Othello
The Russian actor and theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski as Othello in 1896.

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" ("A Moorish Captain") by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565. The work revolves around four central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army; his wife Desdemona; his lieutenant, Cassio; and his trusted ensign Iago. Because of its varied and current themes of racism, love, jealousy, and betrayal, Othello is still often performed in professional and community theatres alike and has been the basis for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.

Contents

Characters

  • Othello, the Moor: A general in the Venetian military.
  • Desdemona, Othello's wife and daughter of Brabantio
  • Iago, Othello's ensign and Emilia's husband, a villain. He hides his real nature under the veil of 'honesty'.
  • Emilia, Iago's wife and Desdemona's maidservant
  • Cassio, Othello's lieutenant.
  • Bianca, Cassio's lover
  • Brabantio, a Venetian senator, Gratiano's brother, and Desdemona's father
  • Roderigo, a dissolute Venetian, in love with Desdemona
  • Duke of Venice, or the "Doge"
  • Gratiano, Brabantio's brother
  • Lodovico, Brabantio's kinsman and Desdemona's cousin
  • Montano, Othello's Venetian predecessor in the government of Cyprus
  • Clown, a servant
  • Officers, Gentlemen, Messenger, Herald, Sailor, Attendants, Musicians, etc.

Plot

"Desdemona in bed asleep", from Othello (Act V, scene 2), part of "A Collection of Prints, from Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, by the Artists of Great-Britain", published by John and Josiah Boydell (1803)

The play opens with Roderigo, a rich and dissolute gentleman, complaining to Iago, a high-ranking soldier, that Iago has not told him about the secret marriage between Desdemona, the daughter of a Senator named Brabantio, and Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army. He is upset by this development because he loves Desdemona and had previously asked her father for her hand in marriage. Iago is upset with Othello for promoting a younger man named Cassio above him, and tells Roderigo that he plans to use Othello for his own advantage. Iago is also upset because he believes that Othello slept with his wife Emilia. Iago's argument against Cassio is that he is a scholarly tactician with no real battle experience from which he can draw strategy; in contrast, Iago has practical battle skills. By emphasizing Roderigo's failed bid for Desdemona, and his own dissatisfaction with serving under Othello, Iago convinces Roderigo to wake Brabantio, Desdemona's father, and tell him about his daughter's elopement. Iago sneaks away to find Othello and warns him that Brabantio is coming for him.

Before Brabantio reaches Othello, news arrives in Venice that the Turks are going to attack Cyprus; therefore Othello is summoned to advise the senators. Brabantio arrives and accuses Othello of seducing Desdemona by witchcraft, but Othello defends himself successfully before an assembly that includes the Duke of Venice, Brabantio's kinsman Lodovico and Gratiano, and various senators. He explains that Desdemona became enamored of him for the stories he told of his early life, not because of any witchcraft he might have used. The senate is satisfied, but the broken Brabantio leaves saying that Desdemona will betray Othello. By order of the Duke, Othello leaves Venice to command the Venetian armies against invading Turks on the island of Cyprus, accompanied by his new wife, his new lieutenant Cassio, his ensign Iago, and Emilia as Desdemona's attendant.

The party arrives in Cyprus to find that a storm has destroyed the Turkish fleet. Othello orders a general celebration. Iago schemes to use Cassio to ruin Othello and takes the opportunity of Othello's absence at the celebration to persuade Roderigo to engage Cassio in a fight. He achieves this by getting Cassio drunk on wine after Cassio's own admission that he cannot hold his drink. The brawl greatly alarms the citizenry, and Othello is forced to quell the disturbance. Othello blames Cassio for the disturbance, and the former strips the latter of his rank. Cassio is distraught, but Iago persuades him to importune Desdemona to act as an intermediary between himself and Othello, and persuade her husband to reinstate him.

Iago now persuades Othello to be suspicious of Cassio and Desdemona. As it happens, Cassio is having a relationship of sorts with Bianca, a prostitute. Desdemona drops the handkerchief that was Othello's first gift to Desdemona and which he has stated holds great significance to him in the context of their relationship. Emilia, at the request of Iago, but unaware of what he plans to do with the handkerchief, steals it. Iago plants it in Cassio's lodgings as evidence of Cassio and Desdemona's affair. After he has planted the handkerchief, Iago tells Othello to stand apart and watch Cassio's reactions while Iago questions him about the handkerchief. Iago goads Cassio on to talk about his affair with Bianca, but very quietly mentions her name so that Othello believes they are still talking about Desdemona when Cassio is really speaking of Bianca. Bianca, on discovering the handkerchief, chastises Cassio, accusing him of giving her a second-hand gift which he received from another lover. Othello sees this, and Iago convinces him that Cassio received the handkerchief from Desdemona. Enraged and hurt, Othello resolves to kill his wife and Iago is "asked" to kill Cassio as a duty to their intimacy. Othello proceeds to make Desdemona's life a misery, hitting her in front of her family. Desdemona laments her suffering, remembering the fate of her mother's maid, who was forsaken by her lover.

