Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Crowley, Timothy

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


The premise of this essay is that the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England in 1603 motivated Shakespeare to give Othello -- performed for the king in 1604-- a setting, topicality, and an embedded political commentary that suited the political ideas and personal interests of the new monarch. After an overview of the possible sources of the play, this essay also reviews some of James's political writings, where he expresses his absolutist philosophy. Although some commentators believe there is a pro-republican subtext in Othello, this essay argues the opposite. It posits that by adding the Venetian first act in the play, Shakespeare, instead, portrays the republican government of Venice making ill-fated decisions that eventually precipitate the play's tragic dénouement. In Othello, this essay concludes, Shakespeare rendered homage to his new sovereign and patron by making a subtle political critique of the so-called "myth of Venice."


47 pages




Northern Illinois University

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