This lesson focues on the many themes in Othello and how these themes interact and develop over the course of the text. For example, the theme of jealousy is closely related to the theme of reputation as Iago's jealousy for Othello and Cassio lead him to soil the reputations of both men. In this sense, some themes have an ability to motivate the actions of the characters. In the exercises to follow, students have an opportunity to discuss and analyze the major themes in the work and notice how they are interconnected and in many ways motivate characters' actions.
Throughout the reading of Othello, we have discussed many of the apparent themes in the play. Many were obvious such as jealousy, race, and reputation, but the incompatibility of love and war did offer a major challenge for students. I did need to point out to students that Othello's reaction to his suspicions of the alleged affair between Desdemona and Cassio is the same reaction he would have against a foe in war. In this activity, students will consider the four major themes and how they affect and motivate the characters. To facilitate this activity, I play the attached clip from the Stratford Shakespeare Company, which discusses major themes in the play.
Students may either work with a partner or individually. I usually consider the aptitude of the class; if the class struggles with this type of activity, I will have them work in small groups. Their responses must be written in essay format; following the alloted time for this activity, I will pull popsicle sticks to assess students' responses.
Once students have completed the theme worksheet, I will give them an opportunity to model the skills they will need to complete the Othello Storyboard Exam that they will take the prior day. The treasure hunt will ask them to delve into the text to find significant techniques and structures that Shakespeare is famous for. This type of activity will be necessary for the test the next day. Students will comb the text for iambic pentameter, imagery, etc.