Roderigo complains that he has received nothing for his efforts and threatens to abandon his pursuit of Desdemona, but Iago convinces him to kill Cassio instead, because Cassio has just been appointed in Othello's place as governor of Cyprus, and—Iago argues—if Cassio lives to take office, Othello and Desdemona will leave Cyprus, thwarting Roderigo's plans to win Desdemona. Roderigo attacks Cassio in the street after Cassio leaves Bianca's lodgings. They fight and both are wounded. Cassio's leg is cut from behind by Iago who manages to hide his identity as perpetrator. Passers-by arrive to help; Iago joins them, pretending to help Cassio. When Cassio identifies Roderigo as one of his attackers, Iago secretly stabs Roderigo to stop him from confessing. He then accuses Bianca of the failed conspiracy to kill Cassio.

In the night, Othello confronts Desdemona, and then smothers her to death in bed, before Emilia arrives. At Emilia's distress, Othello tries to explain himself, justifying his actions by accusing Desdemona of adultery. Emilia calls for help. The Governor arrives, with Iago, Cassio, and others, and Emilia begins to explain the situation. When Othello mentions the handkerchief as proof, Emilia realizes what Iago has done. She exposes him, whereupon Iago kills her. Othello, realizing Desdemona's innocence, attacks Iago but does not kill him, saying that he would rather have Iago live the rest of his life in pain. Lodovico, a Venetian nobleman, apprehends both Iago and Othello, but Othello commits suicide with a sword before they can take him into custody. At the end, it can be assumed, Iago is taken off to be tortured, and Cassio becomes governor of Cyprus.

Cinthio source

Othello is an adaptation of the Italian writer Cinthio's tale "Un Capitano Moro" ("A Moorish Captain") from his Gli Hecatommithi (1565), a collection of one hundred tales in the style of Boccaccio's Decameron. No English translation of Cinthio was available in Shakespeare's lifetime, and verbal echoes in Othello are closer to the Italian original than to Gabriel Chappuy's 1584 French translation. Cinthio's tale may have been based on an actual incident occurring in Venice about 1508.[1] It also resembles an incident described in the earlier tale of "The Three Apples", one of the stories narrated in the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights).[2] Desdemona is the only named character in Cinthio's tale, with his few other characters identified only as "the Moor" (Othello), "the squadron leader" (Cassio), "the ensign" (Iago), and "the ensign's wife" (Emilia). Cinthio drew a moral (which he placed in the mouth of Desdemona) that European women are unwise to marry the temperamental males of other nations.[3]

Cinthio's Moor is the model for Shakespeare's Othello, but some researchers believe the poet also took inspiration from the several Moorish delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England circa 1600.[4] While Shakespeare closely followed Cinthio's tale in composing Othello, he departed from it in some details. Brabantio, Roderigo, and several minor characters are not found in Cinthio, for example, and Shakespeare's Emilia takes part in the handkerchief mischief while her counterpart in Cinthio does not. Unlike in Othello, in Cinthio, Iago lusts after Desdemona and is spurred to revenge when she rejects him. Shakespeare's opening scenes are unique to his tragedy as is the tender scene between Emilia and Desdemona as the lady prepares for bed. Shakespeare's most striking departure from Cinthio is the manner of his heroine's death. In Shakespeare, Othello suffocates Desdemona, but in Cinthio, Othello commissions Iago to bludgeon his wife to death with a sand-filled stocking. Cinthio describes each gruesome blow, and, when the lady is dead, Iago and Othello place her lifeless body upon her bed, smash her skull, and cause the cracked ceiling above the bed to collapse upon her, giving the impression its falling rafters caused her death. In Cinthio, the two murderers escape detection. Othello then misses Desdemona greatly, and comes to loathe the sight of Iago. He demotes him, and refuses to have him in his company. Iago then seeks revenge by disclosing to Cassio Othello's involvement in Desdemona's death. The two depart Cyprus for Venice, and denounce Othello to the Venetian Seignory; he is arrested, taken to Venice, and tortured. He refuses to admit his guilt and is condemned to exile. Desdemona's relatives eventually find and kill him. Iago, however, continues to escape detection in Desdemona's death, but engages in other crimes while in Venice. He is arrested and dies after being tortured. Cinthio's "ensign's wife", Emilia, survives her husband's death to tell her story.[5]

Cinthio's tale has been described as a "partly-racist warning" about the dangers of miscegenation.[6] While supplying the source of the plot, the book offered nothing of the sense of place of Venice or Cyprus. For knowledge of this Shakespeare would have used Gasparo Contarini's The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, in Lewis Lewkenor's 1599 translation.[7][8]

Date and text

Title page of the first quarto (1622)

