“Pleasure and action make the hours seem short…”
A lot of people have the wrong impression of Shakespeare. Because we are forced to study the Bard at school rather than arriving at his works in our own sweet time, it is natural to resent the famous playwright. I certainly had no time for Shakespeare when I involuntarily had to study the Taming of the Shrew in sixth form; not when I had Championship Manager to play and milkshakes to buy from the school canteen. As I have gotten older, I have begun to appreciate ol’ Bill more and more and when I found myself teaching Macbeth for a term last summer, I was a convert. Now I am studying Othello and while, once again, this wasn’t my choice, my attitude towards Shakespeare and his works is forever changed.
Othello is a Moorish general who falls deeply in love with Desdemona, a senators daughter. Or as Iago memorably puts it, Othello is the “old black ram tupping the white ewe”. Endearing image. The aforementioned Iago is a dastardly schemer who turns man against man to serve only himself. In this version, Shakespeare veteran Kenneth Branagh portrays Iago and he is flawless. His nods and winks to the camera capture the essence of the character perfectly and the way he changes his personality depending on who he is talking to and what he wants is masterful. Lawrence Fishburne plays the titular Moor and he is as imperious as he is lovelorn.
Tragedies have always been my favourite and while Romeo and Juliet is a bit wet, Othello is the real deal. Betrayal, lust, power, old black rams tupping white ewe’s, Othello has it all. It is folly trying to choose a favourite Shakespeare play but in Iago, Othello might just contain my favourite Shakespeare character.
For newcomers to the worlds more famous playwright, Othello would be a good starting point, for fans however, this adaptation is essential.
Othello also introduced the world to the phrase “green eyed monster”. Nice fact to end on.