on Shakespeare’s famous play, our Othello essay questions will be of great help to you! You’ll also find plenty of good Othello essay examples. Read on to get inspired!

💀 TOP 7 Othello Essay Questions

✍️ othello essay prompts, 🏆 best essay topics for othello, 🎓 othello research paper topics, 👍 good othello essay topics to write about, 💡 simple othello essay ideas, ❓ othello essay questions.

  • Shakespeare’s Othello Movie Adaptation Overview and Social Relevance
  • Emilia’s Role in the Play Othello by Shakespeare
  • Analysis of the Character ‘Othello’
  • Shakespeare’s Othello and Its Cultural Aspects
  • Analysis of Reverse Psychology Used by Lago in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Othello and Antigone: Compare & Contrast
  • “Othello” by Shakespeare: Desdemona as a Strong Character

Are you looking for writing prompts for your “Othello” research paper or a literature essay? Check out the ideas below:

  • The theme of trust and betrayal in “Othello.” Trust plays a critical role in this play. You can write a literary analysis essay exploring how trust is gained, lost, and manipulated in “Othello.”
  • Imagery and symbolism in “Othello.” Here, you can write an argumentative essay supporting your understanding of the play’s symbols. For example, what does the handkerchief symbolize? Or what does animal imagery mean, like a “black ram” and a “Barbary horse” in reference to Othello?
  • Jealousy in “Othello.” You can write a persuasive essay convincing your audience of the dangers of jealousy. Use evidence from the play to prove your point. Consider how it drives characters’ actions and what adverse consequences result from it.
  • Iago’s manipulation techniques. Iago is a master manipulator, so you can focus your discussion on exploring how he persuades others to think and do what he wants. You can review how he exploits Othello’s trust, fabricates evidence, creates false friendships, and provokes jealousy to achieve his goals.
  • Examining the Role of Desdemona in Shakespeare’s “Othello” This essay discusses Desdemona’s role and its specific features that support the idea of her being a powerful woman behind the drama of the mighty men.
  • Mustafa Sa’eed from Season of Migration to the North Compared to Shakespeare’s Caliban & Othello Mustafa Sa’eed is uniquely similar to Caliban from William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in his resistance to invading cultures of colonialism through the context of sexual revenge.
  • “Othello” a Tragedy by William Shakespeare In essence, there are several instances of conflict in the play. Conflict among men is more dominant than conflict between the two genders. The play contains more scenes of conflict than love.
  • Women Role in Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet The villain role of women in the Shakespeare’s plays Othello and Hamlet seems to have inspired the themes in both literary works.
  • Analysis of Othello Speech With Brabantio The analysis focuses on Othello’s speech from the writing’s Act 1, Scene 3 where context is based on Brabantio accusing Othello about the latter stealing the former’s daughter.
  • William Shakespeare’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice”: An Aristotelian Tragedy The experiences that Othello went through – from prominence to downfall are sufficient to label him as a tragic hero; hence, the play can be classified as an Aristotelian tragedy.
  • Plot, Themes, and Characters of “Othello” by Shakespeare Two themes dominate the plot of “Othello” by Shakespeare – jealousy and racism, both of which this paper will explore.
  • Domestic Violence in “Othello” by W. Shakespeare The Othello tragedy reflects the current domestic violence incidences in society, hence the need to formulate authentic ways to overcome them.
  • William Shakespeare’s Othello as a Tragic Hero Othello by William Shakespeare is an excellent example of the traditional Aristotelian tragic hero as far as his destiny and inner suffering.
  • Black and White Colors in “Othello” by Shakespeare In Shakespeare’s “Othello,” black and white colors do not describe racial differences between characters – they symbolize severe contradictions that eventually lead to tragedy.
  • Strength in One’s Convictions in Shakespeare’s “Othello” Objectification of women is an important concept that Shakespeare impressively incorporates throughout Othello.
  • “Othello” by William Shakespeare In his play, Shakespeare portrays a very jealous character named Lago, who got disappointed with his friend Othello for denying him the chance of becoming a lieutenant.
  • Who Is to Blame for the Tragedy of Othello by Shakespeare The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice by Shakespeare is a sexual jealousy tragedy that pioneers the investigation of racial discrimination.
  • Critical Analysis of “Othello” Individuals tend to perceive the meanings of the words ‘dignity’ and ‘confidence’ differently, depending on their nature and nurture.
  • Shakespeare’s “Othello”: Iago’s Honesty As the play progresses we see how Iago changes from an honest and sincere person to become evil, by introducing Iago’s character the evils in society are brought to light.
  • Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello Play This paper examines Shakespeare’s play; it explores the conflicts between the dominant characters, their personalities, and their goals.
  • Master of Deceit in “Othello”: Iago in the Film Adaptation The paper states that the film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, directed by Oliver Parker, mirrors the original play’s chronology and setting.
  • Lies vs. Truths in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Othello” In his play “The Tragedy of Othello,” Shakespeare successfully addressed various lies that different characters believed in. Most of these lies are tied to racism.
  • From a Villain to a Victim and Back: Othello and Iago Despite the fact that Othello does turn into a beast at a certain point, the splendor of his character and the misery that seizes him completely do not allow him to choose him as the main villain.
  • Othello and Paradise Lost Literary Analysis Desdemona was devoted to her husband until the end and treated him with patience even after all the mistreatment that was done to her.
  • Shakespeare’s “Othello”: A Venetian Tragedy of Love William Shakespeare’s play “Othello” is about anxiety and lack of peace of mind as well as the fact that other actions may have saved people’s lives.
  • Literary and Psychological Prowess of Shakespeare’s “Othello” Shakespeare uses Othello’s weaknesses to justify his sad conclusion that people such as Othello and his ilk are unfit to rule because of their inherent flaws.
  • Iago: Black Man in “Othello” by Shakespeare
  • Honesty, Dishonesty, and Manipulation in “Othello”
  • Dramatic Poetry and Direct Prose in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Hatred and Harsh Trickery With Extreme Consequences in the Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare
  • Gender Roles and Racism in “Othello”
  • Differences and Similarities Between “Othello” and “Things Fall Apart”
  • Friendship Between Othello and Iago According to Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Can Pathos and Ethos Compel “Othello” Out of Logic?
  • Iago’s Cunning Character Exposed Othello’s Vulnerability in Jealousy
  • Desdemona and the “Jewel” Motif Recurrence in William Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Desdemona and the Patriarchy in “Othello”
  • Iago’s Motive for Power and Revenge in “Othello”
  • Brabantio, the Protective Father in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Honesty and Trust Throughout “Othello” Play
  • Did Othello Truly Love Desdemona?
  • Shakespeare’s Othello’s and O. J. Simpson’s Tragedies This article compares and contrasts Shakespeare’s Othello and O.J. Simpson in the context of racism and class inequality.
  • Dramatic Purposes of Roderigo in Shakespeare’s “Othello” Roderigo is one of the characters in this book having significance and dramatic purposes, particularly the dramatic purpose of being a one-sided lover.
  • “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu vs. “Othello” by Shakespeare “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu is an example of a Non-Western work of literature that qualifies as classics. “Othello” by William Shakespeare is an example of Western classics.
  • The Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare It is worth noting that the play “Othello,” written by William Shakespeare, is a rather complicated story that can be explored at different levels.
  • Othello as Aristotelian Tragic Hero This paper presents that Long before Shakespeare, the Greek philosopher Aristotle formulated specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero.
  • Othello, Cassio and Iago in the Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare Othello, Cassio and Iago are very different people with their own life experiences and this plays a very important role in the play “Othello” by William Shakespeare.
  • Othello’s Image in Shakespeare’s Tragedy The purpose of this work is to analyze how Othello’s difference influences his image in the enemies’ eyes and how he starts to evaluate himself once he has killed his wife.
  • Theme of Deceit in Shakespeare’s Othello Shakespeare’s play “Othello” is a storyline behind a respectable general and the main character, Othello, who endures a series of tragedies from his deceitful and vengeful advisor.
  • Othello: Iago and His Self-Knowledge The paper discusses that in Othello, the struggle over love, loyalty, and will is exacerbated by Iago’s manipulation of everyone around him.
  • Review of “Othello” by Shakespeare An analysis of Shakespeare’s “Othello” work will help to understand better the author’s central message about how blindly following feelings can ruin a person.
  • Female Characters in “Antigone” by Sophocles and “Othello” by Shakespeare Female characters Antigone and Emilia, from Sophocles’ play “Antigone” and Shakespeare’s “Othello”, constitute examples of independent women who do not lose control of their lives.
  • Negativism in “Othello” by William Shakespeare Othello is one of the most popular plays by William Shakespeare. It has a lot of themes that intricate the mind of a viewer and a reader as well.
  • William Shakespeare’s “Othello”: Analysis the Play The paper begins with a brief note about the character of Iago in William Shakespeare’s play Othello. Causes of Iago’s revenge.
  • Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello The entire implementation of values needful to a man in every epoch and under any circumstances is displayed on the examples of Othello and Oedipus Rex for further generations of people.
  • About Acts I and II Othello: Analysis Iago, portrayed as highly ambitious in the tragedy, exhibits a readiness to take any action for personal gain, evident from the opening verses.
  • Racial Issues in Othello and Their Relevance Most of the conflicts unfolding in the play are built around the problems of racism, which do not lose their relevance even after centuries have passed since Othello was written.
  • Emilia & Iago’s Schemes in “Othello” by Shakespeare The essay demonstrates justifications for the idea that Emilia from “Othello” is not innocent as she seems regarding Iago’s schemes.
  • Desdemona and Lago’s Conflict in “Othello” by Shakespeare The paper discusses Othello by Shakespeare. There is a conflict between Desdemona and Iago over women’s nature, which ends with a rational way of thinking.
  • “The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice” by Shakespeare Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice” is a play about secrets, plotting and revenge telling the tragic story of Othello, who is secretly married to Desdemona.
  • Character Analysis of “Othello” by Shakespeare At first glance, Othello seems simply a tragedy of jealousy. However, the ideas ingrained in the play seem to be broader and more complicated from the very first acts.
  • Othello Versus Shakuntala: Ultimate Lessons Both Shakuntala and Othello explore the notions of love and conflict, but the ultimate lessons learned differ significantly because of the main characters’ actions.
  • A Worldwide Famous Tragedy: Othello by Shakespeare Othello is a worldwide famous tragedy written by Shakespeare that has always been popular among theater directors interpreting it in different styles.
  • Shakespeare’s “Othello” Play Exploration The current essay deals with a difficult but quite important topic tied with the role of race in Shakespeare’s Othello.
  • Explain How Iago Manipulates the Other Characters in the Play “Othello”
  • Does Iago Cause the Tragedy of Othello?
  • The Reasons Why Othello Orders the Death of Desdemona
  • Discuss How Lago From “Othello” Exploits Others to Achieve His Goal
  • Honorable Admirable and Unchanged Character of Othello
  • Desdemona and the Norms of Sexual Morality in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Examining Othello’s Character, Flaws, and Changes Throughout the Play
  • Challenges and Prejudices Faced by Othello Shaped His Character
  • Contrasting the Characters Desdemona and Emilia in the Play “Othello”
  • Describing the Courage and Heroism of Othello in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Critically Exploring William Shakespeare’s “Othello” From a Marxist Perspective
  • Gender Equality and the Status of Women in the Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare
  • Analyzing the Tragic Hero in Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Evil and Immoral Characters in the Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare
  • Feminist and Psychoanalytical Interpretations of Shakespeare’s “Othello”
  • Does Othello Meet the Standards of a Tragic Hero?
  • How Do Age, Social Position, and Race Impact the Relationship Between Othello and Desdemona?
  • Why Does Iago Hate Othello?
  • Does the Context of War and Soldiery Contribute to the Tragedy in Shakespeare’s “Othello”?
  • How and Why Does Iago Convince Othello of Desdemona’s Infidelity?
  • Would the Themes in “Othello” Appeal to a Contemporary Audience?
  • How Are Othello and Blanche Dubois Alienated in Their Societies?
  • Should William Shakespeare’s “Othello” be Called “Iago”?
  • How Are the Characters Empowered or Disempowered in “Brilliant Lies” and “Othello”?
  • Were “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice” Racist Plays?
  • How Does Shakespeare Use Humor in “Othello”?
  • What Are the Contextual Factors Important to the Study of “Othello”?
  • How Does Iago Attempt to Poison Othello Against Desdemona and Cassio and to What Extent Is Iago’s Plan Working?
  • What Are the Qualities “Othello” Possesses Which Makes It a Tragedy?
  • How Does Othello’s Attitude Towards Desdemona Change Towards the End of the Play?
  • Does Othello’s Character Change Over the Course of the Play?
  • How Does Shakespeare Use Language and Dramatic Devices to Present the Theme of Jealousy in “Othello”?
  • What Are the Similarities Between “Macbeth” and “Othello”?
  • How Does Sax Portray Othello and Desdemona’s Relationship?
  • What Can Lawyers Learn From “Othello”?
  • How Does Shakespeare Present Iago’s Manipulation of Othello?
  • What Role Does Incoherent Language Play in “Othello”?
  • How Does Shakespeare Present Love in “Othello”?
  • What Role Does Race Play in “Othello”?
  • How Effective Are the First Two Scenes of “Othello”?