The earliest mention of the play is found in a 1604 Revels Office account, which records that on "Hallamas Day, being the first of Nouembar ... the Kings Maiesties plaiers" performed "A Play in the Banketinghouse att Whit Hall Called The Moor of Venis." The work is attributed to "Shaxberd." The Revels account was first printed by Peter Cunningham in 1842, and, while its authenticity was once challenged, is now regarded as genuine (as authenticated by A. E. Stamp in 1930).[9] Based on its style, the play is usually dated 1603 or 1604, but arguments have been made for dates as early as 1601 or 1602.[1][10]

The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 6 October 1621, by Thomas Walkley, and was first published in quarto format by him in 1622: "Tragœdy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. As it hath beene diuerse times acted at the Globe, and at the Black-Friers, by his Maiesties Seruants. Written by William Shakespeare. London. Printed by N. O. [Nicholas Okes] for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the Eagle and Child, in Brittans Bursse, 1622."

One year later, the play was included among the plays in the First Folio of Shakespeare's collected plays. However, the version in the Folio is rather different in length, and in wording: as the editors of the Folger edition explain: "The Folio play has about 160 lines that do not appear in the Quarto. Some of these cluster together in quite extensive passages. The Folio also lacks a scattering of about a dozen lines or part-lines that are to be found in the Quarto. These two versions also differ from each other in their readings of numerous words.[11] Scholars differ in their explanation of these differences, and no consensus has emerged.[11] One explanation is that the Quarto may have been cut in the printing house to meet a fixed number of pages.[1] Another is that the Quarto is based on an early version of the play, while the Folio represents Shakespeare's revised version.[11] Most modern editions are based on the longer Folio version, but often incorporate Quarto readings of words when the Folio text appears to be in error.[12] Quartos were also published in 1630, 1655, 1681, 1695, 1699 and 1705.

Race

Portrait of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, Moorish ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, sometimes claimed as an inspiration for Othello.[13]

There is no consensus over Othello's race. E.A.J. Honigmann, the editor of the Arden Shakespeare edition, concluded that Othello's race is ambiguous. "Renaissance representations of the Moor were vague, varied, inconsistent, and contradictory. As critics have established, the term 'Moor' referred to dark-skinned people in general, used interchangeably with similarly ambiguous terms as 'African', 'Ethiopian', 'Negro', and even 'Indian' to designate a figure from Africa (or beyond)."[14][15] Various uses of the word 'black' (for example, "Haply for I am black") are insufficient evidence for any accurate racial classification, Honigmann argues, since 'black' could simply mean 'swarthy' to Elizabethans. Iago twice uses the word 'Barbary' or 'Barbarian' to refer to Othello, seemingly referring to the Barbary coast inhabited by the "tawny" Moors. Roderigo calls Othello 'the thicklips', which seems to refer to European conceptions of Sub-Saharan African physiognomy, but Honigmann counters that, as these comments are all intended as insults by the characters, they need not be taken literally.[16]

Michael Neill, editor of the Oxford Shakespeare edition, notes that the earliest critical references to Othello's colour, (Thomas Rymer's 1693 critique of the play, and the 1709 engraving in Nicholas Rowe's edition of Shakespeare), assume him to be Sub-Saharan, while the earliest known North African interpretation was not until Edmund Kean's production of 1814.[17] Honigmann discusses the view that Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, Moorish ambassador of the Arab King of Barbary to Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, was one inspiration for Othello. He stayed with his retinue in London for several months and occasioned much discussion. While Shakespeare's play was written only a few years afterwards Honigman questions the view that ben Messaoud himself was a significant influence on it.[18]

Othello is referred to as a “Barbary horse” (1.1.113) and a “lascivious Moor” (1.1.127). In III.III he denounces Desdemona's supposed sin as being "black as mine own face." Desdemona's physical whiteness is otherwise presented in opposition to Othello's dark skin; V.II "that whiter skin of hers than snow." Iago tells Brabantio that "an old black ram / is tupping your white ewe" (1.1.88). In Elizabethan discourse, the word "black" could suggest various concepts that extended beyond the physical colour of skin, including a wide range of negative connotations.[19][20]

Othello was frequently performed as an Arab Moor during the 19th century. He was first played by a black man on the London stage in 1833, by Ira Aldridge. However, the first major screen production casting a black actor as Othello would not come until 1995 with Laurence Fishburne opposite Kenneth Branagh's Iago.[21] In the past, Othello would often have been portrayed by a white actor in blackface or in a black mask; more recent actors who chose to ‘blacken up’ include Ralph Richardson (1937), John Gielgud (1961), Laurence Olivier (1964), Anthony Hopkins (1981) and Orson Welles.[21] Ground-breaking black American actor Paul Robeson played the role from 1930–1959. The casting of the role comes with a political subtext. Patrick Stewart played the role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1997 staging of the play[22][23] and Thomas Thieme, also white, played Othello in a 2007 Munich Kammerspiele staging at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. Michael Gambon also took the role in 1980 and 1991; their performances critically acclaimed.[24][25]

