Key Literary Terms- Othello

These key terms come from the Othello York Notes Advanced textbook which can be bought at 


Blank Verse

This is unrhymed iambic pentameter, which is one of the most common metres. Blank verse is so popular as it is flexible and close to spoken English. 

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This is the way in which a writer creates characters to attract or repel sympathy. In Jacobean drama there were many stock characters who's characteristics were familiar to the audience. 

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Dramatic Irony

This is when the development of the play allows the audience to possess more knowledge about what is happening than some of the characters themselves. In 'Othello', Iago is the source of the dramatic irony. Characters may also speak in dramatic irony by saying something without knowing the weight of their words. 

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Any form of expression which deviates from the plain 'figure of speach'. A metaphor is perhaps the clearest figurative language to understand. 

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The self indulgent confidence which causes the tragic hero to ignore the decrees, laws and warnings of the Gods which bring their downfall. 

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Saying one thing when you mean another. In 'Othello' this may need careful unravelling. The context may make the true meaning clear, but sometimes the writer will have to rely on the reader sharing values for the meaning to be understood. 

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This is the villainous stock character for Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, named after Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was synonymous with the Devil in English literature. They are practised liars, cruel political opponents, they delight in manipulative evil. Iago is one of the most sophisticated Machiavellian villains in Jacobean drama. 

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