After a brief introduction to Shakespeare and the origins of the play, Leonard Peikoff discusses artistic and philosophical aspects of Othello, including: its masterfully logical plot structure; the grandeur of Othello’s character — and the metaphysical significance of Iago’s lust to bring him down, which marks Iago as, arguably, the most evil villain in world literature; Iago’s alleged commitment to selfishness and cold rationality; Shakespeare’s view of man’s nature, including the roots of the “tragic flaw.” The lesson contains a fascinating discussion of Ayn Rand’s observations, in private conversation with Peikoff, on Othello and on Shakespeare as an artist and moralist.

Course handout: In this lesson, Peikoff introduces a list of questions, available here, for students to consider while listening to the plays. These questions will be discussed in lesson 8.

Spoiler alert: The lesson assumes students have read the play.

Recommended edition: Kenneth Muir et al. (eds.), Othello. Penguin Shakespeare. Penguin, 2005.