Themes

Iago / Othello

Although eponymously titled, suggesting that the tragedy belongs primarily to Othello, Iago plays an important role in the plot he reflects the archetypal villain, and has the biggest share of the dialogue. In Othello, it is Iago who manipulates all other characters at will, controlling their movements and trapping them in an intricate net of lies. He achieves this by getting close to all characters and playing on their weaknesses while they refer to him as "honest" Iago, thus furthering his control over the characters . A. C. Bradley, and more recently Harold Bloom, have been major advocates of this interpretation.[26] Other critics, most notably in the later twentieth century (after F. R. Leavis), have focused on Othello. Apart from the common question of jealousy, some[who?] argue that his honour is his undoing, while others address the hints of instability in his person (in Act IV Scene I, for example, he falls 'into a trance').[citation needed]

Othering

As the Protestant Reformation of England highlighted the importance of pious, controlled behaviour in society; it was the tendency of the contemporary Englishman to displace society's undesirable qualities of barbarism, treachery, jealousy and libidinousness onto those who are considered 'other'.[27] The assumed characteristics of black men, or 'the other', were both instigated and popularised by Renaissance dramas of the time; for example, the treachery of black men inherent to George Peele's 'The Battle of Alcazar' (1588)

The hero

There have been many differing views on the character of Othello over the years. They span from describing Othello as a hero to describing him as an egotistical fool. A.C Bradley calls Othello the "most romantic of all of Shakespeare's heroes" and "the greatest poet of them all". On the other hand, F.R. Leavis describes Othello as "egotistical". There are those who also take a less critical approach to the character of Othello such as William Hazlitt saying that "the nature of the Moor is noble... but his blood is of the most inflammable kind".

Performance history

Poster for an 1884 American production starring Thomas W. Keene.

Pre-20th century

Othello possesses an unusually detailed performance record. The first certainly known performance occurred on 1 November 1604, at Whitehall Palace in London, being mentioned in a Revels account on "Hallamas Day, being the first of Nouembar", 1604, when "the Kings Maiesties plaiers" performed "A Play in the Banketinge house at Whit Hall Called The Moor of Venis." The play is there attributed to "Shaxberd".[28] Subsequent performances took place on Monday, 30 April 1610 at the Globe Theatre, and at Oxford in September 1610.[29] On 22 November 1629, and on 6 May 1635, it played at the Blackfriars Theatre. Othello was also one of the twenty plays performed by the King's Men during the winter of 1612, in celebration of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V, Elector Palatine.[30]

At the start of the Restoration era, on 11 October 1660, Samuel Pepys saw the play at the Cockpit Theatre. Nicholas Burt played the lead, with Charles Hart as Cassio; Walter Clun won fame for his Iago. Soon after, on 8 December 1660, Thomas Killigrew's new King's Company acted the play at their Vere Street theatre, with Margaret Hughes as Desdemona – probably the first time a professional actress appeared on a public stage in England.

It may be one index of the play's power that Othello was one of the very few Shakespearean plays that was never adapted and changed during the Restoration and the eighteenth century.[31]

As Shakespeare regained popularity among nineteenth-century French Romantics, poet, playwright, and novelist Alfred de Vigny created a French translation of Othello, titled Le More de Venise, which premiered at the Comédie-Française on 24 October 1829.

Famous nineteenth century Othellos included Edmund Kean, Edwin Forrest, Ira Aldridge, and Tommaso Salvini, and outstanding Iagos were Edwin Booth and Henry Irving.

20th century

The most notable American production may be Margaret Webster's 1943 staging starring Paul Robeson as Othello and Jose Ferrer as Iago. This production was the first ever in America to feature a black actor playing Othello with an otherwise all-white cast (there had been all-black productions of the play before). It ran for 296 performances, almost twice as long as any other Shakespearean play ever produced on Broadway. Although it was never filmed, it was the first nearly complete performance of a Shakespeare play released on records. Robeson had first played the role in London in 1931 opposite a cast that included Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona and Ralph Richardson as Roderigo, and would return to it in 1959 at Stratford on Avon with co-stars Mary Ure, Sam Wanamaker and Vanessa Redgrave. The critics had mixed reactions to the "flashy" 1959 production which included mid western accents and rock-and roll drumbeats but gave Robeson primarily good reviews.[32] W.A. Darlington of The Daily Telegraph ranked Robeson's Othello as the best he'd ever seen[33] while the Daily Express, which had for years prior published consistently scathing articles about him for his leftist views, praised his "strong and stately" performance (though in turn suggested it was a "triumph of presence not acting").[34]

Actors have alternated the roles of Iago and Othello in productions to stir audience interest since the nineteenth century. Two of the most notable examples of this role swap were William Charles Macready and Samuel Phelps at Drury Lane (1837) and Richard Burton and John Neville at the Old Vic Theatre (1955). When Edwin Booth's tour of England in 1880 was not well attended, Henry Irving invited Booth to alternate the roles of Othello and Iago with him in London. The stunt renewed interest in Booth's tour. James O'Neill also alternated the roles of Othello and Iago with Booth.