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StudyCorgi. (2022, May 10). 107 Othello Essay Topics & Research Questions + Examples.

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StudyCorgi . "107 Othello Essay Topics & Research Questions + Examples." May 10, 2022.

StudyCorgi . 2022. "107 Othello Essay Topics & Research Questions + Examples." May 10, 2022.

These essay examples and topics on Othello were carefully selected by the StudyCorgi editorial team. They meet our highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, and fact accuracy. Please ensure you properly reference the materials if you’re using them to write your assignment.

This essay topic collection was updated on January 21, 2024 .

115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples

Most Othello essay samples analyze the plot, thesis, and characters of William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. The tragedy is based on n Cinthio’s story ‘Un Capitano Moro.’

Before you start writing your Othello essay, you must have a clear understanding of who The Moor is. We hope that you already have read the plot or watched the play.

However, some students lack an idea of the object because they have not come across Shakespeare’s masterpiece or any information concerning Othello. This post will help you to ask Othello essay questions and successfully write your paper.

✨ How to Write an Othello Essay?

  • 🏆 Best Othello Essay Topics & Essay Examples

👍 Good Ideas for an Essay on Othello

💡 most interesting othello topics to write about, ❓ othello essay questions.

Before you start outlining, you should ask yourself: what or who is Othello? Your answer is significant as it expresses your interest in the subject and, therefore, motivates you to research the chosen topic.

When working on your Othello essay introduction, you should get a clear understanding of The Moor character and its origin.

Your intro should thoroughly explain the subject to your audience. Don’t forget to include a thesis which discloses the central message of your paper. Put it at the end of your intro.

The next step is planning the essay body. Here are some questions you may answer in your Othello character analysis:

  • Describe Othello: Who is he? When he lives, his life, occupation, etc.
  • Is Othello a good character or bad? Do you identify with Othello?
  • Why is Othello famous to date? What makes him popular?
  • What is his role in the play? Why is Othello character crucial to the tragedy? Would the story so attractive without Othello?
  • Does the play reflect contemporary issues?
  • What did you learn from Othello?

Explain the pointers above and provide a better understanding of the Othello character to your readers.

If you need more sample ideas for your Othello essay outline, check them below:

  • The role of race in Shakespeare’s tragedy. At the beginning of the plot, Othello’s name is not mentioned, although everyone knows he is dark-skinned and different. Discuss in your essay, how it would impact the play if Othello were white. Argue if the character’s race is matter in the story.
  • The role of loyalty. Shakespeare showed how loyalty could have both positive and negative attributes. Othello’s belief in Desdemona’s lack of allegiance caused their destiny. Use it as an example of how devotion can be dangerous if it is used for bad reasons.
  • The role of Desdemona. Is she is a passive victim of Othello? Analyze how her character changes when she is not with him. Think of how victim behavior can cause even more violence.
  • Relationships between characters in the play. In your essay, you can examine relationships and emotions between Othello and Desdemona, the villainy of Iago’s character, Emilia’s emotions for Iago and Othello, and love of Roderigo for Desdemona.

In your Othello essay conclusion, sum up all the issues you disclosed in the body. Avoid introducing new points. Instead, highlight the thesis statement to show your readers that your essay supports it.

After you’ve finished your essay, don’t forget to proofread it and wipe out grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

We hope that the tips above will ease your writing an outstanding paper. Make sure to check our website for more Othello essay topics!

🏆 Best Othello Topic Ideas & Essay Examples

  • The Downfall of Othello The properties of Othello are given to Cassio who also assumes position that had been held by Othello The downfall of Othello is evidenced by death of his wife, loss of property and his own […]
  • Theme of Jealousy in Othello by Shakespeare The jealousy displayed by Othello and the villainous nature of Lago are some of the qualities that impress the readers of the play.
  • The Relevance of “Othello” by William Shakespeare in the Current Society The paper demonstrates the relevance of Othello to the contemporary audience by highlighting the existence of the major issues Shakespeare addresses in this play.
  • The Movie Adaptation of the “Othello” by William Shakespeare In its turn, this explains the lessened plausibility of film’s action, as compared to what it is being the case with original tragedy.
  • Othello as the Outsider In the play, Othello strives to emphasize that his blackness is insignificant impediment and highlight the advantages of his origin revealing the positive features of his character and behavior.
  • The Tragedy of Othello: Critical Analysis — Othello Critical Essay The imagination of the audience is captured by the fact that the drama involves interracial marriage that was unfathomable in those days.
  • Female Characters in Shakespeare’s “Othello”: A Feminist Critique This shows that Desdemona has completely accepted and respected her role as a woman in the society; she is an obedient wife to Othello.
  • Iago the Gardener`s Behavior in “Othello” by Shakespeare In the lead-up to the passage to be analyzed, Iago has tried to turn Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, against Othello by letting him know his daughter is “making the beast with two backs” with the Moor.
  • Character of Iago in “Othello” by Shakespeare Analysis It is worth mentioning here that it is this attributes that he possessed that made him successful in manipulating other characters painting him to be a strong and compelling character.
  • Othello’s Tragedy Othello is one of the characters who have features in William Shakespeare’s tragedy titled The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. It is clear to note that the tragedy that befell Othello was because […]
  • Story, Plot, and Symbolism of “Othello” Film The movie’s point of attack is Othello’s decision to overlook Iago for a promotion to the position of Lieutenant in favor of Cassio.
  • Othello’s Fall From Grace and Redemption at the End of the Play At the end of the play, Othello’s realizes that his naivety and lack of confidences in his wife’ innocence and fidelity.
  • Comparison of “Hamlet”, “King Lear” and “Othello” by Shakespeare Iago’s reports and the loss of the handkerchief appear to Othello reliable proofs of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, and under the effect of anger the protagonist is both unable and unwilling to do further investigation.
  • Cultural Diversity in the Play “Othello” It is the role of men to support women in this society, and that is why Desdemona’s father goes to court immediately, he is convinced that his daughter was bewitched by Othello.
  • Jealousy in “Othello” by W.Shakespear Othello is not perfect either and the reason he acts the way he acts is that he is jealous; not that Desdemona cannot match his ‘principles’.
  • Minor Characters’ Role in the “Othello” by William Shakespeare In his play Othello, William Shakespeare also accentuates the meaning of minor characters and their actions for the development of the tragedy in Othello’s life.
  • Othello and Desdemona in “Othello” by Shakespeare This essay will discuss why the relationship between Othello and Desdemona was doomed from the start and how their tragic fate relates to the topic of jealousy.
  • Salih’s “Season of Migration to the North” and “Othello” by Shakespeare In his journey through those worst performances on English women leading a few to suicide, he did not consider the situation and emotions of women he met.
  • Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ Act 1 Scene 2, Lines 60-82 This passage is in the form of a dialogue between the two characters in the play. The above lines portray Othello as a victim of prejudice.
  • Othello: A Tragic Hero Through the Prism of Aristotle’s Definition According to him, the prerequisite of a tragedy revolves around the plot of the play. Othello, who is the main character, is a perfect example of a tragic hero.
  • The Tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare: Bianca’s Innocence The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice is considered one of the most popular works of William Shakespeare. The young courtesan, Bianca, is presented in the play as the mistress of one of the […]
  • “Othello” by William Shakespeare: Summary and Analysis He in this way believes that Iago is an honest man and trusts him to an extent that, he leaves him with his wife and entrusts him to take care of his wife through the […]
  • The Heroism of Othello He is a tragic hero because of how he fits the mold, with the single difference that instead of pride, Othello is unwise in his placement of loyalties.
  • Racism in Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare Since Othello is dark-skinned, the society is against his marriage to the daughter of the senator of Venice. In summary, the play Othello is captivating and presents racism as it was.
  • Appearance in “Othello” and “A Raisin in the Sun” The paper under analysis is based on the comparison of Othello by Shakespeare and A Raising in the Sun by Hansberry through the manifesting of the theme of the racial segregation and the nature of […]
  • Main Themes in “Othello” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” In fact, it appears that this passion is encouraged by the feelings of regret and shame more than by affection to Bayardo.
  • Social Issues in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Othello” The social environment of England at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century was characterized by great attention to social class, citizens’ jobs, and their reputation.
  • The Ultimate Irony: “Othello” by Shakespeare Iago, a jealous man from the beginning of the play, pretends to befriend Othello and speaks to him about the danger of jealousy.
  • Why “Othello” by William Shakespeare Is a Tragedy To be classified as an Aristotelian tragedy, a film or story must be complex and include a situation in which a respectable person suffers a complete reversal of fortunes due to a fatal mistake and […]
  • Othello and Oedipus Rex Characters’ Traits The two characters had to overcome several obstacles in a manner that led many of their followers to respect and honor them, and their royal positions Othello can be considered to be a black member […]
  • The Life and Work of William Shakespeare: His Contribution to the Contemporary Theater In addition, the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare continue to set the standard for the study of the English language in its dramatic context in institutes of higher learning and performance training.
  • Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice Iago’s paranoia is tremendous to an extent that his insanity is portrayed when he deludes Othello to kill his own wife.
  • Racism in Shakespeare’s “Othello” The purpose of this essay is to detect and analyze various traits of racism in Shakespeare’s famous piece Othello and how it relates to the character of Othello.
  • Racism in Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The formalist analysis of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep repeats the same mistake, as it focuses on the plot devices and tropes presented in the story.
  • The Tragedy of Othello They include Othello, who is the lead actor; Desdemona, Othello’s wife; Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant; and Iago a junior officer in the army.
  • The Theme of the Tragic Hero “Othello” For Othello, the doubt and suspicion growing in his mind regarding a possible relationship between Cassio and Desdemona were started with Desdemona’s father at the beginning of the play. For Othello, his greatest weakness is […]
  • Symbolism in Shakespeare’s Othello and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock This paper aims to compare the aspects of symbolism in Othello and The Rape of the Lock. The lock in the poem “The Rape of the Lock” is more than just a coiled strand of […]
  • ”Othello” and ”Chronicle of a Death Foretold”: A Difference Between Love and Passion Consequently, I believe that differences between passion and love have a tendency to exist, as passion is the uncontrolled actions to show affection, and love is the act of the understanding of the behavior of […]
  • Iago and Othello Relationships With the help of relationships between Iago and Othello, Shakespeare conveyed the idea that good and evil have to coexist for the sake of the world balance.
  • Female Character in the Shakespeare’s Othello It appears that the primary role of women in the play is for them to act as a basis on which men are evaluated.
  • The Character of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello The greatest evil in the play, the catalyst for the tragedy to unfold, appears to be “the Devil,” the avatar of which can be seen in Iago.
  • Comparison of Marriage in Elizabethan Times and in “Othello” The man was believed to be the head of the family, and he had the legal right to punish his wife.
  • Shakespeare’s Othello as a Subaltern Play Othello is considered a subaltern play that illustrates the conflict between the moral voice and silence of female characters and the treacherous voices of male figures.
  • Anti-Racism in Shakespeare’s Othello For Shakespeare, Brabantio’s views are representative of the racial prejudice of the society in general, rather than of his personal feelings towards the protagonist. On the other hand, Othello’s story is cohesive and believable; he […]
  • Critical Analysis of Shakespeare’s, “Othello”, Act V, Scene II Othello, a husband to Desdemona realizes later that Desdemona was a faithful and loving woman. Othello is determined to kill her however her beauty and innocent appearance restrict Othello.
  • Machiavelli and Othello’s Leadership Skills It is not that easy to control lots of people, and this is why it is better to define the steps, which will help to take everything under control and not to be kept by […]
  • Othello and Desdemona: Emotional Strangers Unaware of what is happening, Desdemona continues to show her fierce devotion to her husband which both blinds her to the truth of Othello’s murderous emotions and feeds them.
  • “Othello” Through the Lens of Feminist Theory It depicts female characters in a state of submission and obedience and shows the disbalance in the distribution of power between men and women.
  • Iago’s Motives in Shakespeare’s Othello Play He does not seek to seize the treasure his intention is only to deprive the possessor of the treasure of pleasure. A cynic to the depths of his brain, he sees only the flipside in […]
  • Philosophy of Literature: Shakespearean Tragedy In addition, it is also an indication of the facts that human beings are always nosy and ready to participate in other people’s issues.
  • Dramatic Irony in the “Othello” by William Shakespeare Othello, an eloquent and physically fit person is considered as the protagonist and hero of the play; however, in spite of his elevated status, he is nonetheless an easy prey to insecurities due to his […]
  • Background of Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Sophocles’s “Antigone” Even though Othello is a Moor, he fights for Venice in this war and wins, thus proving his loyalty to the Christian Venice.
  • Comparison of Oedipus and Othello Cases The essay intends to look at the life of Oedipus who is the main character of the book and how the gods were responsible for his downfall after the struggle he had gone through to […]
  • Exploring Diverse Perspectives on Shakespeare’s Othello: A Comprehensive Analysis He starts by briefly retelling the main events of Othello and proceeds to state that modern critics’ main concern is about the subjects of race and gender in their analyses of the play.
  • Play Analysis: Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “Twelfth Night” Iago’s persona, which is portrayed as predatory and cynical, is crucial to the tragedy because it disturbs the plot. Shakespeare succeeds in making the play unsettling by utilizing a lot of epithets, metaphors, amplifications, repetitions, […]
  • Shakespeare’s Othello: Hero or Villain Review However, it is still possible to view Othello as a hero but a tragic one. He is a tragic hero who suffered from his actions.
  • Shakespeare’s Tragedy “Othello” Speaking of racism as a possible motivation for Iago’s behavior, it is worth noting that it is not the primary and only source of its manifestation.
  • The Significance of the Handkerchief to Othello The main reason for the discord is that Othello slept with his wife and justifies all the negativity toward Iago. The handkerchief is the best proof that Desdemona has entered into an intimate relationship with […]
  • “Le Morte Darthur” by Malory, Thomas and “Othello” by Shakespeare The mistrust grows, culminating in the assassinations of Emilia, Roderigo, and Desdemona, as well as Othello’s death. In truth, Iago’s evilness inspires Roderigo’s jealousy and Othello’s misgivings of his own innocent wife, Desdemona.
  • Topics in the Othello Play by Shakespeare I frequently returned to the beginning of the passage or dialogue to remind myself what the topic of the conversation was.
  • The Use of Dark Symbolism in “Othello” and “Paradise Lost” Thus, the use of dark imagery in Milton’s work is implemented to heighten the contrast between light and darkness, good and evil.
  • Restoring Honor and Confidence in Shakespeare’s Othello The correlation of the fate of the hero with the development of society, which is the main distinguishing feature of the genre of tragedy, can take on a variety of artistic forms.
  • Analysis of Acts I and II of Shakespeare’s Othello Play In lines “and what’s he then that says I play the villain,” Iago acknowledges that he seduces his victim, Cassio, by pretending to display good intent.
  • Mind vs. Heart in “Othello” by William Shakespeare The main idea of the William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, written in 1604, is the confrontation of the mind and the heart.
  • Power in Stories of Oedipus and Othello What woman in that period would not want to marry a high-ranking general and acquire the power that comes with it?
  • Lago’s Hatred and Jealousy in the “Othello” by William Shakespeare Othello is a story by William Shakespeare that revolves around four characters, Othello, who is the general in the Venetian Army, Lago, who was Othello’s assistant in the same army, Desdemona, the daughter of a […]
  • Shakespeare and His View on Kingship: Macbeth, King Lear and Othello At the same time, it is beyond doubt in the basement Macbeth’s character is clean and as a soldier, he is true to his job and his king.
  • Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Miller’s “The Crucible” The villains in both “Othello” and “The Crucible” are unique in their proficiency in the use of language for manipulating others and their ability to use the current setting for achieving their goals; Abigail is […]
  • “Othello” by William Shakespeare: Military Honor and Othello The higher a person’s rank, the more he is expected to honor the code and the harder it is for him to conceive of someone else breaking it.
  • Shakespeare’s Othello: A Tragic Hero When Alexander the Great died, Aristotle fled to Chalcis, where he died the following year at the age of about 62 William Shakespeare was a strong adherent of Aristotle in his writings.
  • Shakespearean Othello as a Tragic Figure Enraged and hurt, he is mistaken in his judgments about Desdemona, it is anger that he is moved by and not his sound mind. Actually, Othello’s anger is an outcome of his jealousy.
  • Othello: The Shakespeare Story Analysis Using the three female characters of Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca, Shakespeare gives us the common view of women through the eyes of Iago and the view of the nobility through the eyes of Brabantio, Desdemona’s […]
  • Speciesism in Shakespeare’s Othello and Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep In Shakespeare’s play, the motif of discrimination is explored in conjunction with Othello’s dark skin color, something that caused the “noble Moore” to be treated with suspicion by other characters throughout the play.
  • The Tragedy of Othello Told in Pictures In this project, I will tell the tragedy of Othello through a collection of pictures. The project is based on “Othello: The Moor of Venice”.
  • “Othello”, “A Worn Path” and “Negro” Literature Comparison Although Hughes in his “Negro” discusses race as the main source for the character’s identity and attempts to accentuate the role of the black race for the whole world history, Shakespeare in Othello and Welty […]
  • “Othello” a Play by W. Shakespeare Literature Analysis Consequently, Othello seeks to distance himself with the misconstrued stereotypes of a ‘Moor.’ This essay seeks to prove that the main character’s sense of identity leads to his self-destruction.
  • Compare and Contrast Shakespeare’s Othello and the Blind Owl by Sedayat On the other hand, in The Blind Owl, the storyteller, a pen-case decorator, falls in love with a naive woman who is virtuous and demonic at the same time. In The Blind Owl, it is […]
  • Treatment of Women by Shakespeare and Sophocles Othello disregards the explanation that Desdemona has in regard to the accusation of being unfaithful and kills her.’She’s, like a liar, gone to burning hell, Shakespeare 28.’ After Othello killed Desdemona, he believed more in […]
  • What Can Lawyers Learn From ‘Othello’? Shakespeare has employed one of the literature elements by using major characters like, Othello, a hero and the head of armies, Desdemona, Othello’s covert wife, Michael Cassio, Othello’s deputy, Lago, ranked below the lieutenant, among […]
  • Humiliation of Iago (Othello) In order to identify the actual reasons for Iago’s hatred to Desdemona and Othello, the author makes use of his own approach in analyzing the play through the prism of motives, plots, themes, and character […]
  • William Shakespeare’s Othello Summary | Essay Example Othello leaves Venice in the company of his wife, Iago and Cassio and Desdemona’s attendant known as Emilia. Othello’s love for Desdemona is a major weakness that leads to his downfall.
  • The Driving Force of Plot in Medea by Euripides, Othello by William Shakespeare, and the Epic of Gilgamesh Reading Medea by Euripides, Othello by William Shakespeare, and The Epic of Gilgamesh it becomes obvious that the driving force of plot is heroism, however, the nature of that heroism is different that may be […]
  • Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello: The Words and Actions of Iago To my mind, one of the most complex, captivating, and, at the same time, the most evil characters in Shakespeare’s plays is Iago from The Tragedy of Othello.
  • The Issue of Racial Prejudice The significance of Othello’s race and pigmentation work hard to expose racial prejudice in the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare is using the Moor to challenge the ideologies of race, sex and miscegenation in the Elizabethan period.
  • Othello and Snow Country: Personal Opinion As aforementioned, it is hard to differentiate between love and passion as they all come in the name of love. Nevertheless, because his ‘love’ for her is based on passion, he smothers her to death; […]
  • Why Does Iago Convince Othello of Desdemona’s Infidelity?
  • How Are Othello and Blanche Dubois Alienated in Their Societies?
  • How Jealousy Leads Towards the Tragedy in “Othello”?
  • Why Iago From William Shakespeare’s “Othello” Is a Well-Written Villain?
  • Does Othello Meet the Standards of a Tragic Hero?
  • How Does Iago Convince Othello That Desdemona and Cassio Must Die?
  • What Role Does Race Plays in “Othello”?
  • How Does Iago Attempt to Poison Othello Against Desdemona?
  • How Do Age, Social Position, and Race Impact the Relationship Between Othello and Desdemona?
  • Can Pathos and Ethos Compel “Othello” Out of Logic?
  • How Are the Characters Empowered or Disempowered in “Brilliant Lies” and “Othello”?
  • Why Isn’t Shakespeare’s “Othello” Called Iago?
  • What Are the Qualities “Othello” Possesses Which Make It a Tragedy?
  • Does Iago Cause the Tragedy of Othello and Desdemona, or Is He Merely the Catalyst?
  • How Does Iago Convince Othello of Desdemona’s Infidelity?
  • Why Did Othello Kill Desdemona?
  • Why Does Othello Choose to Trust Iago Rather Than Desdemona?
  • Does Iago Cause the Tragedy of Othello?
  • What Are the Similarities Between “Macbeth” and “Othello”?
  • How Far Does the Context of War and Soldiery Contribute to the Tragedy in Shakespeare’s “Othello”?
  • Whose Responsibilities for Tragedy Outcome of “Othello”?
  • What Are the Contextual Factors Critical to the Study of “Othello”?
  • How Did Iago Manipulate Othello?
  • What Role Does Incoherent Language Play in “Othello”?
  • How Othello’s Personality Evolves in the Tragedy of “Othello” by William Shakespeare?
  • What Does Othello’s Speech and Say Tell Us About His Character?
  • Did Desdemona and Othello Experience True Love?
  • Did Othello Truly Love Desdemona?
  • How Does the Ending of “Othello” Relate to the Ideas and Characteristics of the Text?
  • Were “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice” Racist Plays?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2024, March 2). 115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples.

