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The Theme of Revenge in Othello

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Revenge occurs because of hate which leads to people’s demise. Vengeance is one of the main themes in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. It is a recurring theme throughout the play, and the plot revolves around it. Retribution has been shown many times in Roderigo, in Othello, the play’s main character, and Iago, the main villain. They all have one thing in common and that is to take revenge on the people they hate, which leads to others’ or their own destruction.

First of all, Roderigo, Iago’s puppet, realizes that Iago is using him so he begins to hate him. He tells him that, “Everyday thou daff’st me with some device,”(Act IV Scene II). Roderigo here tells Iago that every day he (Iago) just finds something to make Roderigo go away and leave him but he is not really getting anywhere. He starts speculating that Iago is using him and that he will not actually reach his goal, which is having Desdemona for himself. Therefore, before he dies, he tries to get revenge on Iago, and threatens him. He explains to him that he wants his jewels that he supposedly gave to Desdemona back:

I tell you ’tis not very well.

I will make myself known to Desdemona.

If she will return me my jewels

I will give over my suit and repent my unlawful solicitation.

If not, assure yourself I will seek satisfaction of you. (Act IV Scene II)

When Roderigo realizes that he is being used by Iago, and that Iago probably did not give Roderigo’s jewels to Desdemona, he threatens to talk to Desdemona about the jewels and if she did not receive them he assures Iago that he would have his revenge on him. However, Iago kills Roderigo before he gets his revenge, and in his last dying breaths he quickly writes letters to use as proof against Iago. This is confirmed when Lodovico reveals this to us at the end of the act:

To you, lord governor,

Remains the censure of this hellish villain:

The time, the place, the torture. Oh, enforce it!

Myself will straight aboard, and to the state

This heavy act with heavy heart relate. (Act V Scene II)

In his letters, he reveals most of Iago’s plans such as killing Cassio, and he complains about the lies that Iago has told him. After he writes his letters, Lodovico finds them and uses them as proof against Iago. In the end, Roderigo helps achieve Iago’s demise, by having proof against him. His wish is fulfilled and Iago gets tortured and locked up.

Second of all, Othello, the play’s main character, starts hating Desdemona because of his doubt about her sleeping with Cassio. After his doubts have been supposedly proven right by Iago, he tells him:

Ay, let her rot, and perish and be damned

tonight, for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned

to stone. I strike it, and it hurts my hand. O, the

world hath not a sweeter creature! She might lie by

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an emperor’s side and command him tasks. (Act IV Scene I)

Othello says how his heart changed, how he loved Desdemona but now he is starting to hate her. His doubt and jealousy have consumed him, and he sees her as an adulterer, sweet on the outside but horrible on the inside. His doubts start fueling his hate towards her. Therefore, he plans on taking revenge on her for sleeping with Cassio.

Even so my bloody thoughts with violent pace

Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love

Till that a capable and wide revenge

Swallow them up. (Act III Scene III)

Othello declares that he wants to take revenge on them, that he will not love Desdemona anymore but he will seek revenge. He explains that he is going to be violent and he makes plans with Iago to kill both Cassio and Desdemona. In the end, he takes away her life by strangling her in bed: “Therefore be double damned: Swear thou art honest” (Act IV Scene II). Othello falsely condemns her for sleeping with Cassio, and insults her. He then strangles her in bed and she lies dead on her bed. He leads her to believe that she did something wrong and she did not fight or argue with him. He leads her to her death, and soon his own.

Finally, Iago, the play’s main villain, hates Othello for many reasons and seeks revenge throughout the play. When we first meet Iago he declares that he hates Othello by saying:

I hate the Moor,

And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets

‘Has done my office. I know not if ‘t be true,

But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,

Will do as if for surety. (Act I Scene III)

Iago clearly states that he hates Othello who is called the Moor. One of the main reasons for his hate is that Iago leads himself to believe that Othello has slept with his wife. He also hated him since the start of the play because Othello made Cassio his lieutenant and not Iago. Thus, Iago plans to take revenge on Othello by making him kill the woman that he loved most, Desdemona. Iago encourages Othello to “Strangle her in bed, even the bed she hath contaminated,”

(Act IV Scene I). Iago advises Othello to kill Desdemona in her bed. He manipulates Othello and his doubt so that he can complete his vengeance. This causes Othello to realize his grave mistake and take his own life:

I took by the throat the circumcised dog,

And smote him, thus… I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this,

Killing myself, to die upon a kiss. (Act V Scene II)

Iago’s plan ultimately leads to Othello’s demise. Iago makes him doubt other people and plays on his jealousy, making him believe everything he tells him. In the end, he makes Othello kill his wife. Thus, when all of Iago’s plans are revealed, Othello realizes he has made a grave mistake. In consequence, he ends up stabbing himself while kissing Desdemona. This was the tragic end of the story, a death caused by someone’s need for vengeance.

In conclusion, vengeance is a common event in Othello, that in effect, causes numerous tragedies. Roderigo, Othello, and Iago are proof of that, as everytime they seek vengeance, they harm someone around them. They start by hating their victim. As their hate consumes them, they choose to take vengeance. As a result, it leads to someone’s downfall. These recurring events shape the theme of revenge throughout the entire play, leaving only tragedy in its remains.

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The Theme of Revenge in Othello. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from
“The Theme of Revenge in Othello.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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The Theme of Revenge in Othello [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Sept 26]. Available from:
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