The American actor William Marshall performed the title role in at least six productions. His Othello was called by Harold Hobson of the London Sunday Times "the best Othello of our time,"[35] continuing: "...nobler than Tearle, more martial than Gielgud, more poetic than Valk. From his first entry, slender and magnificently tall, framed in a high Byzantine arch, clad in white samite, mystic, wonderful, a figure of Arabian romance and grace, to his last plunging of the knife into his stomach, Mr Marshall rode without faltering the play's enormous rhetoric, and at the end the house rose to him."[36] Marshall also played Othello in a jazz musical version, Catch My Soul, with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago, in Los Angeles in 1968.[37] His Othello was captured on record in 1964 with Jay Robinson as Iago and on video in 1981 with Ron Moody as Iago. The 1982 Broadway staging starred James Earl Jones as Othello and Christopher Plummer as Iago, who became the only actor to receive a Tony Award nomination for a performance in the play.

The 1943 run of Othello, starring Paul Robeson and Uta Hagen, holds the record for the most performances of any Shakespeare play ever produced on Broadway.

When Laurence Olivier gave his acclaimed performance of Othello at the Royal National Theatre in 1964, he had developed a case of stage fright that was so profound that when he was alone onstage, Frank Finlay (who was playing Iago) would have to stand offstage where Olivier could see him to settle his nerves.[38] This performance was recorded complete on LP, and filmed by popular demand in 1965 (according to a biography of Olivier, tickets for the stage production were notoriously hard to get). The film version still holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for acting ever given to a Shakespeare film – Olivier, Finlay, Maggie Smith (as Desdemona) and Joyce Redman (as Emilia, Iago's wife) were all nominated for Academy Awards. Olivier was among the last white actors to be greatly acclaimed as Othello, although the role continued to be played by such performers as Paul Scofield at the Royal National Theatre in 1980, Anthony Hopkins in the BBC Shakespeare television production on videotape. (1981), and Michael Gambon in a stage production at Scarborough directed by Alan Ayckbourn in 1990. Gambon had been in Olivier's earlier production. In an interview Gambon commented "I wasn't even the second gentleman in that. I didn't have any lines at all. I was at the back like that, standing for an hour. [It's] what I used to do – I had a metal helmet, I had an earplug, and we used to listen to The Archers. No one knew. All the line used to listen to The Archers. And then I went and played Othello myself at Birmingham Rep I was 27. Olivier sent me a telegram on the first night. He said, "Copy me." He said, "Do what I used to do." Olivier used to lower his voice for Othello so I did mine. He used to paint the big negro lips on. You couldn't do it today, you'd get shot. He had the complete negro face. And the hips. I did all that. I copied him exactly. Except I had a pony tail. I played him as an Arab. I stuck a pony tail on with a bell on the end of it. I thought that would be nice. Every time I moved my hair went wild."[39] British blacking-up for Othello ended with Gambon in 1990, however the Royal Shakespeare Company didn't run the play at all on the main Stratford stage until 1999, when Ray Fearon became the first black British actor to take the part, the first black man to play Othello with the RSC since Robeson.[40]

In 1997, Patrick Stewart took the role of Othello with the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.) in a race-bending performance, in a "photo negative" production of a white Othello with an otherwise all-black cast. Stewart had wanted to play the title role since the age of 14, so he and director Jude Kelly inverted the play so Othello became a comment on a white man entering a black society.[22][23] The interpretation of the role is broadening, with theatre companies casting Othello as a woman or inverting the gender of the whole cast to explore gender questions in Shakespeare's text. Companies also have chosen to share the role between several actors during a performance.[41][42]

21st century

Othello opened at the Donmar Warehouse in London on 4 December 2007, directed by Michael Grandage, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello, Ewan McGregor as Iago and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona. Despite tickets selling as high as £2000 on web-based vendors, only Ejiofor was praised by critics, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for his performance; with McGregor and Reilly's performances receiving largely negative notices. Stand up comedian Lenny Henry was the latest big name to play Othello. He did so on a tour at the start of 2009 produced by Northern Broadsides in collaboration with West Yorkshire Playhouse.[43] Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald's 1988 award-winning play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is a revision of Othello and Romeo and Juliet in which an academic diciphers a cryptic manuscript she believes to be the original source for the tragedies, and is transported into the plays themselves.[44]

Adaptations and cultural references

Opera

Maria Malibran as Rossini's Desdemona by François Bouchot, 1834

Otello, a three act opera with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsi and music by Gioachino Rossini was first performed at the Teatro del Fondo, Naples, on 4 December 1816. The opera deviates from Shakespeare's original in some aspects: Jago is less diabolical than his Shakespearean counterpart, the setting is Venice rather than Cyprus, and the composer and librettist provided an alternative happy ending to the work, a common practice with drama and opera at one time. The opera is rarely performed.

