Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Cinthio
Editor: Jessica Slights
Peer Reviewed

Cinthio's Tale (Modern)

1From Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio, Gli Heccatommithi, Third Decade (1565)

[The main source for Shakespeare's Othello is a short prose tale first published in 1565 by Italian Giovanni Battista Giraldi, nicknamed "Cinthio" (1504-1573). Cinthio's novellaprovides Shakespeare with the basic outlines of his plot as well as prototypes of his central characters: an unnamed military commander referred to throughout as "the Moor"; the wife he has married against her family's wishes, called Disdemona; a demoted Captain on whose behalf Disdemona pleads; Disdemona's closest confidant, wife of the Moor's Ensign; and, of course, the Ensign himself, a malicious figure who falls in love with Disdemona, persuades her husband that she has been unfaithful with the Captain, and then, with her husband's help, beats her to death and disguises her murder as an accident. While there are clear similarities between Cinthio's tale and Othello, substantive differences in plot, tone, and narrative frame emphasize the texts' distinct approaches to their shared subject matter.]