The 12 Plays of Christmas – Day 9 – Othello

Welcome to Day 9.  Traditionally the 9th day of Christmas is for the well-traveled saints… and who do we know who is well-traveled?  The Moor of Venice.

Othello is a well crafted tragedy setting up the relationship between the Moor Othello, a general, and his fair wife, Desdemona.  It doesn’t help that they initially ran off in secret to get married, or that Othello overlooked his friend Iago for promotion.  Iago is one of the finest villains in my opinion- craftily manipulating the relationship between Othello and Desdemona so that Othello believes his wife to be having an affair with Michael Cassio.  She isn’t, but he doesn’t believe it, and in the end kills her in bed over a stolen handkerchief. Iago gets away at the end, so much like Medea, I like to think he lived… making the tragedy even greater.  He is wounded, so maybe not.

The women of “Othello” are interesting as well. Offsetting the virtuous Desdemona, we have Emilia, Iago’s wife, who is sultry, sexy and completely in your face about everything… and Bianca, a prostitute who is somewhat associated with Cassio.  Each different sides of being a woman.  Shakespeare was good at writing women.

Interesting the play has never been called “Othello and Desdemona”, so even though she dies most horribly, this isn’t her tragedy.

I have directed “Othello” in a post-WWI context, with the soldiers returning from battle, scarred with PTSD, and the women as nurses… mainly for a context for them being there.  It is a gripping play and it is hard to go wrong.  I have also performed the role of Emilia myself, and she is a brilliantly written strong character.

For cool scene suggestions, obviously the murder at the end is terrific.  But also is the start where the marriage of Desdemona and Othello is found out about.  The scene where Cassio gets drunk and loses his reputation is a nice scene to explore, around how quickly one can lose all they have.  Also the scene where Emilia gives the handkercheif to Iago, it can be played with him callous, or to explore the desires between Iago and Emilia.

Here is a scene performed that saw the actor playing Othello selected to perform at the Globe Theatre in London.



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