Othello: Conspiracy Theory

Dominant reading:

Enemy = Iago (foil)

However, in this reading,

Desdemona is the enemy, and has to be destroyed

  • She is beautiful, innocent, hapless
  • (almost too innocent – see conversation with Emilia about adultery)
  • Elopes with Othello against her father’s wishes
  • ‘pure’, blind to Othello’s differences (old, black) and is indifferent to his ‘outsider’ character


  • Othello is ‘other-ed‘ by Venetian society
  • He will never be one of them, and eloping with a Venetian reinforces that
  • Not only is he an ‘outsider’, but he is the general too.
  • Venetians appointed foreigners as generals because they didn’t want to give too much power to one of their own


  • Thus, Desdemona, by ignoring Othello’s differences and ignoring society’s views, she is a threat to the structure of society
  • She also disobeys her father!
  • If the Venetians allow Desdemona to treat their society with contempt, where will it end?
  • What if she had children? The entire social structure of Venice would collapse
  • She is a danger to society and subverts the norms


  • Thus, Iago becomes an agent of the Venetian hegemony instead of a criminal
  • He destroys the enemy
  • He believes he’s acting alone, but he actually acts out the fears, desires and inhibitions of Venice
  • He does what the Venetians want to do, since Desdemona threatens the established order, but don’t dare to do since she is one of them


  • Other evidence: the murders at the end were hushed up because the Venetians wanted it to happen, but didn’t want anyone to know


“Your daughter, if you hath not given her leave

I say again, hath made a gross revolt” – Roderigo, (1.1)


“O treason of the blood!

Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters’ minds” – Brabantio (1,.1)


“For if such actions may have passage free,

Bond slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be.” – Brabantio (1.2)


“If virtue no delighted beauty lack,

Your son-in-law is far more fair than black. – Duke, (1.3)


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