O T H E L L O
Othello-The Basics-First performed around 1603-All actors were white males-Based on a previously existent collection of short works by Cinthio-Was most likely very popular when it was first performed as we have accounts of its performances at court
Misconceptions and the Moor-Central to understanding the text-Othello is referred to as “barbary horse” and also described as having “thickish lips”. Both characterization could refer to separate regions of Africa-Most likely moor simply referred to any category of Africans-Influx of Africans into England where there hadn’t been any-Shakespeare relies on his audience’s ignorance, racism, and misconceptions to tell his story. -He uses similar techniques in plays like The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Titus Andronicus. The audience would already have established viewpoints of locations and races-freeing Shakespeare to take advantage of those misconceptions and the story they already told.
Setting: Venice and Cyprus • Venice • -During1489 and 1571 Venice was at war with Turkey • -Epicenter of commerce, currency and the beginnings of capitalism • -Corruption running amok • Social status, greed, nepotism were the norm • Naval superpower Cyprus -Elizabethan Londoners would associate the mysterious island of Cyprus with the sin (sexy time?) and depravity they imagined went on there (more on this is a second) -Alternately under the control of many different conquerors, empires, and kings until its independence -Prized for the abundant harvest on the island
The Plot… Othello the moor gets together with Desdemona the white daughter of a baron. Iago, one of Othello’s soldiers, doesn’t get a promotion from Othello and thinks his wifey may be a smut. Shenanigans ensue. People die. Inquiring minds want to know… How were the “black ram” and the “white ewe” allowed to get together and make “the beast with two backs” in the first place, Mr. Rounds!
Shakespeare was smart enough to know that an audience in the early 1600’s would never have allowed such a relationship to happen… Which is why he sets Othello in 16th century Venice… where such a relationship COULD have happened. Porqueeeeee?????? Key word: Meritocracy
In a Meritocracy, a person’s value to society is dictated by his abilities… not his race, religion, or beliefs. It is the beginning of Capitalism as an economic systemThus, in Othello’s Venice a moor soldier from unspecified regions of Africa with such an extensive military history COULD …Rise to general-and-Attract a white woman
Soo…. DEUCES! The mysterious island of Cyprus (and along with it the misconceptions held by Elizabethan Londoners) makes an appropriate sight for this illicit love… Remember, sexy time!!! Based on their misconceptions about moors, Venice and Cyprus, the audience is literally tricked into believing in the story. Genius…
Othello-Moorish General-Married to Desdemona-Tasked with fighting Turkish forces on the island of Cyprus-Extremely Jealous-Easily Manipulated-Trapped between his sense of accomplishment and his awareness of his own race-he suffers because he is black in a white-dominated world.
Desdemona-Loving and devoted wife-Daughter of Brabantio, a wealthy Venetian baron-Victim of foul play which she unfortunately never sees coming-Accompanies Othello to Cyprus-Unselfish and noble. Her fate is especially tragic due to her purity and innocence
Iago-One of Shakespeare’s greatest villains-Military officer who is passed up for a promotion-Perhaps believes his wife is cheating on him-Expert in manipulation and word play, able to set up characters against Othello as if playing a game of chess-Constantly reminds everyone that Othello is a moor, has “thickish lips”, is a “barbary horse”, a “black ram tup’ing a white ewe” in order to further insinuate racism and ignorance-and even cause Othello to think negatively about himself.
Michael Cassio-Othello’s lieutenant, he receives the promotion Iago desired-Manipulated by Iago into falling into an unrequited love affair with Desdemona.-The play revolves around Cassio’s ignition of Othello’s jealousy Roderigo -The fool whom Iago tricks into giving him money -Without Roderigo’s financial backing, Iago’s plan could never have succeeded Brabantio -Desdemona’s father -Senator in Venice -Racist bigot who despises Othello -His hated is easily manipulated by Iago
Oh, and you guys too. Get in the van. Duke of Venice: Ruler who finds in favor of Othello when Desdemona's father attacks Othello's character. Gratiano: Brabantio's brother. Lodovico: Brabantio's kinsman, who bears a message from the duke recalling Othello to Venice. Montano: Othello's predecessor in the government of Cyprus. Clown: Servant to Othello. Emilia: Wife of Iago. She is blind to his evil until she discovers that it was he who plotted against Othello and Desdemona. Bianca: Cassio's mistress.
Pass up Intentions ***Reminder -Late assignments get 10 point deduction per day/5 points on portfolio
Act 1.1-Key Lines 1.1.44/51-53 “I follow him to serve my turn upon him…” (Iago) 1.1.60-67 “I follow but myself” …” (Iago) 1.1.90-93 “The old black ram” …” (Iago) 1.1.115-120 “Barbary horse/Beast with two backs” …” (Iago) 1.1.144-147 “Get me a taper” (Brabantio) 1.1.148 “Farewell for I must leave you” (Iago) 1.1.175 “Fathers, trust not your daughters’ minds…” (Brabantio)
Act 1.2-Key Lines 1.2.11 “Are you fast married” (Iago) 1.2.18/32 “My services…/my parts, my title, my perfect soul” (Othello) 1.2.72-84 “Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom.” (Brabantio)