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Examination Questions on Othello

Question: How does Othello's suicide affect us as a matter of morals, and as to the dramatic necessities of the play?

Answer: As a matter of morals, Othello's suicide strikes us as being wrong since "the Everlasting has fixed His canon against self-slaughter": "Thou shalt not kill." And yet, looking at it from another standpoint, Othello's suicide seems but a just retribution for the death of Desdemona. The play would lose much of its interest for us were Othello to live after losing honor, love, and the pure being who had been as the inspiration of his life; and certainly our great admiration for Othello's sense of honor would be diminished. We would feel a kind of indignation, a kind of resentment, as it were, for the death of Desdemona, for there is in us an instinctive feeling or idea of justice and reparation, and Othello's death is the reparation which Fate requires at his hand for the innocent death of Desdemona.

As Othello has lived like a hero, he will not forfeit his claim to that title in his death. His last two acts were perhaps the most heroic of his life. He sacrifices his wife, his love, all that makes life worth living to his sense of honor, and then finding that this very sacrifice has brought not honor but dishonor, as he is now a "murderer," he sacrifices himself to his honor, and dies by his own hand.

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How to cite this article:
Ragland, Fanny. Shakespeare Examinations. Ed. William Taylor Thom, M. A. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1888. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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