Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Crowley, Timothy

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


This thesis places William Shakespeare’s Othello within cultural context to examine the moral corruption that Desdemona and Othello undergo once they fulfill marital roles within a patriarchal hierarchy that reflects the hierarchy religious conduct literature calls on Christians to maintain within marriage. At the same time, this thesis contrasts Shakespeare’s Othello with the Italian story of Disdemona and a Moorish captain within Decade Three of Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi. Hecatommithi does not ascribe a corrupting power to patriarchal hierarchy or explore Othello’s downfall in relation to his Christian faith. This thesis determines that the alterations Shakespeare makes to Othello’s source material emphasize that the corrupting factor of Othello is patriarchal hierarchy through presenting Othello and Desdemona as achieving pious companionate tranquility at the start of the play when they do not maintain a relationship that aligns with the patriarchal hierarchy that religious conduct literature outlines and undergoing paradoxical corruption once they establish a patriarchal hierarchy within their marriage.


53 pages




Northern Illinois University

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