"115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples." IvyPanda , 2 Mar. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples'. 2 March.

IvyPanda . 2024. "115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples." March 2, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples." March 2, 2024.


IvyPanda . "115 Othello Essay Topics & Examples." March 2, 2024.

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Othello Exam Questions

First of all let’s look at the broad categories questions usually fall into:

You must be able to discuss the following when it comes to  characters :

  • a tragic hero? (does he recognise his flaws and gain self-knowledge?)
  • his nobility (is he a good man?) / strengths & weaknesses / virtues & flaws
  • his relationship with Desdemona & treatment of her
  • his manipulation by Iago and transformation into a jealous brute
  • the extent to which he is responsible for the tragedy which occurs at the end of the play
  • our level of sympathy for him
  • the real ‘hero’ of the action?
  • flaws and virtues?
  • his motivation
  • how he controls & manipulates all of the action/characters
  • too good to be true or a believable character?
  • dramatic function in the play?

Emilia / Bianca:

  • Emilia’s dramatic function in the play
  • foils to Desdemona – worldly and cynical rather than pure and innocent
  • add variety to Shakespeare’s presentation of women & his exploration of their position in society
  • symbol of goodness
  • extent to which he contributes to the tragedy

All characters:

  • contrast the extremes of good and evil presented in the characters in the play
  • the play is very pessimistic about human nature
  • the play is very pessimistic about human relationships

The major  themes  in the play are:

  • Revenge / Power
  • Good vs Evil
  • Appearance vs Reality (Deception/Manipulation)
  • Love & Hate / Loyalty & Betrayal
  • Women’s position in society

For each theme – no matter what the wording – ask yourself

  • WHO  does this theme apply to?
  • HOW / WHY  does this character have to deal with this issue?
  • Do they  CHANGE  over the course of the play?
  • Are there any  SCENES  which highlight this theme specifically?
  • What are our  FINAL IMPRESSIONS  of this issue?


  • Relevance to a modern audience
  • Pessimistic play


  • Language & Imagery
  • Dramatic Irony
  • Compelling Drama – scene or scenes


Othello & Iago:

 “ Othello’s foolishness, rather than Iago’s cleverness, leads to the tragedy of Shakespeare’s Othello ” (2008)

“ It is Othello’s egotism and lack of self-knowledge, and not Iago’s evil schemes, which ultimately bring about the tragedy at the end of the play “

“ Othello is arrogant, impulsive and violent. While Iago sets up the conditions for tragedy to occur, it is Othello, ultimately, who we must hold responsible for the tragic events which unfold “

“ A combination of Iago’s skill, Othello’s weakness and a measure of good luck, bring about the tragedy in Othello “

“ Iago cannot be blamed for the deaths of Desdemona and Othello “

“ We cannot blame Othello for being fooled by Iago. Everyone else in the play, including Iago’s wife, believes that he  is honest and true “

“ Othello and Iago are both egotists, obsessed with proving how clever and capable they are, and hell bent on revenge when they feel they have been wronged “

“Othello is the principal agent of his own downfall” (1994)

“ Othello is essentially a noble character, flawed by insecurity & a nature that is naive & unsophisticated ” (1990)

“ Othello is a good man who is skilfully manipulated by Iago. For this reason, despite his credulousness, we continue to feel sorry for him “

“ Iago’s schemes succeed, not because Othello is weak, but because he is so noble “

“ Othello is a noble hero who loses, but ultimately regains our sympathy “

“ We do not approve of Othello’s behaviour, yet we nonetheless pity him “

“ Othello is not a tragic hero; he is a gullible fool “

“ Othello is not a tragic hero. He never really takes responsibility for his errors of character and judgement”

“ Despite his suffering, Othello learns little of himself or of human relationships “

To what extent do you agree with Othello’s assessment of himself as an “ honourable murderer ” who “ loved not wisely but too well “?