Giuseppe Verdi and librettist Arrigo Boito adapted Shakespeare's play to Otello, an Italian grand opera in four acts that was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan on 5 February 1887. It was Verdi's second to last opera (followed by another Shakespeare adaptation, Falstaff) and is considered by many to be Verdi's greatest opera. Verdi and his librettist dispensed with the first act of the play. The popular opera attracts world class singers and is found in the repertoire of prominent opera houses. Franco Zeffirelli's 1986 film version of Verdi's opera starring Plácido Domingo as Othello won the BAFTA for foreign language film.[45] (Indeed, according to the Kennedy Center's biographical note on Domingo, Laurence Olivier saw Domingo in Otello and, in a mockingly furious voice, told Franco Zeffirelli: "You realise that Domingo plays Othello as well as I do, and he has that voice!"[46])

On 25 February 1999, Bandanna, an English language opera in a prologue and two acts with a libretto by Irish poet Paul Muldoon and music by Daron Hagen was performed by the opera theatre at The University of Texas in Austin. The opera is set in 1968 on the United States–Mexican border and borrows elements from Cinthio's tale, Shakespeare's play, and Verdi's opera.

Ballet

Mexican choreographer José Limón created a 20-minute, four character ballet called The Moor's Pavane to the music of Henry Purcell in 1949. The work premiered at the Connecticut College American Dance Festival in the same year. American Ballet Theatre was the first dance company outside Limon's to include the work in its repertory. It is a standard in dance companies around the world and notable interpreters of the Moor include Rudolf Nureyev.

The ballet Othello was choreographed by John Neumeier to music by Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Naná Vasconcelos et al. and was premiered by the Hamburg Ballet in Hamburg on 27 January 1985, with Gamal Gouda as Othello, Gigi Hyatt as Desdemona, and Max Midinet as Iago. The work remains in the repertoire of the Hamburg Ballet, seeing its 100th performance in 2008.

In 2002, modern dance choreographer Lar Lubovitch created a full-length ballet in three acts based on the Shakespeare play and Cinthio's tale with a score by Elliot Goldenthal. The work has been staged by the San Francisco Ballet with Desmond Richardson, Yuan Yuan Tan, and Parrish Maynard in the principal roles. The ballet was broadcast on PBS's Great Performances: Dance in America and the program was nominated for an Emmy Award. The ballet is recorded on Kultur video. Othello was first performed in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera House, 23 May 1997, by American Ballet Theatre.[47]

Other ballets include Prologue choreographed by Jacques d'Amboise for the New York City Ballet in 1967 as a prequel to Shakespeare's play, Othello choreographed by John Butler to the music of Dvořák for Carla Fracci and the La Scala Ballet in 1976, and a version choreographed by Jean-Pierre Bonnefous for the Louisville Ballet in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Film

Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh as Othello and Iago respectively, in a scene from the 1995 version of Othello.
See also Shakespeare on screen (Othello).

Shot between 1948–52, Orson Welles directed The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952), produced as a black and white film noir. The film stars Welles as Othello and Suzanne Cloutier as Desdemona. The troubled production was filmed over the course of three years as Welles' time and money permitted, in Mogador, Morocco and Venice. Lack of funds (and costumes) forced Roderigo's death scene to be shot in a Turkish bath with performers wearing only large, ragged towels. The film won the Palme D'Or at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.[21] Rather than focusing on racial mis-matching, the film plays on a difference between Desdemona and Othello in age, size and personal attractiveness. The film noir colouring of the picture minimised any commentary on Othello's blackness, to the point that the critic F. R. Leavis wrote that the film made no reference to Othello's colour.[21]

Unlike Welles's film, Laurence Olivier's Othello (1965), based on John Dexter's National Theatre's production, brings issues of race to the fore, with Olivier putting on an 'African accent' and entering in a large 'ethnic' necklace and a dressing gown. He commented, however, that he did "not dare to play the Moor as a full-blooded negro". One contemporary critic found the coloration too much, commenting that Olivier was "blacker than black, almost blue" . Trevor Nunn's 1989 version filmed at Stratford, cast black opera singer Willard White in the leading role, opposite Ian McKellen's Iago.[21] The first major screen production casting a black actor as Othello would not come until 1995 with Laurence Fishburne opposite Kenneth Branagh's Iago (not that there have been many major screen productions of Othello, most film versions to date have been filmed stage productions). It was made during the O. J. Simpson trial and commentators such as Cartmell draw parallels between the two "who-dunnit" murder stories, and wonder if the film's release was not a little to do with the publicity surrounding the film star's drama.[21]

Omkara is a version in Hindi set in Uttar Pradesh, starring Ajay Devgan as Omkara (Othello), Saif Ali Khan as Langda Tyagi (Iago), Kareena Kapoor as Dolly (Desdemona), Vivek Oberoi as Kesu (Cassio), Bipasha Basu as Billo (Bianca) and Konkona Sen Sharma as Indu (Emilia). The film was directed by Vishal Bhardwaj who earlier adapted Shakespeare's Macbeth as Maqbool. All characters in the film share the same letter or sound in their first name as in the original Shakespeare classic. It is one of the few mainstream Indian movies to contain uncensored profanity.

