Discover when Othello was written and the sources Shakespeare may have used.

Tinsel picture of Edmund Kean as Othello from the RSC Collections
Tinsel picture of Edmund Kean as Othello from RSC Collections
© RSC – Image Licensing


Othello was likely written in 1604, after Hamlet and before King Lear. It was performed at court in Whitehall for King James I in November 1604, but may have been previously performed at the Globe.

The play was not published in Shakespeare's lifetime but appeared in a Quarto in 1622, the First Folio in 1623, and a second Quarto in 1630.


Based on a novella in Giraldi Cinthio's Gli Hecatommithi in 1565, which was possibly read in a 1584 French translation. Shakespeare follows Cinthio's plot quite closely, except in the original, Othello returns to Venice to be murdered by his wife's family. Shakespeare also invented the character of Roderigo. However, the moral of Cinthio's cautionary tale about the sad end that waits young women who disobey their parents is completely transformed in Shakespeare's play.

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