Cover image for Othello : a guide to the play
Othello : a guide to the play
Hall, Joan Lord.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 226 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Reading Level:
1620 Lexile.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR2829 .H35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



One of Shakespeare's four major tragedies, Othello has captivated audiences for centuries. In its treatment of jealousy and racial tension, it offers an enduring study of universal themes. Part of the Greenwood Guides to Shakespeare, this reference book provides students with a comprehensive overview of the play. The early chapters discuss significant differences between Quarto and Folio texts of Othello and explore the play's sources and historical contexts--in particular, how Othello contributes to early seventeenth century discourses on racial otherness and the role of women. The book then analyzes the dramatic structure of the play, including its settings, action, and patterns of language.

The play hinges on Shakespeare's characters, and the volume discusses his complex presentation of Desdemona, Iago, and Othello. It then examines the tragedy's significant themes: the outsider in society, the gap between empirical evidence and intuitive faith, and the monsters and demons of sexual jealousy and the human imagination. This discussion is followed by a review of the critical response to Othello from the early seventeenth century to the present. A final chapter covers the play in performance, with special attention to versions available on film and videotape. Included are photographs from several major productions. The volume concludes with a bibliographical essay.

Author Notes

JOAN LORD HALL is Instructor in the University Writing Program and Lecturer in English at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her previous books include Henry V: A Guide to the Play (Greenwood, 1997).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Hall (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) condenses a scholarly, well-written survey of the major issues in Othello into seven chapters, providing substantial endnotes on some of the best recent studies. She begins with a brief account of the play's textual history, including the main debates over Quarto and Folio readings. In chapter 2, the author discusses the play's date, its cultural contexts, analogous works of its time, and Shakespeare's unique treatment of his narrative sources. In dealing with dramatic structure (chapter 3), Hall avoids critical jargon as she points out "the delights of reading or watching" the play, specifically its complex character groupings, language ranges, images, symbols, and (unstable) verbal signifiers. The next three chapters cover major characters, themes, and critical approaches, presenting an intelligent balance between traditional and recent criticism. Hall concludes with a discussion of the play's performance on stage, film, and TV, accompanied by photo illustrations. A bibliographical essay is appended for those who wish to pursue topics suggested by Hall's excellent guide. Recommended for all collections. F. K. Barasch; emeritus, Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY