Castration Anxiety and the Mirror Stage: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Shakespeare's Othello

Shadi S. Neimneh, Nisreen M. Sawwa


This article mainly applies two psychoanalytic notions to Shakespeare's tragedy Othello (1622), namely castration anxiety and the mirror stage. It argues that Othello is strengthened by Desdemona and his high military rank as the general of the Venetian army. Against common postcolonial readings of the play, we argue that Othello experiences castration anxiety metaphorically, i.e. he gets anxious about losing such things that make him strong in Venice. In addition, Othello goes through the mirror stage metaphorically as well. He makes the assumptions that he is backed up by his military rank and his wife, that Iago is honest with him, and that the absence of the handkerchief—which signifies loyalty to him—indicates that his wife is unfaithful to him. After he believes Iago's lie that his wife has an affair with Cassio, Othello gets so anxious that he kills his wife, and after realizing that his assumptions have been all false and that he is castrated and no longer attached to his wife and his post, he self-destructively commits suicide. Othello’s anxiety about losing his authority and his shattered self-image as a betrayed husband are ultimately intertwined. Hence, this article offers fresh insights into Shakespearean plays by reading one representative piece, Othello, against some trends in literary theory not known during Shakespeare’s times but universal in their application to literary texts.

Full Text:



World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

Copyright © Sciedu Press

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders. If you have any questions, please contact: