The Irony of William Shakespeare's Othello

Powerful Essays
The Irony of William Shakespeare's Othello

Irony plays a great role in ?The Tragedy of Othello?. The villain, Iago, plans from the very beginning of the play to ruin Othello?s life. All the major characters in the play believe that Iago is an honest and trustworthy person. The tragic irony is that Iago fools them all. Throughout the whole play Iago manipulates the people around him and lies to them. Iago is very distressed, because Michael Cassio was promoted to Othello?s lieutenant instead of himself. This is Iago?s main reason for revenge against Othello. Iago?s plan is to manipulate Cassio and Desdemona, so that it would appear that they are having an affair; which would break Othello?s heart. Iago does succeed in his plan, because, ironically, everyone in the play believes all his actions and advisements are just, true, and from the heart. Irony, thus, plays a role in the deception of Othello by Iago and in the tragedy of Othello?s response. The irony of the play is demonstrated through situational, verbal, and dramatic irony. There are many cases of these three types of irony in the play. When situational, verbal, and dramatic irony are used in conjunction; the effect is one of great tragedy and loss.

Situational irony is when ?the result of an action is the reverse of what the actor expected?(Literary Terms, e-text). There are several cases of situational irony in ?The Tragedy of Othello.? The first case is in Act I Scene III. Brabantio warns Othello of Desdemona?s deceptiveness. Othello says to this, ?my life upon her faith?(1. 3. 293). This statement means that Othello believes in Desdemona?s honesty and loyalty so much that he would give up his life if she were untrue. This is ironic, because later on in the play...

... middle of paper ...

...nation of situational, verbal, and dramatic irony is very useful in creating an overall feeling of loss and catastrophe in the play. The role of irony in the play is to create the loss of a great potential in the play. The audience can see that because of Othello?s tragic trust in Iago, miscommunication occurs and disaster follows. The characters, Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia, and Roderigo are all intimately close to Iago, and are all manipulated by him. Because of Iago?s reputation of being trustworthy and honest, the characters believe in him without doubt, and that brings about the destruction of Othello and on a greater level; the disintegration of social order.


Shakespeare, William. ?The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice?. The Riverside Anthology of Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997, 1102-1195.
Get Access