“ The collapse of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage is the real tragedy of this play “

“ Iago is the real hero of Shakespeare’s play Othello ”

“ Iago is a likable villain ”

“ Iago is motivated by jealousy of others good fortune and by a lust for power ”

“Iago is a charming villain, but it is difficult to understand his motivation”

“ Iago is an evil villain with no redeeming qualities “

“ While we are repulsed by Iago’s evil, we are fascinated by his ingenuity “

“ Iago is the most evil but also the most fascinating character in the play Othello”

“ Desdemona is not a credible character, she is an unrealistic saint who does nothing to try and prevent her fate ”

“ Desdemona is a woman, not an angel; she lives and loves with her whole person, both body and soul ”

“ Desdemona’s dramatic function in the play is to act as a symbol of purity, innocence and goodness but this means that her behaviour is not always entirely believable ”

“ Desdemona and Iago are at opposite poles in the play, Othello, the one representing pure love, the other hate incarnate “. (1986)

Emilia / Bianca: 

Discuss the importance of the character Emilia in the play as a whole. (1994)

“ Women are not presented in a very positive light in Shakespeare’s Othello “

“ Cassio may be a ‘proper man’ but he is also an honest fool whose weakness plays no small part in the tragic death of Desdemona ”

“ Shakespeare’s play Othello demonstrates the weakness of human judgement ” (2008)

“ Shakespeare’s Othello presents the very best and the very worst in human nature ”

“ Shakespeare’s Othello presents us with a dark and pessimistic view of human nature”

“Shakespeare’s Othello presents us with a dark and pessimistic view of human relationships”

“ In the play Othello, naive, innocent characters are no match for the evil machinations of the world weary Iago “

“ The destructive power of jealousy is dramatically presented in Shakespeare’s play Othello ”

“ Shakespeare’s Othello is concerned not so much with jealousy, as with misunderstanding ”

“ Shakespeare’s play Othello powerfully portrays a world dominated by jealousy and revenge”

“ Evil ultimately conquers good in Shakespeare’s play Othello ”

“In Shakespeare’s play Othello, we witness a profound inability to distinguish between appearances and reality”

“ Appearances do not mask a sinister reality in this play, yet Iago manages to convince every character that there is more going on than meets the eye”

“ Love and hate are presented as opposite sides of the same coin in Shakespeare’s play Othello ”

“ Shakespeare’s Othello initially questions, but then confirms racist stereotypes ”

“ The role and status of women is dramatically explored in Shakespeare’s Othello”

Open questions:

“Shakespeare’s Othello remains relevant for a modern audience”

“ Despite the striking portrayals of goodness and nobility, the play Othello leaves the audience with a sense of dismal despair ”

Style questions:

“ Image of animals, images of storm and images of heaven and hell predominate in Othello ” (1990)

 “ Irony is a powerful dramatic device used by Shakespeare to heighten the tragic dimension of his play Othello ” (1998)

Othello contains many scenes of compelling drama. Choose one scene which you found particularly compelling and discuss why you found it so.

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Othello A Level Essay Questions

Othello A Level Essay Questions

Subject: English

Age range: 16+

Resource type: Assessment and revision

Mr C English Resources

Last updated

20 February 2020

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othello possible essay questions

These documents have been developed to assist teachers and students in preparing for their A-Level Literature exam on Shakespeare’s “Othello”.

The first document has 43 essay questions that deal with Othello, Iago, Desdemona, Emilia, Bianca, Cassio, Roderigo and the many major themes of the play.

The second document has been specifically formatted to assist in preparing for the CCEA A2 Unit 1 (Shakespearean Genres) exam. 28 extracts have been selected from the play, each with corresponding exam-style essay questions to assist students in selecting appropriate parts of the play for their written responses.

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Great selection of questions. Saved me a lot of time thinking up from scratch for HW questions and revision resources.

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A good selection of questions. It allows for differentiation within the unit.

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Othello Literary Perspectives Essay Breakdown

August 26, 2020

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When it comes to VCE Literature, ‘Literary Perspectives’ is a major component of your learning and exams. If you’re studying any of the Shakespearian texts, the idea of using different ‘lenses’ to interpret 400-year-old plays seems silly and is a difficult task to approach. So today, I’m writing a plan for a Literary Perspectives essay on Shakespeare’s  Othello . The question we are looking at is:

In Shakespeare’s  Othello,  Venetian society is depicted as unwelcoming to the ‘Other’. To what extent do you agree?


So what does this question mean? Well let’s first look at the keywords, and what each means.

“Venetian Society” -This is the group of people depicted in  Othello . Whilst some characters like Cassio and Othello are from other city-states, they adhere to the norms and traditions of the Venetians, who live in Venice, Italy. 

“Unwelcoming” - In my essay, I consider “unwelcoming” to be active discrimination against people, with the intent of alienating them from society at large, but this is open to interpretation. 

“The Other” -This is a technical term from a few different literary perspectives. On a broad level, the Other is a person or group of people who are viewed as the ‘enemy’ or different from the dominant culture. 

These keywords are essentially what you have to include in terms of knowledge. But, what is the question? Our essay topic says “To what extent do you agree?”. You can choose to agree, or not at all, or be somewhere in the middle. Any of these options consider the  extent  of Venice’s welcomeness, but you have to use evidence, and uniquely, a literary perspective. 

My Approach

Before I even choose my contention, now is the time to decide which perspective to use for my essay. A few apply to the question and  Othello , but I can only have one. Using Feminism you could argue that the women of the play are ‘Othered,’ but because they lack lots of meaningful dialogue I think it would be hard to uncover enough evidence. Marxism would also be good and would argue the working-class is othered. The issue with Marxist interpretations of  Othello , however, is that there are almost no lower-class characters. Marxist theorists also regularly adopt feminist and postcolonial language, meaning I could appear as though I used multiple perspectives. I think Postcolonialism is the ideal perspective. The term “Other” was coined by postcolonial theorists, and Othello’s race and place in Venetian society give me the ability to flex my understanding of postcolonialism. 

So, now that I know I am writing from a postcolonial perspective, I can come up with a contention. First of all, who is the Other, according to postcolonialism? In  Othello,  it is quite clearly Othello himself, who is from North Africa, and is constantly the victim of racism, which begins to answer my second question; is Othello welcomed by Venetian Society? Well, it’s complicated, he’s an army commander and woos a Venetian woman, but he constantly has to prove himself worthy of these things. As a result, my contention will be somewhere in between complete agreement and complete disagreement with the question. 

The othered characters in  Othello  are orientalised by most members of Venetian society, and must constantly prove their material worth to maintain their agency. Despite this, the women of the play act as a foil to the racism and distrust of society.


Postcolonial theory has roots in a more modern context than Shakespeare. The colonialism of the 19th century and the decolonisation of the 20th century lead to colonised people reevaluating their lives and the role of the European colonists on a global, social, and psychological scale. When writing from a postcolonial lens, you should try to focus on some key areas. The most significant is the relationship between the colonised and the coloniser. How do they interact? What do they think of each other? The next area is the psychology of colonialism. One useful theorist here is Frantz Fanon, a psychologist living during the French colonisation of Algier. His text  The Wretched of the Earth  stated the ways that colonised Africans were mentally oppressed, viewing themselves as less than human. This is important when discussing the Other because ‘other’ represents the dehumanisation of Native lives which caused such psychological distress. A term I used in my contention should also be explained: orientalism. This term was coined by Edward Said and it explores the way the Other is viewed by the West. To ‘orientalise’ something is to portray it as something wholly different to European cultures, and exaggerate these differences. It results in non-Europeans being viewed as ‘backwards’ or ‘savage’ and justifies racist stereotypes. Other useful Postcolonial terms include: the Subaltern, who are the groups completely outside the margins of society, or people who lack any freedom; and Agency is the ability to act out of free-will and have a degree of power.

With my contention and some useful postcolonial terms, I can now plan each paragraph. I am doing three, but it is possible to do four or more. I follow TEEL (Topic, explanation, evidence, link) structure quite closely, and have given simple but punchy topic sentences for each paragraph. When structuring the essay as a whole, I try to make sure each paragraph builds off of the previous argument, almost like a staircase leading to my conclusion. 

1. Othello is treated as an outsider and is a victim of racism and orientalisation due to his cultural background, constantly reminded that he is not fully Venetian. 

My goal in this paragraph is to agree with the question. My explanation has to show that Othello isn’t welcome in Venetian society, highlighting that his blackness and European views of the Moors fits Edward Said’s theory of orientalism. I will mainly rely on Iago’s perception of Othello, and Iago as a symbol of Venice’s intoleration towards the Other. 

Evidence of his culture being viewed as ‘backwards’ or fundamentally different from Venice will support this point. Iago’s first monologue (1.1.8-33) displays his intolerance to outsiders, specifically referring to Othello as “the Moor”, rather than by his name. Roderigo also displays a racist attitude, calling Othello “the thick-lips” (1.1.71). You should try to choose linguistically significant evidence. For example, Iago’s metaphor of a “black ram is tupping [Brabantio’s] white ewe” (1.1.96-7) provokes imagery of the devil (black ram) defiling a symbol of purity (a white ewe). 

To link this paragraph, refer to the use of orientalism as a method of othering that turns people against Othello, and intends to keep him separate (unwelcome) from society.

2. Despite Iago’s representation of an intolerant Venice, Othello displays a pathway for the Other to prove themselves in Venetian society, although this proof is constantly reevaluated by the dominant culture.

In this argument I’m going against my previous paragraph, saying that Othello is welcome, but on a case-by-case basis. My explanation will include an analysis of how Othello is othered and orientalised, but still displays agency and has a role of authority in Venice. Othello is trusted, but it is a very loose trust that relies on Othello’s continued adherence to society’s rules. To use postcolonial language, Othello is the Other, but he is not a subaltern; he has been given a place at the coloniser’s table. But despite viewing himself as a permanent part of this table, the colonisers are always ready to remove his seat. 

I could use Brabantio as evidence of this, as he had “loved [Othello” (1.3.145) but quickly begins to refer to his “sooty bosom” (1.2.85) and “foul charms” (1.2.88) when he thinks Othello has overstepped his place in Venetian society by marrying a white woman. Even though Othello has proven himself as a General, the senate makes him answer for accusations based on racism and stigma. Once Othello begins to fall for Iago’s trap of jealousy, Lodovico questions the faith placed in Othello, claiming “I am deceived in him” (4.2.310).

Therefore, despite being allowed a place within the Governmental structures of Venice, Othello’s agency is constantly at risk, being welcomed for his proven talents, but distrusted for his ‘Otherness’.

3. Although Venetian society at large is unwelcoming to Othello, either through racism or distrust, Desdemona represents an attitude of acceptance towards the Other.

This argument looks at a different aspect of the question; who is the Other welcomed by? Besides Othello, Othered characters are the women and Cassio, who is from Florence. Despite not fitting into the key areas of postcolonial thought, women still have a place in this analysis, as a subcategory of the native’s relationship with the coloniser. How does a group that is discriminated against in their own society treat someone else who is discriminated against? Well, we see in  Othello  that the women treat him quite well. 

Desdemona is the obvious source of evidence for this. Her adoration of Othello transcends his colour and she accepts him as part of her Venetian world. She is unswayed by the racist commentary on Othello from those around her, such as Emilia, and instead represents the welcoming of the Other on a personal, although not societal level.

Thus, Desdemona in her own Otherness and orderliness acts a foil to Iago’s disorder and discrimination. As a discriminated against woman, she represents the acceptance of the other in Venetian society, and the unbridled trust of Othello that the men of Venice lack.

Your conclusion should include a restatement of your arguments and your contention but also look at them in another way. I usually go through my points and how they relate to each other and my contention in a logical step-by-step way, each point building on the other to reach my contention. Point 1 leads to point 2, which leads to point 3, and combined, makes my contention. 

Hopefully, this brief guide to literary perspectives in  Othello , focusing on postcolonialism, acts as a starting point for your studies. It’s about understanding the beliefs of the lens and then using this to form an argument. It certainly isn’t easy, so I encourage you to read around and practice this writing style as much as possible. 

Recommended Resources

On shakespeare.

How to Approach Shakespeare-Studying Shakespeare for the First time

Post-colonialism in Shakespearean Work by Alina Popa (2013)

On Postcolonialism

Literary Perspectives 101

List of Postcolonial Terms

Definition of Postcolonialism

Benefits of Critical Essays for Literary Perspectives Essays

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (2001), Penguin Modern Classics, Great Britain.

Orientalism by Edward W. Said (2003), Penguin Modern Classics, Great Britain.

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othello possible essay questions

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othello possible essay questions

Once you have finished all your Literature SACs for the year, all that is left is a 2 hour and 15 minute exam that will play a major part in determining your end of year study score. It seems extremely daunting, and because many of the SACs differ from the exam task, you may be feeling a bit nervous or confused about what exactly the exam entails.

In describing the task, the exam paper states:

For each of your selected texts, you must use one or more of the passages as the basis for a discussion of that text.

In your pieces of writing, refer in detail to the passage or passages and the texts. You may include minor references to other texts.

Therefore, you must write two close analysis pieces on the exam, one on each of your chosen texts. You must use the three passages included on the exam to explore and analyse the text as a whole. Most of your piece should be analysis of what is in front of you in the exam, but you must also use evidence from outside the passages, to demonstrate your knowledge and connection with the text.

