On What Play Do Many Scholars Believe Othello Is Based?


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Although it may not have the cosmic or philosophical resonance of Hamlet or Lear, Shakespeare's second great tragedy, Othello, is felt to be his most gripping, and tormenting play. Shakespeare's greatest debt, is to a novella from Giraldi Cinthio's, Hecatommithi, (1565) which he read in either the original Italian or a French version by G Chappuys(1583). Facts concerning the Turkish Invasion may have come from Richard Knolles' History of the Turks(1603), while the History and Description of Africa, Leo Africanus, (1600) is another source. Written as early as 1601-2 or later at 1603-4, any decision rests on resemblances to Hamlet. The folio printed just a year before the official First Folio (1623) is different in many aspects, and 160 lines shorter.

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