Literary Devices in Othello

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Symbols & Symbolism in Othello

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Background of ''Othello''
  • 0:43 Allusion
  • 1:48 Simile
  • 2:09 Symbolism
  • 3:19 Foreshadowing
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

William Shakespeare's tragedy ''Othello'' follows the story of Othello, a moor who secretly marries Desdemona. Their secret marriage is discovered and terrible events take place. In this lesson, we will look at the literary devices used to develop this tragedy.

Background of Othello

What happens in a Shakespeare play when two lovers secretly marry and everybody who finds out is angry? Well, Othello happens, that's what. Tragedy strikes Othello and his beloved, Desdemona, in this drama that tracks the events that occur after their community discovers that they got married without permission. Iago is the character that sets the play in motion because he's upset that Othello received the job promotion that he felt he deserved.William Shakespeare develops the play using many popular literary devices. In this lesson, we'll look at how Shakespeare uses allusion, simile, symbolism, and foreshadowing in his play Othello.


Allusion is a popular literary device used in Othello. Allusion is a literary device in which the character, narrator, or author refers to another work of literature or piece of writing. For example, Othello alludes to Greek mythology and religious ideology found in the Bible. For example, Othello makes an allusion to the Bible in Act IV, scene ii when he says, 'You, mistress, / That have the office opposite to Saint Peter…'

Othello is referring to Desdemona, his wife. Othello is saying that after her death, Desdemona will be guarding the gates of hell. If you didn't know, St. Peter is the guardian of the gates of heaven. Othello exclaims that Desdemona is going to hell because Iago has tricked him into thinking she is having an affair with Cassio. Moreover, by referring to Desdemona as the keeper of all things in hell, he is saying that she is the worst of the sinners. The allusion helps to advance the plot by creating a further divide in the trust between Desdemona and Othello. Othello is outraged, but his accusations are misplaced.


A simile is a literary device in which one thing is compared to another thing. In Othello, Iago, the play's antagonist says, 'The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts...' This is a simile because Iago is comparing the deliciousness of the food to that of the lusciousness of the locusts.


Shakespeare makes great use of the literary device symbolism throughout Othello. Symbolism works to develop character relationships in Othello, especially through the handkerchief Othello gives to Desdemona. For example, the handkerchief that symbolizes Othello and Desdemona's marriage and love for one another at the beginning of the play is lost during the play. The loss of the handkerchief stands in for the disintegration of their marriage that occurs due to the evil scheme Iago set into motion to destroy Othello.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account