The exam will be marked against a criterion that differs from any of your SACs (although it is quite similar to your close analysis SAC). Therefore it is imperative to understand the criteria you will be marked on before beginning to study for the Literature exam, and especially before you try some practice exams. They are as follows, and can be found on the VCAA Literature exam page.

  • Understanding of the text demonstrated in a relevant and plausible interpretation

This criteria relates to your ability to show your comprehension of the text. The examiner will be noting whether the concepts, ideas and themes in the text are understood. They will assess your interpretation of the text, and whether it is relevant and fair in relation to the meaning in the text

  • Ability to write expressively and coherently to present an interpretation

Literature is a writing subject, therefore this criteria asks that you write with fluency, an expressive vocabulary and clarity. Your piece must also be a coherent, unified work that clearly articulates your discussion and interpretation of the passages and text as a whole. This criteria can also relate to your use of grammar, punctuation and spelling as the clarity of your piece can be threatened if these are not used correctly.

  • Understanding of how views and values may be suggested in the text

You must demonstrate an ability to identify, discuss and analyze the views and values within the text. You must be able to support your discussion with evidence from the text

  • Analysis of how key passages and/or moments in the text contribute to an interpretation

Your ability to analyse the three passages, as well as the text as a whole, and draw an interpretation from them. Examiners will be looking to see that you can use set material and the whole text as a basis for discussion.  

  • Analysis of the features of a text and how they contribute to an interpretation

This criteria determines that you must identify factors including metalanguage, specific language and authorial techniques, and discuss how they create meaning. Remember that this is literature, so discussing the different elements used to construct a text (character, plot, setting, motifs, symbols” is imperative.

  • Analysis and close reading of textual details to support a coherent and detailed interpretation of the text

This criteria determines that you need to use evidence from the text (including quotes) in order to aid a logical and comprehensive interpretation of the text. Examiners will be looking at your ability to look deeply into smaller authorial choices, and how they create meaning.

Best of luck!

Literature is probably one of your hardest VCE subjects. If it’s not, then go you! (please tell me your secrets).

However, if you’re anything like me, then you probably look a bit like this when you begin considering the overall meaning of a text, the author’s views and values, and how any three passages in the text create the meaning.

When I became awash with confusion, like our old pal Ryan Renolds, the first thing I did (after eating a whole block of chocolate), was ensure I understood the context of the text. Without a clear understanding of the context of your text, you cannot fully comprehend the views and values of the author, nor the overall meaning of a text (it’s also part of the criteria for literary perspectives)!

So if you want to be feeling like this after you write a piece for literature:

Consider the following:


Austen was hunched over her small writing desk in the village of Chawton during England’s Georgian era as she wrote  Persuasion.  You are more likely reading it in a cozy bed, listening to Taylor Swift and half considering what you’re going to watch on Netflix later. Remember, your current social and cultural context can have a great influence on how you read a text, so it’s always important to imagine the author’s own context – whether this be very similar, or very different from the context of their text. It’s as easy as a Google search!

For a more in-depth look into how authorial intent and context is important in VCE English, read Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English .


The social context of a text is the way in which the features of the society it is set in impact on its meaning. There are two aspects to social context: the kind of society in which the characters live, and the one in which the author’s text was produced.

Charlotte Brontë’s  Jane Eyre  was set in the same social context she herself lived in. It was one in which women were seen as the lesser sex, there was a great divide between the wealthy and lower class, and strict class boundaries were enforced. All of these societal features are key in determining Brontë’s views on the importance of social inclusion, and her championing of the strength of women. Or just listen to Phoebe:


The historical context of a text is entangled with its social context, as underlying norms and convention are historically specific. The historical context is important to note especially when large changes have occurred between the time the work was produced, and our current day, so it is not assessed by our own concerns alone.

Aeschylus’ Agamemnon was first performed in 458BC, in Ancient Greece, a time vastly different from our own. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how the play was delivered, at the festival of Dionysus as part of a trilogy. Also have an understanding of the myths surrounding the Trojan War as well as those surrounding Agamemnon, Cassandra and Clytemnestra.


Culture refers to a particular ‘way of life’, involving religion, race and nationality, as well as things like food, dress code and manners. Furthermore, culture can relate to art, music, writing and literature itself. Cultural context, which is similarly linked with social, historical and ideological context, is especially important to note if the author is attempting to make a comment on an aspect of culture, or the clash of two cultures.

Cross cultural contact between an Indigenous tribe in Western Australia, and the British colonizers of this land, is explored by Kim Scott in his novel  That Deadman Dance.  He reveals aspects of culture largely unknown to current members of Australian society, as well as explores whether assimilation can be seen as a harmonious sign of friendship, or an intrusive loss of culture. The evolution, damage and protection of culture is an important context in this novel, and has a large bearing on the overall meaning of the text, as well as Scott’s views and values.


Ideology refers to the systems of beliefs and ideas that underpin our attitudes and behavior. Such ideology may be valued by society as a whole, or be the basis of conflict. Ideology is a context that is in many ways ‘invisible’. This is because our own is largely internalized and normalized, we act accordingly to our assumptions and social norms.

Many texts explore ideological context, either challenging or championing it. In his play  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Edward Albee challenged perceptions at the time of the family unit, portraying a couple that symbolizes the immense dissatisfaction caused by idealistic portrayals of marriage, and the fallacies of the American Dream. He illuminates how George and Martha escape from meaningless by creating fantasies and illusions, but how these eventually lead to the breakdown of their mental health.

So next time you’re struggling to get started on a literature piece, remember to think deeply about the different aspects of your text’s context!

The big trap students doing both English and Literature fall into is the habit of writing Close Readings like a Language Analysis essay. In essence, the two of these essays must tick the same boxes. But, here’s why analysing texts in Literature is a whole different ball game – in English, you want to be focusing on the methods that the author utilises to get their message across, whereas Literature is all about finding your own message in the writing.

In a  Language Analysis  essay, the chances are that most students will interpret the contention of the writer in a similar fashion and that will usually be stated in the introduction of the essay. Whereas in Literature, it is the formulation of your interpretation of the author’s message that is what really counts. In a typical Language Analysis essay, the introduction is almost like a summary of what’s going to be talked about in the next few paragraphs whereas in a close reading, it is the fresh ideas beyond the introduction that the markers are interested in.

For this reason, every Close Reading that you do in Literature will be unique. The overarching themes of the text you are writing from may be recurring, but for every passage from the text that you are given, what you derive from that will be specific to it.

From my experience, this is what stumps a lot of students because of the tendency is to pick up on the first few poetic techniques used in the passages and create the basis for the essay from that. This usually means that the student will pick up on alliteration (or another technique that they find easy to identify) used by the author and then try and match it to an idea that they have discussed in class. Whilst this can be an effective way to structure paragraphs, many students aren’t consciously utilising this approach and instead are doing it ‘by accident’ under time pressure, or a lack of understanding of other ways to get a point across.

In general, there are two main approaches that can be followed for body paragraphs in a literature close reading analysis:

1. Start wide and narrow down.

What does this mean? So, as I mentioned before, each of your close readings should be very specific to the passages in front of you and not rehearsed. However, it’s inevitable that you are going to find some ideas coming back more often. So, after reading through the passage, you will usually get a general understanding of the tone that the author has utilised. This will indicate whether the author is criticising or commending a certain character or social idea. Using this general overview to start your paragraph, you can then move closer and closer into the passage until you have developed your general statement into a very unique and clear opinion of the author’s message (with the support of textual evidence of course).

This is the essay approach that is generally preferred by students but is often used poorly, as without practice and under the pressure of writing essays in exam conditions, many students revert back to the old technique of finding a literary device that they are comfortable with and pushing forth with that.

The good thing about this approach is that when you understand the general themes that the author covers, you will become better and better at using that lens to identify the most impactful parts of the passage to unpack as you scrutinise the subtle nuances of the writer’s tone.

2. Start narrow and go wide.

You guessed it - it’s basically the opposite of the approach above. However, this is a more refined way of setting out your exploration of the author’s message as opposed to what was discussed earlier (finding random literary devices and trying to go from there). Using this approach does not mean that you have no direction of where your paragraph might end, it just means that you think the subtle ideas of the author can be used in culmination to prove their wider opinion. For example, if you get a passage where the author describes a character in great detail (Charlotte Brontë students, you might be familiar!) and you think there is a lot of underlying hints that the author is getting at through such an intricate use of words, then you might want to begin your paragraphs with these examples and then move wider to state how this affects the total persona built around this character and then maybe even a step further to describe how the writer’s attitude towards this character is actually a representation of how they feel towards the social ideas that the character represents.

The benefit of this approach is that if you are a student that finds that when you try and specify on a couple of key points within a large theme, you end up getting muddled up with the potential number of avenues you could be writing about, this style gives a bit of direction to your writing. This approach is also helpful when you are trying to link your broader themes together.

The main thing to remember in the structure of your body paragraphs – the link between your examples and the broader themes that you bring up should be very much evident to the marker. They should not have to work to find the link between the examples you are bringing up and the points that you are making. Remember, a Close Reading is all about the passage that is right in front of you and its relation in the context of the whole text and the writer’s message. Be clear about your opinion, it matters!

Happy writing!

‍ We’ve explored creative writing criteria, literary elements and how to replicate the text over on our The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing blog post . If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to creative writing, I highly recommend checking it out!

Creative Responses in VCE Literature

This was my favourite SAC in Literature; it allows so much creative freedom in creating and recreating a literary work. When else will you be able to depart from the (admittedly rather boring) standard essay structure?!

In your adaptations and transformations SAC (see my blog post about this literature assessment  here !), you learnt how the  meaning  of the text changed as the form changed. Here’s  your  opportunity to change the meaning of the text, maybe emphasising a particular thematic idea, or perhaps recreating a completely new perspective. Remember – you have almost complete creative licence in this assessment…use it to your advantage!

But don’t forget that the most important part of this task is that you must have a  highly convincing connection between the original text and your creative response . There must be a tangible relationship present, through an in-depth understanding of the original text’s features. These features include characterisation (what motivates these characters), setting, context, narrative structure, tone and writing/film style. Establishing a clear nexus between the original text and your creative piece does not mean you need to replicate everything of the text; you can stylistically choose to reject or contrast elements of the original text – as long as these choices are deliberate and unambiguous. Therefore, your creative response must demonstrate that you read your original text closely and perceptively by acknowledging these features of the text.

You can establish this relationship by:

  • Adopting or resisting the same genre as the original text : e.g. an epistolary genre (written in letters) – do letters make an appearance in your text? Is that something you want to highlight? What about writing a monologue or a script if the text is a film or a play?
  • Adopting or resisting the author’s writing/language style : does your writer characteristically write plainly or with great descriptive detail? What about irony or humour? Consider the length and style of sentences. Are there frequent uses of symbols or metaphors?
  • Adopting or resisting the text’s point of view : do you want to draw readers’ attention to another thematic idea that was not explored in the original text? Will you align with the author’s views and values or will you oppose them? (See my views and values blogpost here!)
  • Adopting or resisting the original setting, narrative structure or tone
  • Writing through a peripheral character’s perspective : give a voice to a minor character that didn’t have a detailed backstory. Find a gap in the text and create and new perspective.
  • Developing a prologue, epilogue or another chapter/scene : what new insight can you add with this addition and extension of the text? It must add something new – otherwise it is a redundant addition.
  • Rewriting a key event/scene from another character’s point of view : does this highlight how important narrative perspective is?
  • Recontextualising the original text : by putting the same story or characters into a completely different context, for example in the 21st century with technology, how does the meaning change in the narrative?

I chose to write a creative piece from the perspective of an inanimate object that followed the protagonist’s journey throughout the entire film, providing an unexpected point of view of the text. Be original and most importantly, enjoy it!

If you're doing a creative piece - whether for English or Literature - you'll find the following blogs super helpful:

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing

‍ 5-Step Recipe for Creative Writing

How To Achieve A+ in Creative Writing (Reading and Creating)

Studying both English and Literature in VCE is an interesting undertaking, and I’ve heard very mixed opinions about whether or not it’s a good idea. For me it was a no-brainer; I’d always loved English so why wouldn’t I take advantage of the opportunity to study two English-based subjects? Looking back on my VCE experience now, and comparing my experience of studying each subject, I can see that they are each very different. However, if you’re going to study both, don’t expect that each subject will unfold in isolation, because your work in one of these subjects will undoubtedly impact upon your work in the other - even if, like me, you complete them in different years. So if you enjoy English I would 100% endorse studying both VCE English and VCE Literature, but being an English-nerd I still think there are benefits to analysing the process of studying this dynamic-duo back to back.