Other film adaptations

Television

Graphic novels

Othello, an adaptation by Oscar Zarate, Oval Projects Ltd (1985). It was reprinted in 2005 by Can of Worms Press and includes the complete text of the play.

In January 2009, a manga adaptation was published in the United Kingdom, with art by Ryuta Osada. It is part of the Manga Shakespeare series by Richard Appiganesi, and is set in Venice in carnival season.[62]

Painting

Othello, a series of 60 paintings executed in 1985 by Nabil Kanso. It was published in 1996 by NEV Editions.

Miscellaneous

The board game Reversi is also referred to as Othello.

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b c Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Bantam Books, 1988.
  2. ^ Young, John G., M.D.. "Essay: What Is Creativity?". Adventures in Creativity: Multimedia Magazine 1 (2). http://www.adventuresincreativity.net/2mag1.html. Retrieved 17 October 2008. 
  3. ^ Virgil.org
  4. ^ Professor Nabil Matar (April 2004), Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Stage Moor, Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (cf. Mayor of London (2006), Muslims in London, pp. 14–15, Greater London Authority)
  5. ^ Bevington, David and Bevington, Kate (translators). "Un Capitano Moro" in Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Bantam Books, 1988. pp.371–387.
  6. ^ Shakespeare, William. Othello. Wordsworth Editions. 12. Retrieved from Google Books on 5 November 2010. ISBN 1-85326-018-5, 9781853260186.
  7. ^ McPherson, David (Autumn 1988). "Lewkenor's Venice and Its Sources". Renaissance Quarterly (University of Chicago Press) 41 (3): 459–466. 
  8. ^ Bate, Jonathan (2004). "Shakespeare's Islands". In Clayton, Tom et al. Shakespeare and the Mediterranean. University of Delaware Press. p. 291. ISBN 0-87413-816-7. 
  9. ^ Sanders, Norman (ed.). Othello (2003, rev. ed.), New Cambridge Shakespeare, p1.
  10. ^ E.A.J. Honigmann (ed), Othello (1997), Arden Shakespeare, Appendix 1, pp 344–350.
  11. ^ a b c Paul Westine and Barbara Mowat, eds. Othello, Folger Shakespeare Library edition (New York: WSP, 1993), p.xlv.
  12. ^ Paul Westine and Barbara Mowat, eds. Othello, Folger Shakespeare Library edition (New York: WSP, 1993), pp.xlv-xlvi.
  13. ^ Vaughan, p.59
  14. ^ Making More of the Moor: Aaron, Othello, and Renaissance Refashionings of Race. Emily C. Bartels
  15. ^ "Moor, n2", The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edtn.
  16. ^ E.A.J. Honigmann, ed. Othello. London: Thomas Nelson, 1997, p. 15.
  17. ^ Michael Neill, ed. Othello (Oxford University Press), 2006, p. 45-7.
  18. ^ Honigmann p2-3.
  19. ^ Doris Adler, "The Rhetoric of Black and White in Othello" Shakespeare Quarterly, 25 (1974)
  20. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 'Black', 1c.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Cartmell, Deborah (2000) Interpreting Shakespeare on screen Palgrave MacMillan pp72-77 ISBN 978-0-312-23393-8
  22. ^ a b "The Issue of Race and Othello". Curtain up, DC. http://www.curtainup.com/dcnov2.html#Othello=. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  23. ^ a b "Othello by William Shakespeare directed by Jude Kelly". The Shakespeare Theatre Company. http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/plays/articles.aspx?&id=131=44&. Retrieved 20 September 2008. 
  24. ^ "Black or white? Casting can be a grey area" Guardian article. 5 April 2007
  25. ^ "Othello (Theatre review) The Guardian Friday 28 April 2006
  26. ^ Shakespeare, William; Ruffiel, Burton (2005) [3 Oct.]. Othello (Yale Shakespeare). Bloom, Harold. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300108079. 
  27. ^ Jones, Eldred "Othello's Countrymen" Charlottesville: Univ of Virginia Press, 1971
  28. ^ Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies. Bantam Books, 1988.
  29. ^ Loomis, Catherine ed. (2002). William Shakespeare: A Documentary Volume, Vol. 263, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Detroit: Gale, 200–1.
  30. ^ Potter, Lois (2002). Othello:Shakespeare in performance. Manchester University Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780719027260. http://books.google.com/books?id=e20L7HPfHXAC&pg=PA12. 
  31. ^ F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; pp. 346–47.
  32. ^ Duberman, p. 477
  33. ^ Duberman, p.733,notes for pages 475–78
  34. ^ Daily Express, 10 April 1959
  35. ^ Jet magazine, 30 June 2003
  36. ^ The (London) Independent, 6 July 2003
  37. ^ Christgau, Robert. Any Old Way You Choose It, ISBN 0-8154-1041-7
  38. ^ Laurence Olivier, Confessions of an Actor, Simon and Shuster (1982) p. 262
  39. ^ The Arts Desk"theartsdesk Q&A: Actor Michael Gambon" – by Jasper Rees – 25 September 2010 – 2009 The Arts Desk Ltd. Website by 3B Digital, London, UK.
  40. ^ The Times 9 February 2004 "Black and white more show"
  41. ^ Independent article 25 August 1993. "Edinburgh Festival"
  42. ^ 5 October 2010 "The Docklands"
  43. ^ "Shakespeare’s Othello | Cast & Creative – Lenny Henry". Othellowestend.com. 11 November 2002. http://www.othellowestend.com/cast_and_creative/cast/lenny_henry/. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  44. ^ http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Goodnight%20Desdemona%20%28Good%20Morning%20Juliet%29
  45. ^ Otello (1986)
  46. ^ "Biographical information for Placido Domingo". Kennedy Center. http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showIndividual&entitY_id=3525&source_type=A. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  47. ^ "Great Performances . Dance in America: Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" from San Francisco Ballet | PBS". PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/shows/othello/othello.html. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  48. ^ a b c Buchanan, Shakespeare on Silent Film (2009)
  49. ^ Othello (1922) IMDb
  50. ^ See Отелло at the Internet Movie Database
  51. ^ All Night Long (1962)
  52. ^ Othello (1965)
  53. ^ "Catch My Soul (1974)". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071289/. 
  54. ^ IMDb Othello, the Black Commando
  55. ^ Othello (1995) IMDB
  56. ^ Kaliyattam (1997)
  57. ^ O (2001) IMDb
  58. ^ Omkara (2006)
  59. ^ Jarum Halus official website
  60. ^ Othello (1981) (TV)
  61. ^ Othello (2001) (TV) IMDb
  62. ^ [1], retrieved 19 February 2011.

