Othello: Discourse Analysis

Othello has two settings: Venice and Cyprus. They each have their own discourse. Although they all speak English (actually Italian), the way the characters use the language is different.

Also, aristocratic discourse.

Venice: Mercantile discourse

  • Opposite –> never open
  • Not honest
  • Aim to increase profits by exaggerating or not telling truths
  • Duplicity and half-truths
  • Careful, sly
Cyprus: Military discourse

  • Black/white
  • Straightforward, open
  • No duplicity nor confusion
  • Face value
  • Literal


Iago is a polyglot in that he is an expert in all discourses, and can switch between them at will.

He changes the way he uses the language to suit his needs and the people he speaks to.


Othello can’t – he is stuck in the military discourse, Roderigo in the mercantile, and Cassio in the aristocratic.

E.g. Othello expects orders to be obeyed, but Desdemona tries to change his mind




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