The Content

At the beginning, I assumed that Literature and English would be fairly similar in terms of studying and writing. It’s all about reading books and writing essays, right? Well, whilst this is essentially true, it turns out that the process for each subject is quite different. I studied year 12 Literature first, completing it in 2017 as a year 11 student, and as my only unit 3/4 subject for that year it was the focus of a lot of my time, energy, and creativity. What I loved about VCE Literature from the beginning was the departure from formula; the impetus to “dive right in” as my teacher always used to say. Instead of worrying about how many sentences your introductions and conclusions have to be, in Literature you can simply get straight into the analysis and see how far it takes you.  So, if you’re the kind of person who needs to stick to that body paragraph structure acronym that has always served you so well, then when you first start studying Literature it might be a challenge to loosen up. Or, if you’re like me and can’t shake the compulsion to write paragraphs that take up double-sided sheets of paper, you might find this subject to be a welcome respite from some of the restrictions of English tasks.

Although English is often viewed as the more ‘basic’ of the two, in many ways I found it more difficult once I hit year 12. Having just finished VCE Literature, shifting my focus back to English definitely wasn’t as seamless as I might have expected. In comparison to my Literature essays where I would base paragraphs around in-depth analysis of a few of Gaskell’s sentences, my English text responses felt stunted and forced – English isn’t really compatible with tangents, and so it was difficult to train myself to be expressive whilst also being concise. In my opinion, the most daunting of the year 12 VCE English SACs is the comparative, and this is where my lack of flow was most evident. Being accustomed to delving into complex discussion of the details of my Literature texts, it seemed impossible to provide insightful analysis of two texts simultaneously, whilst also comparing them to each other and also keeping my essays well structured. My first comparative practices sounded somewhat awkward when I read over them, and I just felt like I never really knew what I was trying to get across. This provoked me to be frustrated with myself, and then my frustration distracted me from writing, and then my essays read even more contrived; you get the idea.

So, how do you push past this sense of friction between the study of English and the study of Literature? Well, I think the best way to reconcile the conflicting approaches is to realise that each subject brings out different strengths, but these strengths can be applied to either type of study. Yes to a certain extent English is supposed to be formulaic, but you can use the analysis skills you learn in Literature to enhance your English text responses and give your work a point of difference. On the flip side, the structure you work with in English can be applied to Literature to ensure that your essays always exhibit direction and purpose, even if they encompass a broader range of discussion. Once I realised that I didn’t have to discard all of my Literature skills and start writing my English work exactly the same as everybody else, I began to develop a more fluid, balanced writing style that enhanced all of my English tasks – even the comparative.

Let’s start with the obvious comparisons between the English exam and the Literature exam. Firstly, the English exam encompasses three essays in three hours (with 15 minutes reading time), whilst Literature is only two essays in two hours. The English exams tasks include a text response to a prompt, a comparative text response to a prompt, and a language analysis. The Literature exam involves a passage analysis, and a text response to a prompt influenced by a literary perspective. Where in the English exam you are given a choice of prompts for each text choice, whereas for both sections of the Literature exam only one choice is available for each text. Whilst both exams involve some supplied material, in Literature this material is a passage from one of the set texts, however for the language analysis section of the English exam this is completely unseen material created by the VCAA. For me, this felt like a very significant difference, because there is no familiar material (i.e. passages from the texts) to rely on in the English exam; if you get lost you can’t latch on to anything except what you have memorised.

Personally, I think that the study strategies I utilised for each exam were fairly similar, although obviously geared towards different tasks. I took in depth notes on my texts, planned essays, memorised quotations and explored their significance, timed my practice essays etc. My actual approach to each exam was also similar, for example I made sure to allocate one hour for each different task and did all of my planning mentally during reading time. So although obviously everyone’s study and exam techniques are different, this shows that your own personal strategies that you develop can be applied to both the Literature and the English exams. However, despite the continuity in this sense I still found myself feeling very different coming out of my English exam than I had leaving my Literature exam the year before. Where after the Literature exam I had been content with the knowledge that I had showcased the best version of my abilities, after the English exam I felt much more unsure and ready to believe the worst about the outcome. This particular comparison is of course specific to every individual person, however I think it could have something to do with the knowledge that most VCE students study English and the difficulty in believing that your work could stand out from the work of 40,000 others.

The Results

In the end, I achieved very different results from these two subjects, with English being my highest study score and Literature being one of my 10% contributions. It seems to be a general consensus (or at least it was at my school) that it is more difficult to crack the high 40s in Literature than in English, and whether this is true or not it definitely impacted my expectations of my results each subject. However, that said, after being slightly disappointed with my Literature results in year 11 I was not overly optimistic about doing much better in English. When talking about this with my Literature teacher, she told me to “remember that English is marked very differently to Lit, so don’t think you can’t get a 50” and I think this is very solid advice. Whilst you might feel you were equally skilled at both subjects, this doesn’t mean you will receive equally ‘good’ results’, but don’t let this disparity discourage you because, as we have discussed throughout this post, when it comes to Literature and English one size does not fit all.

Let's all be honest here, Year 12 is endlessly tiring. Literature, for all its greatness, can also be endlessly tiring. Along with 3-4 other subjects, sometimes the idea of writing a practice piece, deeply analyzing the language of your text, or doing research into the context, views and values of the author are things you really, really don’t feel like doing.

Although these things are necessary and important, they’re also often difficult, taxing, and possibly not that interesting. Not too long before the Literature exam, my friend and I were texting, both feeling immense stress and guilt because we felt we hadn’t studied enough for the exam, but equally tired and unable to write any practice pieces. I’m sure many of you are very familiar with the paradox of not spending time studying because you are instead spending that time worrying about not studying.

However, there’s really no need to suddenly feel full of stress and anxiety when you have no motivation to do such work for Literature, that’s just wasted energy! Instead, accept that you’re going to have a little break from the serious stuff, and use that energy instead to improve your understanding and knowledge of your text (part of the exam criteria!!).

My friend and I decided we’d meet for coffee, and try and just discuss our exam texts together (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Dark Roots).

‘Bring paper and the books’ she texted me ‘I’ve got an idea’. And that idea was...

VCE Literature Charades

How to play:1. Find a friend2. Think a concept, character, quote, theme, literary device or anything really from one of your texts3. Forget about your dignity4. Act it out until your friend guesses5. Swap and repeat.And once people started to stare as we theatrically mimed things like ‘metaphor’ and ‘the albatross’ we decided to tone it down a little bit, leading to the invention of...

VCE Literature Pictionary

How to play:1. Find a friend2. Think of a concept, character, quote, theme, literary device (you get the idea)3. Keep your dignity intact!4. Start drawing the idea until your friend eventually guesses (warning: could lead to many failed attempts at drawing ‘foreshadowing’)5. Swap and repeat.

So I know this seems ridiculous but I swear, without even realizing it you’re getting to know your text so much better. There’ll be that moment in the exam room when all you’re thinking is ‘what on earth is that quote’, and suddenly you’ll remember how you’re friend fell off her chair trying to mime it. Either way, it’s a much more valuable use of time than worrying about not studying, especially because you’ll spend most of the time laughing.

If you’re alone, and you really don’t feel like studying for literature, but you still kind of have to study for literature… don’t despair! Find a place in your house where you wont be disturbed (or disturb anyone) and pretend you’re running an information session on your text. I used to record endless minutes of myself rambling about all different facets of my text, with no comprehensible structure, just trying to say and explain everything I knew about it. I would delete them almost straight away, but trust me, taking on the role of a teacher can be very fun, and when no ones watching, you can really just go for it. Things are much more likely to stay in your memory when you’ve explained them aloud, so you’ll be super prepared for your SACS!

Of course, it is beyond important to make sure you write as many practice pieces as you think you need to, and to work on tasks that may at times be ‘boring’, but if you want to avoid burning out try making studying a little fun!

To the Lit kids out there, you already know that VCE Literature is a whole different ball game – You’re part of a small cohort, competing against some of the best English students in the state and spots in the 40+ range are fairly limited. So how can you ensure that it’s your essay catches the assessor’s eye? Here are some tips which will hopefully give you an edge.  

  • Constantly refer back to the language of the passages

Embed quotes from the passages into both your introduction and conclusion and of course, throughout the essay. Don’t leave any room for doubt that you are writing on the passages right in front of you rather than regurgitating a memorized essay. A good essay evokes the language of the passages so well that the examiner should barely need to refer back to the passages.

Here’s part of a sample conclusion to illustrate what I mean:

  In comparison to Caesar, who sees lands, the “’stablishment of Egypt,” as the epitome of all triumphs, the lovers see such gains, “realms and islands,” as “plates dropp’d from his pocket.” It is dispensable and transient like cheap coins, mere “dungy earth” and “kingdoms of clay.” This grand world of heroic virtue is set in the past tense, where the lover once “bestrid the ocean,” once “crested the world,” but it is the world which will arguably endure in our hearts.

So, you can see that analysis of the language does not stop even in the conclusion and yet it still ties into the overall interpretation of the text that I have presented throughout the essay.

  • If appropriate, include quotes from the author of the text

A good way to incorporate views and values of the author in your writing is to quote things they have said themselves. This may work better for some texts than others but if you find a particularly poetic quote that ties in well with the interpretation you are presenting, then make sure to slip it in. It shows that you know your stuff and is an impressive way to show off your knowledge of the author’s views and values.

Here’s a sample from an introduction on Adrienne Rich poetry which includes a quote from her essay, “When We Dead Awaken.”

Adrienne Rich’s poetry is the process of discovering a “new psychic geography” (When We Dead Awaken) with a language that is “refuse[d], ben[t] and torque[d]” not to subjugate but as an instrument for “connection rather than apartheid.”

  • Memorise quotes throughout the text

Yes, there are passages right in front of you, but don’t fall into the trap of not memorizing significant quotes from the text as a whole. Dropping a relevant quote in from another section of the text demonstrates that you understand the text as a whole.

The originality of your ideas and the quality of your writing come first and foremost, but these are little ways in which you can add a little extra something to your essay.

Updated for the new 2023-2027 Study Design!

AoS 1: Adaptations and Transformations

Aos 2: developing interpretations.

  • AoS 1: Creative Responses to Texts

AoS 2: Close Analysis

This is your ultimate guide to everything you need to know to get started with VCE Literature. We will be covering all the sections within Units 3 and 4, and have included resources that will help improve your skills and make you stand out from the rest of your cohort!

Scope of Study

Here's what the VCAA study design states...

'The study of VCE Literature fosters students’ enjoyment and appreciation of the artistic and aesthetic merits of stories and storytelling, and enables students to participate more fully in the cultural conversations that take place around them. By reading and exploring a diverse range of established and emerging literary works, students become increasingly empowered to discuss texts. As both readers and writers, students extend their creativity and high-order thinking to express and develop their critical and creative voices.'
'Throughout this study, students deepen their awareness of the historical, social and cultural influences that shape texts and their understanding of themselves as readers. Students expand their frameworks for exploring literature by considering literary forms and features, engaging with language, and refining their insight into authorial choices. Students immerse themselves in challenging fiction and non-fiction texts , discovering and experimenting with a variety of interpretations in order to develop their own responses.'

...but don't worry if the above is vague, we'll take you through exactly what you need to know for Year 12 Literature! Let's get into it! ‍ ‍

In Unit 3, students consider how meaning is created through form, and how different interpretations may be developed out of a singular text. First, students understand how writers adapt and transform texts, and how their interpretation of the text impacts this transformation into a different form. Secondly, students use another text to develop their own interpretations of a text with regard to its context , and views and values . Unit 3 School-Assessed Coursework is worth 25 per cent of your total study score!

This task is designed for you to critically analyse and actively engage with the text, understanding its nuances inside and out in order to decipher its meaning. Be individual in comparing and contrasting the two texts – avoid the obvious similarities/differences everyone in your class will also notice. It is the insightful analysis of the subtleties of how meaning is altered that will help you stand out!

Here are some important aspects to consider and questions to ask yourself while tackling this SAC:

  • Identify the unique conventions in the construction of the original text
  • Now do Step 1 with the adapted/transformed text
  • How do the two text forms differ ? How are they the same ? The most crucial step is what meaning can be derived from the similarities and differences? How does the meaning change? ‍
  • Note additions and omissions (and even silences) ‍
  • Historical context and setting ‍
  • How does the change in form impact you as the reader/viewer ?
  • Incorporate pertinent quotations from both forms of text to substantiate and support your ideas and key points.

Most importantly, share your original interpretation of what meaning and significance you can extract from the text, and how you believe it changes once the form alters.

Also ask yourself these questions:

  • ‍ What makes the text in its original form interesting or unique?

Is that quality captured in its adaptation/transformation?

‍ For more detailed explanations on these 7 aspects, you might want to check out Adaptations and Transformations Lit SAC: A How To Guide.

Developing interpretations is an AoS that focuses on investigating the meaning and messages in texts, as evidenced by the text itself, it’s author and their context . As per the study design:

'Students first develop their own interpretations of a set text, analysing how ideas, views and values are presented in a text, and the ways these are endorsed, challenged and/or marginalised through literary forms, features and language. These student interpretations should consider the historical, social and cultural context in which a text is written and set. Students also consider their own views and values as readers.'