External links

  • Othello Navigator—Includes the annotated text, a search engine, and scene summaries.
  • Cinthio's Tale—A Nineteenth Century English translation of Shakespeare's primary source.
  • Othello—analysis, explanatory notes, and lectures.
  • Othello—text by PublicLiterature.org
  • Othello—Scene-indexed and searchable version of the text.
  • Othello at IBDB—lists numerous productions.
  • Othello study guide, themes, quotes, multimedia, and teacher resources

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  • Othello — Othello, WA U.S. city in Washington Population (2000): 5847 Housing Units (2000): 1864 Land area (2000): 2.998938 sq. miles (7.767213 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 2.998938 sq. miles (7.767213… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Othello — (Diminutiv von Otho); bes. bekannt O., der Mohr von Venedig, vornehmer Afrikaner in Venedig u. Feldherr der Republik, vermählt mit Desdemona, welche er aus Eifersucht ermorden ließ. Sujet eines Trauerspiels von Shakespeare, wozu dieser den Stoff… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Othello — Othello, der »Mohr von Venedig«, vornehmer Afrikaner in Venedig, Feldherr der Republik, der seine Frau Desdemona aus Eifersucht ermordete. Shakespeare hat den Stoff zu seinem Trauerspiel einer Novelle der »Hecatommiti« des Giraldi (s. d.)… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Othello — Othello, Held eines Trauerspiels von Shakespeare nach einer ital. Novelle von Giraldi Cintio, einer Oper von Rossini (1816) und Verdi (1887) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Othello — [ō thel′ō] n. 1. a tragedy (1604?) by Shakespeare 2. its title character, a noble Moor, who, made madly jealous by the villainous Iago, kills his faithful and loving wife, Desdemona …   English World dictionary

  • Othello — Daten des Dramas Titel: Othello, der Mohr von Venedig Originaltitel: The Tragœdy of Othello, the Moor of Venice Gattung: Tragödie Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Othello — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Othello (de odo, richesse et theudo, peuple) est un prénom d origine germanique. Sommaire 1 Théâtre 2 Musique …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Othello — /oh thel oh, euh thel oh/, n. a tragedy (1604) by Shakespeare. * * * ▪ work by Shakespeare in full  Othello, the Moor of Venice   tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William), written in 1603–04 and published in 1622 in a… …   Universalium

  • Othello —    1) Otello    Drame de Sergueï Ioutkevitch, avec Sergueï Bondartchouk, Irina Skobtseva, A. Popov, V. Sochalski, E. Besnik.   Scénario: Sergueï Ioutkevitch, d après la tragédie de Shakespeare   Photographie: Evgueni Andrikanis   Décor: Weisfeld …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • Othello — Othẹllo,   dunkelhäutiger Held der Tragödie »Othello, the Moor of Venice« von Shakespeare (1604) nach einer Novelle von G. Giraldi. Die Intrigen des Adjutanten Jago treiben Othello in blinde Eifersucht auf seine neu vermählte Ehefrau Desdemona,… …   Universal-Lexikon

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