Sunday, November 04, 2007


Title: Othello: The Moor of Venice
Author: Shakespeare

Make the Moor thank me, love me and reward me.
For making him egregiously an ass
And practicing upon his pace and quiet
Even to madness.

Othello, Act 2, Scene 1, ll. 151-54

Jealousy, hatred, race, betrayal – we’re all familiar with the great themes of Shakespeare’s Othello. Othello the Moor, a military mastermind, elopes with the beautiful Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian politician. Vicious tongues wag over the scandal. Iago, one of Othello’s trusted soldiers, secretly hates his master. With motives unknown yet sinister, he manipulates Othello into suspecting Desdemona of base infidelity. Poisoned by Iago’s wicked insinuations, Othello strangles the innocent Desdemona. When Iago’s wife reveals his treachery, Othello takes his own life in remorse. And everyone wonders at the end how the intelligent and noble Othello could be so blind.

This was the first time I’d read Othello. Good stuff. Since I already knew the plot, it was quite entertaining. Iago really is a great villain, blind malevolence personified. His evil mastermind speeches are fantastic. He definitely inspired me to practice my cackling and hand-rubbing.

The character that genuinely surprised me, however, was Desdemona. So much attention generally goes to Othello and Iago, that I expected her to be little more than an innocent damsel in distress, virtuous but brainless. But she’s quite entertaining in her own right, and much a stronger personality than she’s generally given credit for. Guts and an independent determination were required for her elopement, and she performed it with gusto. “O my fair warrior!” Othello calls her. She can be funny, too, and even challenges Iago, the play’s master of words, in a verbal jousting match. Unfortunately, this very potential for wildness and independent action contributes to Othello’s suspicion of Desdemona, and plays right into Iago’s hand. If she could fool her father, Iago asks, why could she not fool you?

I read Othello because I had a Shakespeare craving and it was a gaping hole in my repertoire. While expecting to be entertained, I was not expecting to be surprised. How cool’s that?!

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posted by Elizabeth at 9:53 PM


Blogger Kat said...

While I haven't read any Shakespeare lately, I did recently see The Comedy of Errors performed. It took a few seconds to adjust to hearing Shakespeare's language, but after that I laughed just about the entire time. In the summer they do "Shakespeare in the Park" (free!) here. You should visit, Elizabeth. :)

11/05/2007 8:07 PM  

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