Past exam questions on ‘Othello’

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Here are the questions that have come up on ‘Othello’ in the past. It is worth examining these to gain a sense of what kind of questions can come up on this complicated text.

2008
Question 1
‘Othello’s foolishness rather than Iago’s cleverness leads to the tragedy of Shakepeare’s Othello.’
Discuss this statement supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.
Or
Question 2
‘Shakespeare’s play Othello demonstrates the weakness of human judgement.’
Discuss this statement supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.

1998
Question 1
‘Irony is a powerful dramatic device used by Shakespeare to heighten the tragic dimension of his play Othello.’
Discuss this view, with reference to or quotation from the play.
Or
Question 2
‘Despite the striking portrayals of goodness and nobility, the play Othello leaves the audience with a sense of dismal despair.’
Discuss this view, with reference to or quotation from the play.

1994
Question 1
‘Othello is the principal agent of his own downfall.’
Discuss this view, supporting your answer by reference to or quotation from the play Othello.
Or
Question 2
Discuss the importance of the character Emilia (Iago’s wife) in the play as a whole. Support your answer by quotation from or reference to the play Othello.

1990
Question 1
Othello is essentially a noble character, flawed by insecurity and a nature that is naive and unsophisticated.
Discuss this view, supporting your answer by reference to or quotation from the play
Or
Question 2
‘Images of animals, images of storms and images of Heaven and Hell predominate in Othello.’
Discuss the use of such imagery and the purpose they serve in the play. Support your answer by reference or quotation.

Other questions:

  1. Compare and contrast Desdemona’s and Emilia’s views on love, sex, marriage and men. Do either Desdemona or Emilia change their viewpoints as a result of their conversations with each other?
  2. In what ways are the marriages of Othello/Desdemona and Iago/Emilia similar and in what ways are they different?
  3. The plot of the play hinges on the loss of a handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona. Two little deceptions – Emilia’s stealing of the handkerchief and Desdemona’s lie that it is not lost – cement Desdemona’s doom. What does it mean that such a little object has such a huge impact on Othello’s mind? What dramatic effect does this produce? Do you think that, in a situation of jealousy, even a handkerchief could sway someone’s opinion one way or another? Is the importance of the handkerchief in the play believable?
  4. Discuss Othello’s relationship with Desdemona. Does he truly love her?
  5. Why does Othello not investigate Iago’s accusations? Why does Othello not seek his own proof of Desdemona’s betrayal?
  6. ‘Iago was a brilliant opportunist who had plenty of motive to prompt his schemes and heaven-sent human material with which to develop them.’ Discuss.
  7. ‘A credulous husband and a foolish wife.’ Discuss this estimate of Othello and Desdemona.
  8. ‘Othello is a character of extremes. He is no middle range.’ Discuss this view of the character of Othello.
  9. Imagery contributes significantly to the development of the themes of ‘Othello’. To what extent to you agree with this statement?
  10. In ‘Othello’, Shakespeare dramatises a conflict between good and evil. Do you agree with this point of view?
  11. ‘In ‘Othello’, Shakespeare takes a profoundly pessimistic view of human relationships.’ Discuss this statement.
  12. From the beginning of ‘Othello’, one is made to feel that innocence can have no hope in a world given over to the power of evil.
  13. Jealousy is the dominant theme, being a factor in all the major relationships.
  14. Shakespeare’s use of irony is pervasive and painful. Discuss.
  15. ‘Othello’s fall cannot be accounted for simply, or even mainly, in terms of Iago’s devilish cunning. The basic causes are to be found in is weaknesses of character.’ Do you believe this to be a true account of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’?

Hot Press: ‘The Write Touch’

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Well done to Luke O’Neill 5th Year who has been shortlisted in the Hot Press ‘Write Touch’ Competition. Thousands of 5th and 6th year students from around the country entered and the entries were narrowed down to 10 in each of the four categories! Luke, we are so proud of you! If Luke is to be in with a chance of being the overall winner in his category, we need YOU to vote for Luke, please. You can do so here.

At the Clann Feis 2013

At the Clann Feis 2013