Following this, you investigate a supplementary reading which will offer another interpretation of the text, which may enrich or challenge your interpretation by agreeing or disagreeing with your interpretation. Using this supplementary reading, you reconsider your initial interpretation and apply your new understanding of the text to key moments. 

The SAC for Developing Interpretations is a little bit weird. It’s worth 50% of unit 3 (or 25% of your total study score), but is split into two parts:

  • Part A: An initial interpretation of the text’s views and values within its historical, social and cultural context.
  • Part B: A written response that compares/interweaves and analyses an initial interpretation with a subsequent interpretation, using a key moment from the text.

Your teacher might do the two parts together, or separately. In any case, Part B will include the use of a passage from the set text that you must engage with. How does the passage help you to interpret the text, and how does that interpretation agree or disagree with the interpretation presented in the supplementary reading? 

The most difficult part of the SAC for this AoS is balancing your interpretation, the textual evidence, and the alternative interpretation of the supplementary reading. It is vital that if you are doing Literature this year, that you know your 3.2 text like the back of your hand, and that you practice writing loads and loads. It is also worth trying to make your interpretation incredibly specific, so that you can go in-depth into one idea, rather than simply skimming over 3 or 4 big ideas. 

For more on Developing Interpretations, you might want to check out VCE Literature Study Design (2023-2027): A Guide to Developing Interpretations which explains in detail what the new AoS is about and what you need to do.

And, if you're studying Alias Grace you'll find our Developing Interpretations SAC Guide on interpreting Alias Grace especially helpful.

‍ Unit 4: Interpreting Texts

Aos 1: creative response & reflective commentary.

The most important part of this task is that you must have a highly convincing connection between the original text and your creative response .

There must be a tangible relationship present, through an in-depth understanding of the original text’s features. These features include characterisation (what motivates these characters), setting, context, narrative structure, tone and writing/film style.

You can establish this relationship by: ‍

  • Adopting or resisting the same genre as the original text
  • Adopting or resisting the author’s writing/language style
  • Adopting or resisting the text’s point of view
  • Writing through a peripheral character’s perspective
  • Developing a prologue, epilogue or another chapter/scene
  • Rewriting a key event/scene from another character’s point of view: Does this highlight how important narrative perspective is?
  • Recontextualising the original text

For detailed explanations on how to establish these relationships, read "Creative Response To Text" Ideas .

The VCAA Literature Study Design also determines that students must submit a ‘close analysis of a key passage’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 20 of the 60 marks available for the Create Response outcome. The study design elaborates that students must produce:

‘A close analysis of a key passage from the original text, which includes reflections on connections between the creative response and the original text.’

In short, VCAA wants you to not only analyse the original text and use it as the basis for your Creative Response, they want you to be able to closely analyse a section of the original text, and link it to and reflect upon your creative response. This is different from previous years and the same task in English, the Reflective Commentary. You must use the skills of close analysis in this task. To include these things, look to the key knowledge and skills outlined in the study design. 

Key Knowledge:

  • Understanding of the point of view, context and form of the original text
  • The ways the literary form, features and language convey the ideas of the original text
  • Techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular views and values

Key Skills:

  • Discuss elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response
  • Analyse closely the literary form, features and language of a text
  • Reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in their adaptation

As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!

To read a sample Reflective Commentary, check out Elly's blog post on how to Score 10/10 On The Reflective Commentary ‍

From the VCAA study design:

'In this area of study students focus on a detailed scrutiny of the language, style, concerns and construction of texts. Students attend closely to textual details to examine the ways specific passages in a text contribute to their overall understanding of the whole text. Students consider literary forms, features and language, and the views and values of the text. They write expressively to develop a close analysis, using detailed references to the text.'

In plain words, your teacher (and eventually examiner in the end of year exam) will give you 3 passages from your text. You'll be asked to read each of these passages, identify key ideas or themes present in each of the passages, and write an essay in response.

Writing the Introduction

Introductions are an excellent way to showcase your ability to provide an insight into your personal “reading” of the text, interpret the passages and allow you an avenue through which to begin your discussion of the material.

When constructing introductions, it is important to note that the VCAA Literature Exam Criteria is as follows: ‍

  • Considering these points, your introduction should feature these 2 elements: your personal reading of the text and your interpretation of the passages.
  • In terms of structure, try to begin with a sentence or two explaining your personal reading of the text. The key to doing so in a manner befitting Close Analysis however, is to utilise quotes from the passages to supplement your assertion.

Head over to Jarrod's blog to read a sample introduction: VCE Literature Close Analysis: Introduction ‍ ‍

Extra Resources

Views and Values

VCE Literature Essay Approaches - Not a Language Analysis

What is Authorial Intent in VCE English and Why Is It Important?

The Importance of Context in Literature ‍

Study Techniques: How To Approach a Text That You Hate

Why Genre Matters in VCE Literature: An Analysis of Dracula

Developing Interpretations SAC Guide: Interpreting Alias Grace


Arguably one of the greatest modern playwrights of our time, Tennessee Williams produced some of the best post-war 1950’s American plays that have now engrained themselves as classics. After the conclusion of the second world war, America was pervaded with hypermasculinity, deep levels of insecurity and a desperate need to regain the pre-war success of the 1920s. During the 1950s, the United States began to regain its economic success and spirits were high as ever; however, this may only have been ostensible. Beneath the surface of such success lurked unshaken expectations on both men and women and deep-rooted bigotry. 

In this article, we will get to know how these concepts are explored in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and examine why this text is important in the context of Lit Perspectives and Close Analysis. ‍

Characters Analysis

Brick is too numb to feel much of anything any more; he is a drunk and cold shell of what he once was. Since the death of his friend Skipper, Brick has retreated into solitude and emotional aloofness, and the only emotions that he can express are disgust and boredom. The other characters can only coax an emotional response out of him when they mention Skipper

Maggie is a traditional 1950’s beauty, she is lively, gorgeous and has a deeply sexual presence. She spends the majority of the play trying to get Brick to sleep with her- both to satisfy her own needs, and to allow her to conceive a baby. This which would guarantee her share of the Pollitt family wealth. 

Big Daddy, like Brick, gets a lot of undeserved attention and love; this is because he sits upon the Pollitt wealth he built. He worked hard for economic success, and now he wants to enjoy it. He is uninterested in Big Mama and treats her with little affection or respect.

She is an older version of Maggie - more dramatic, needier, having let herself go. She loves her husband unconditionally despite his cruelty and indifference to her. Like Big Daddy, she cannot help but prefer Brick to Gooper because he is so much like Big Daddy. 

Brick’s older brother but has lived in his shadow since the day he was born. While Brick got the attention with looks and football, Gooper married into society and became a successful lawyer. But the unfair attention and focus on Brick has made Gooper vengeful and petty, and so it is out of both greed and spite that he actively campaigns for control of Big Daddy’s estate. 

Gooper’s wife who has all of his greed and sourness, without any of his justifying history. She taunts Maggie’s lack of motherhood by parading her plethora of children around the house. 

Concepts and Concerns 

TIP: Concepts and concerns should form the basis of your analysis whether you are doing a close analysis or a literary perspectives essay! 


The central tension in the play is underscored by mendacity, lying and deception. The repressed truth is constantly on the verge of being unleashed and it is the “inadmissible thing” that pervades the family. The two primary sources of mendacious repression are Brick’s homosexual desires and Big Daddy’s imminent death from cancer. Ironically, it is these two who value integrity and honesty the most. 

When Big Daddy finally finds out the truth about his impending death he exclaims: “By all the goddam lies and liars that I have had to put up with, and all the goddam hypocrisy that I lived with all these forty years that we(big mama) been living together”

In a final moment of existential dread and disgust, Brick resignedly claims that “mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out and death is another”. These are the fates that are destined for Brick and Big Daddy respectively. 

The truth (if there can be such a thing) is that both Brick and Big Daddy are loved so ardently by their partners, but they blinded by their dishonesty to themselves. It is because Brick cannot come to terms with his own sexuality and Big Daddy cannot fathom his inevitable death that lies, and deceit is perpetuated in the text. 


Williams himself was gay and lived in a society that constantly repressed and shamed it as a deeply sinful practice and associated it with failed masculinity. Thus, he explores the deep turmoils of homosexuality in the 1950s and its implications on manliness, bigotry and society.

Whilst not stated explicitly, it is implied that Skipper confessed his love to Brick; whilst Brick felt the same way, he knew this would not be accepted by society. Consequently, he shuts Skipper down and later that night, Skipper commits suicide. Brick cannot admit the truth to himself because in his mind “purity” and “homosexuality” are mutually exclusive, due to his own internalized homophobia and even when Big Daddy makes Brick face his desires and the guilt that pervades him; he cannot escape the bigoted societal norms imbued within him

Williams paints an image of distress, pain and grief caused by the prevailing homophobia of the 1950s. Brick is crippled both by his failure as a man and his failure to be true to himself. 


Back in the 1950s, the American Dream was the dream that everyone was expected to aspire for was much more conservative. It included a traditional family with a stay at home mother, hard-working and masculine father, 2-3 children, a home and money, lots of it!

The Pollitt family truly embodied the American Dream. With their self-made fortune, successful sons (though Brick is now a mess) and even grandchildren. In many aspects, Gooper and Mae fulfil the expectations of the American Dream much more than Brick and Maggie do; they have children, success and ambition. They attempt to use this to their advantage in their bid to win over Big Daddy’s estate but even that fails to sway Big Daddy’s favouritism for Brick. 

Brick is as resigned and aloof to the idea of wealth and tradition as he is to his wife Maggie. His repressed homosexuality already divorces him from the ingrained social expectation of the American Dream and it disappoints him to pretend to desire the same things his brother Gooper does. This, ironically, only makes him more favoured by his parents. 

In a world of strict expectations and immovable bigotry, there is no room for homosexuality, and this disappoints no one more than Brick himself. In his world, the very essence of his being contradicts the dream that everyone is taught to value. Williams asks readers to consider the consequences of such restrictive beliefs, he questions the American dream at a fundamental level by asking: so why do we all have to want the same thing?  


What does it mean to be a woman? For Mae, that means being a loving housewife and being able to bear children. In the petty feud for Big Daddy’s will, she insults Maggie’s childless state, she is less of a woman because of it. Of course, the reason Maggie cannot have children is that Brick is unwilling to sleep with her. Again, even though Mae has provided Big Daddy and Big Mama with a plethora of grandchildren, they still prefer Maggie’s young and sensual energy. 

Williams attempts to undermine the characteristics that were supposed to define women as feminine through Maggie. Moreover, women were supposed to be passive players in the family, to do their husbands bidding and to be polite and proper at all times. Maggie is none of these things. She is unapologetically sexual, unwaveringly ambitious in her pursuit of the Pollitt family wealth and determined to cement herself as Brick’s partner although she knows of his homosexual desires. In a society where women were not supposed to have dreams let alone pursue them, Maggie is a “cat on a hot tin roof”, chasing her dreams with careless disregard of established hetero norms.

Literary Perspectives 

Now we get into the tricky stuff! This is one part of your exam and is the Unit 4 Outcome 1 SAC so it’s important that you get a competent grasp of the task! TIP: Follow this link to get an overview of the literary perspectives task (I’m thinking of linking the ultimate lit perspectives guide here, let me know what you think) 

Some prevalent perspectives should jump out at you immediately just by looking at the Concepts and Concerns. Remember that you don’t have to choose just one perspective, it’s more important that you develop an overall interpretation of the text and incorporate the buzzwords that reflect your perspective. Use your perspective/interpretation as a lens to the concepts and concerns mentioned above as a springboard for your analysis

Now we get into the tricky stuff! This is one part of your exam and is the Unit 4 Outcome 1 SAC so you must get a competent grasp of the task! TIP: Follow this link to get an overview of the literary perspectives task  (I’m thinking of linking the ultimate lit perspectives guide here, let me know what you think) 

Here are some general perspectives that you might want to think about:

Think about the role the women in this text play and how they are portrayed. You have three vastly different women who all reflect the social standards that defined the 1950s in varying degrees. 

Maggie does not seem to care much about what Brick wants as much as she cares about her own needs proven when she attempts to force him to do things he doesn’t care much for (pretending he remembered Big Daddy’s birthday or sleeping with her). She stands in diametric opposition to Big Mama and Mae who are both stereotypical women of their times, always forgoing their own desires for their husbands’. In this sense, our sympathy for Maggie only confirms Williams’ notion that women should be able to freely chase their ambitions and break free of restrictive stereotypes. 

These societal standards that reinforce traditional gender roles, heterosexuality and the pervasive male gaze form what literary critics call  heteronormativity.  This is a key notion in feminism and extends this perspective to more than just an analysis of women in society. It also asks us to question how these hetero norms may influence overarching definitions of masculinity. We can see how these hetero norms have forced Brick into an empty cripple whose only clutch is alcohol and the “click” of peace he drinks for. 

TIP: Heteronormativity can also be linked to Marxism as it forms part of the superstructure (institutions and culture considered to result from and reflect the economic system underlying society) that perpetuates the belief that men must be the breadwinner to support their housewives and children. In other words, if you are not supporting your family financially, you are not considered a true man.

