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OTHELLO is unique among Shakespeare’s later plays as essentially a domestic tragedy  First recorded performance was November 1604  Commentators criticize.

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Presentation on theme: "OTHELLO is unique among Shakespeare’s later plays as essentially a domestic tragedy  First recorded performance was November 1604  Commentators criticize."— Presentation transcript:


2 OTHELLO is unique among Shakespeare’s later plays as essentially a domestic tragedy  First recorded performance was November 1604  Commentators criticize plot for Shakespeare’s use of time (When do Desdemona and Cassio have time to cuckold Othello?)  Unique among his tragedies as Iago dominates the play in terms of lines...only Hamlet and Henry V have more lines in the canon


4 Sources Cinthio’s HECATOMMITHI

5 Influence from Morality PlaysInfluence from Morality Plays I look down towards his feet; but that’s a fable If thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee. (5.2.294-5)  In these lines Othello searches Iago’s feet to see if they are cloven like the devil  Medieval moralities often personify Good and Evil as the conscience, an attribute of Iago’s character Edwin Booth as Iago

6 It features stock Roman charactersIt features stock Roman characters  Othello, the braggart warrior  Desdemona, inamorata  Iago, the trickster  Brabantio, the suspicious father  Cassio, inamorato  Emilia, sassy servant Tommaso Salvini as Othello

7 LANGUAGE & MUSICLANGUAGE & MUSIC Strong initial contrast between Othello (verse) and Iago (prose)

8  Othello’s language erodes as play progresses (1.3.166- 167) contrasts with (4.1.35-43)  Imagery includes contrast of light with darkness and the human and the bestial  Iago is a chameleon, suiting the language to the action  Shakespeare employs song and music to evoke atmosphere

9 THEMES AND IDEASTHEMES AND IDEAS This is a play about reason, passion and the green-eyed monster  The Machiavellan mind is explored  “The other” To the Elizabethan, “a Turk” was the cruellest of insults  Women are most victimized in the play, yet Emilia’s speech (4.3.87- 106) rivals Shylocks “What is a Jew?” The Moorish ambassador to the English court 1601, sought an alliance against Spain.

10 STAGING CHALLENGESSTAGING CHALLENGES  Modern audiences are conditioned to expect a Black Othello  As late as 1980s White English actors still played Othello

11 Paul Robeson as OthelloPaul Robeson as Othello

12 James Earl Jones as OthelloJames Earl Jones as Othello Christopher Plummer as Iago


14 Olivier as OTHELLOOlivier as OTHELLO Frank Finlay as IAGO

15 In 1997, Patrick Stewart played Othello as a white man with a black man as Iago

16 THE DEATH SCENETHE DEATH SCENE If played sloppily, it comes off comic and not tragic...most especially since Desdemona is killed, then almost 40 lines later, recovers long enough to absolve Othello

17 OTHELLO ON STAGEOTHELLO ON STAGE  Richard Burbage was the first Othello to John Lowin’s Iago  The play seems particularly suited to the Globe and Blackfriars  It may have been the first restoration production with a female actor playing the role of Desdemona  Among the first of Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in the American colonies. In 1752, the governor of Virginia had it played for the chief of the Iroquois nation

18 David Garrick failed as Othello but triumphed as Iago The most admired Othello of mid- 19th century was Italian Tommaso Salvini. His major rival was American Edwin Booth who was more successful as Iago. In fact, he was described as the supreme Iago of his age.

19 Stanislavski as Othello

20 Paul Robeson (1930) changed perceptions of Othello “forever” Production revived in NY (1943) with Uta Hagen & Jose Ferrer William Marshall, background in opera and James Earl Jones also excelled in the role. Jones played opposite Christopher Plummer at Stratford, Ontario in 1981, a production that transferred to NYC

21 Controversial performances include Ben Kingsley and David Suchet directed by Terry Hands at the RSC in 1985

22 Othello on Film and TVOthello on Film and TV 1906 - Portions of the play appeared on film 1922 – German production of a silent film starring Werner Krauss as Iago and Emil Jannings as Othello. It is the first silent Shakespeare movie to be sold to the general public. 1952-Director Orson Welles filmed in Venice, Tuscany, Morocco 1955-Boris Pasternak adaptation into Russian 1965-Stuart Burge filmed the National Theatre production starringLaurence Olivier and Maggie Smith, directed by John Dexter

23 Emil Jannings as OTHELLO (1922)Emil Jannings as OTHELLO (1922)

24 International filmsInternational films 1980-Liz White filmed a feminist Canadien production with Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dixon (Iago) and Audrey Dixon (Desdemona) 1981-Elijah Mohinsky’s BBC Television Production originally planned for James Earl Jones...He was replaced by Anthony Hopkins opposite Bob Hoskins as Iago 1988-Janet Suzman directed a South African production with John Kani for Johannesburg’s Market Theatre

25 Recent productionsRecent productions 1990-RSC production directed by Trevor Nunn with Willard White as Othello, Ian McKellan as Iago and Imogen Stubbs as Desdemona 1995-Oliver Parker directed Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh, the text is edited to accommodate Fishburne

26 Adaptations Verdi’s opera Otello (1887) was famously filmed by Franco Zeffirelli starring Placido Domingo in 1968

27 Catch My Soul, a rock opera played London in 1970 Was covered several times in the US and elsewhere including a film starring Richie Havens.

28 “O” (2000) was written and directed by Tim Blake Smith

29 British TV “Othello” updates action to Scotland Yard today with Eamonn Walker in the title role.

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