Some might argue that the central conflict in the play comes down to who will inherent Big Daddy’s wealth after his death and is only inflamed by Brick’s repressed sexuality.  The American Dream is literally underscored by the chasing of money! 

Consider how the class impacts the tension in the story. Because of their high social status, Brick’s sexuality is only more scandalous. Funnily enough, despite the fact that Maggie knows he does not love her, she could not care less. As I’ve probably hammered in enough by now, she has more regard for the money than Brick (though she does love him). Furthermore, Gooper’s job as a lawyer, in his mind, only further cements him claim to the Pollitt family throne because it pays well and is highly respected. 


Pain, trauma, guilt, desire, gaze and the unconscious. All these things come into play when thinking about psychoanalysis. Popularised by Sigmund Freud who believed (and I’m simplifying here) that psychological theories and techniques could help people better understand their unconscious thoughts, feelings and desires. This is turn, would help them explain their behaviours. 

The best way to start a psychoanalysis of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is to think about what each character wants, how they are behaving and how their past might influence this. Brick’s homosexuality and the guilt he feels at Skipper’s death is a great place to start. This is also a great way to integrate to touch on other perspectives if you think about the ways in which heteronormativity or social status may have influenced his decisions back then.

Close Analysis 

TIP: Just because it’s close analysis, doesn’t mean you can forego an overall interpretation!! Remember the Concepts and Concerns of the author! Here is a link to help you out with more general close analysis advice (again same idea as previous section, to

Some might argue that the central conflict in the play comes down to who will inherit Big Daddy’s wealth after his death and is only inflamed by Brick’s repressed sexuality. The American Dream is underscored by the chasing of money! 

Consider how the class impacts the tension in the story. Because of their high social status, Brick’s sexuality is only more scandalous. Funnily enough, even though Maggie knows he does not love her, she could not care less. As I’ve probably hammered in enough by now, she has more regard for the money than Brick (though she does love him). Furthermore, Gooper’s job as a lawyer, in his mind, only further cements him claim to the Pollitt family throne because it pays well and is highly respected. 

The best way to start psychoanalysis of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is to think about what each character wants, how they are behaving and how their past might influence this. Brick’s homosexuality and the guilt he feels at Skipper’s death is a great place to start. This is also a great way to integrate to touch on other perspectives if you think about how heteronormativity or social status may have influenced his decisions back then.

TIP: Just because it’s close analysis, doesn’t mean you can forego an overall interpretation!! Remember the Concepts and Concerns of the author! Here is a link to help you out with more general close analysis advice (again same idea as the previous section, to link the ultimate guides) 

The close analysis essentially wants you to analyse the nitty-gritty of your text. Demonstrate to VCAA that you understand how language creates meaning and can support the overarching values of the author. Questions of form, structure, language devices and literary techniques all come in to play when thinking about how Tennessee Williams created meaning in the play. Think of yourself as a detective who must find the most forensic examples in supporting your overall perspective. Here are a few things you might want to consider when closely analysing ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. 

The Form – Play

The Play as a form is one of the most distinct types. It is a show for an audience and does not have as much intimacy as a novel. It has stage directions that the audience does not see and even minute punctuation that must be portrayed by actors. It is important that you can demonstrate you understand this!

Different stage directions will impact the audience in a multitude of ways. For example, Williams had detailed ‘Notes for the Designer’ that closely depicted the setting and atmosphere of the play. In it, he detailed the story of “Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, a pair of old bachelors” who were rumoured to be gay. This instantly establishes homosexuality as a backdrop of the play, it is woven into the setting. 

Or you might want to analyse the stage directions that constantly punctuate Brick’s dialogue; every time he speaks it is “absently”, “dreamily” or “vaguely”, which further emphasises his cool and aloof nature. This is in contrast to when he speaks about Skipper in which he suddenly becomes defensive; his dialogue graduates from resigned one-liners to profuse emotional rants. 

Structure – The Acts, the Setting, characters, timeframe

Whilst the form of a play is unique in itself, there are certain aspects of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ that differentiates it from others. 

For example, the play in its entirety occurs within one day. This emphasises the extent to which the Pollitt family had already been teetering on the edge of unleashing the secrets of the family. The confirmation of Big Daddy’s death only opens this up further and unwinds the atmosphere of secrecy, denial and mendacity in merely a few hours. 

This is only heightened by the fact that the entire play occurs in one room, the “bed-sitting-room” of the plantation home. Therefore, no matter how hard the family tries to escape the truth, the claustrophobia created by having so many of them in one room together acts as a catalyst for the truth to be revealed. 

Also, consider how these characters are established! What has been said explicitly and what has been alluded to. For example, it is never explicitly said that Brick is gay or that Big Daddy will die (to his face at least). In some ways, despite the fact that everyone knows the truth, it is still a truth too difficult to bear and speaking it out loud will only confirm what they have been in denial about for so long. 

“Once upon a time…”

The fairy tale of Cinderella is a well-known, well-loved and well-ingrained story that was always told to me as a bedtime story. Who could forget the mean-spirited stepsisters who punished and ruined Cinderella’s life to no end? According to the dark Brothers Grimm version, the stepsisters mutilated their feet by cutting off their heels and toes to fit into the infamous shoe, and their eyes were pecked away by birds until they were blinded! It’s definitely one way to send a message to children… don’t be bullies or you’ll be punished. Which is exactly what the Brothers Grimm’s views and values were. Their construction of their fairy tale to send a message of what they viewed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is simplistically shown through the writers’ choice in determining the characters’ fate. The evil stepsisters are punished, while Cinderella receives happiness and riches because she remained kind and pure. A clear and very simple example of how texts reflect the beliefs, world views and ethics of the author, which is essentially the author’s views and values!

What are the views and values of a text?

Writers use literature to criticise or endorse social conditions, expressing their own opinions and viewpoints of the world they live in. It is important to remember that each piece of literature is a deliberate construction. Every decision a writer makes reflects their views and values about their culture, morality, politics, gender, class, history or religion. This is implicit within the style and content of the text, rather than in overt statements. This means that the writer’s views and values are always open to interpretation, and possibly even controversial. This is what you (as an astute literature student) must do – interpret the relationship between your text and the ideas it explores and examines, endorses or challenges in the writer’s society.

How do I start?

Consider the following tips:

  • What does the writer question and critique with their own society? What does this say about the writer’s own views and the values that uphold?
  • For example,  “Jane Austen in Persuasion recognises the binding social conventions of the 19th century as superficial, where they value wealth and status of the utmost priority. She satirises such frivolous values through the microcosmic analysis of the Elliot family.”
  • The writer’s affirming or critical treatment of individual characters can be a significant clue to what values they approve or disapprove of. What fate do the characters have? Who does the writer punish or reward by the end of the text?
  • Which characters challenge and critique the social conventions of the day?
  • Look at the writer’s use of language:
  • Characterisation
  • Plot structure
  • Description
  • In other words …what are the possible meanings generated by the writer’s choices?
  • Recognition and use of metalanguage for literary techniques is crucial because you are responding to a work of literature. Within literature ideas, views and values and issues do not exist in a vacuum. They arise out of the writer’s style and create  meaning .
  • How do the writer’s choices make meaning?
  • How are the writer’s choices intended to affect the reader’s perception of social values?
  • Weave views and values throughout your close analysis essays, rather than superficially adding a few lines at the conclusion of the essay to indicate the writer’s concerns.
  • Using the writer’s name frequently will also assist in creating a mindset of analysing the writer’s commentary on society.

Below are some examples from an examiner report of successful and  insightful  responses reflecting the views and values of the writer:

(Another tip is to go through examiner’s reports and take note of high quality responses, even if they are not the text you’re studying)

When contrasted with the stark, blunt tone of Caesar throughout the play ‘You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know...’ the richness of Shakespeare’s poetry with regard to his ‘couple so famous’  denotes how the playwright himself ultimately values the heroic age  to which his protagonists belong over the machinations of the rising imperial Rome.

It is the word ‘natural’ here through which Mansfield crafts a sharp irony that invites us to rate Edna’s obsession with her own performance.... It is this satiric impulse that also leaps to the fore through the image of Edna, ‘clasping the black book in her fingers as though it were a missal’...the  poignant economy of Mansfield’s characteristic style explores her views on the fragility of the human condition .   

‘In Cold Blood’ provides a challenging exploration of the value placed on human life. The seemingly pointless murders undermine every concept of morality that reigns in Middle America, the ‘Bible Belt’, as well as the wider community.  Capote insinuates his personal abhorrence of the death penalty and the disregard of mental illness in the justice system .

Why are views and values important in literature, and especially for close analysis?

Every year, the examiner reports emphasise how the best close analysis responses were ones that “showed how the text endorsed and reflected the views and values of the writer and were able to weave an understanding of these through the essay” (2013 VCAA Lit examiner report). By analysing HOW the text critiques, challenges or endorses the accepted values of the society in the text, you are demonstrating an understanding of the social and cultural context of the text, thus acknowledging the multifaceted layers that exist within literature. You are identifying the writer’s commentary of humanity through your own interpretation. Bring some insight into your essays!

Imagine a friend tells you eerie accounts of her witnessing a ghostly presence in her home. You scoff and condescendingly humour her. But as her stories begin to manifest itself in her gaunt appearance, you alarmingly notice how she truly believes in the apparitions she recounts. You begin to doubt her sanity, you begin to doubt the certainty with which you dismissed her supernatural visions and now, you begin to doubt yourself. THE SUSPENSE BUILDS.

But let’s say this friend filmed the ghostly apparitions and showed them to you. Sure – the evidence of this ghost is frighteningly scary. But the suspense that was built in the doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity of your friend’s tale is now lost. The ghosts caught in film acts as another eyewitness and another medium to validate your friend’s narrative. Your friend is no longer the only person who sees these ghosts, shattering all doubt within you of the ghost’s existence. THE SUSPENSE – is gone.

Notice how the form and genre of the spoken word in the first example was meaningful in its the effect on the reader? But when the form changed to a film, the meaningful suspense and ambiguity that was unique and crucial in the original text,  changed , and was no longer as pronounced. Yes – the film itself may be terrifying. But the very doubt and suspense around not knowing if your friend was a lunatic for seeing ghosts or if she was telling the truth all contributes to the meaning derived from the form of the ‘text’ in an unreliable first person narrative. This is the crux of adaptations and transformations, and what you need to identify and analyse –  how the meaning is changed/altered when the form of the text is changed .

Here are 7 lucky tips for how to tackle the SAC:

  • Identify the unique  conventions  in the construction of the original text – characterisation, genre, tone, style, structure, point of view/narration (or any devices employed in constructing the text e.g. cinematic devices in a film such as camera angles, framing, lighting, costumes, interior/exterior settings, sound)
  • Now do step 1 with the adapted/transformed text
  • How do the two text forms  differ ? How are they the  same ? However, be sure you do not simply compare and contrast. The most crucial step is what  meaning  can be derived from the similarities and differences?  How does the meaning change?
  • Note  additions and omissions  (and even silences) – do they change how readers/viewers perceive the narrative and alter your opinions and perceptions of the text?
  • Historical context and setting  – what significance does the context have on the narrative? Has the adaptation/transformation been re-contextualised? Does that alter the meaning of the original text?
  • How does the change in form  impact you as the reader/viewer ? Analyse your own reactions and feelings towards each text form. Do you sympathise with a character more in the original text? How are we positioned to feel this way? Why do you lack the same level of sympathy for the adapted/transformed text?
  • Incorporate pertinent  quotations  from both forms of text to substantiate and support your ideas and key points.

Final questions to ponder

Most importantly is to share your  original  interpretation of what meaning and significance you can extract from the text, and how  you believe  it changes once the form alters.

What makes the text in its original form interesting or unique?

As always with Literature, this task is designed for you to critically analyse and actively engage with the text, understanding its nuances inside and out in order to decipher its meaning. Be individual in comparing and contrasting the two texts – avoid the obvious similarities/differences everyone in your class will also notice. It is the insightful analysis of the  subtleties  of how  meaning is altered  that will help you stand out!

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Notes || Exam Prep || Character Profiles || Themes || Additional Reading & Videos

This text is included in  Paper 1 . You can find notes and guides for it below.

  • Literary Form

Additional Reading & Videos:

  • Essay: Homosocial Desire and its Conversion to Homosexual Desire
  • Essay: The Symbolic Significance of Desdemona’s Handkerchief
  • Essay: Men, Women and War: An Examination of Gender Conflicts within Othello
  • Thesis: Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Othello: Shakespeare’s Mockery of Courtly Love
  • Essay: Too Gentle: Jealousy and Class in Othello
  • Video: Racism in Othello
  • Video: The Question of Race in Othello
  • Film: Othello (modern-day adaptation, dir. Geoffrey Sax 2001)
  • Film: Othello (filmed theatrical production, 1965)

Character Profiles

  • Proximity and Distance
  • Truth and Deception

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