“The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice,” from The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, by W. Shakespeare.

I fondly remember this play, and was more than pleased to revisit it on Christmas (though instead of the fabulous Laurence Fishburne’s voice from the 1995 film version, I heard Idris Elba. And why not–the man’s excellent!). It’s a great tragedy that I’d love to see on the stage over and over again.

And without the blackface. The Laurence Olivier blackface 1960s version makes me shudder (though there’s a really young Maggie Smith playing Desdemona that almost makes it worth it).

The basic story of Othello consists of racism, rumor, deception, ambition, sex and death. I think it’s interesting how Shakespeare could make a play about racism centuries ago, and sadly we’re still dealing with it. Othello is a moor, a black man and celebrated general in Venice. He has an underling named Iago, who is ambitious and conniving, and still smarting from the promotion of young Cassio to lieutenant above him.

Iago starts his mischief by getting Roderigo, who is infatuated with Desdemona, to wake up her father and tell him that Othello has eloped with her. This could potentially end Othello’s life were he to show up at a bad time, but when Othello’s allowed to explain their relationship, tempers cool and the marriage is allowed to continue.

This doesn’t stop Iago, who is essentially out to destroy everyone around him for his own gain. I think this character has to be the most conniving and devious one I’ve read since Richard III, only his power is in pulling strings. He actually hates Othello for who he is, and tries to tear him down from the first. Iago is all about false accusations, jealousy, and even gets his wife involved to some extent by having her continue to be friends with Desdemona, feeding him information that he can use against the couple and anyone they come in contact with.

Desdemona is a woman of high birth with many admirers left behind when she married a black man–praised general though he may be. The situation gives Iago opportunities to weave his tangled web of deceit on a silver platter.

It’s a story of jealousy as old as time, and the consequences of ambition and mistrust. Othello is definitely one of the best Shakespearean plays I’ve ever read. I’d pay good money to see this on the stage…maybe with Idris Elba as Othello and Tom Hiddleston in whatever capacity. That would be lovely).

Wish like crazy Idris was in a filmic version of Othello–he’d be fantastic with that voice of his. And I do know the Hiddles played Cassio when he was younger in a Donmar Warehouse production of Othello. You can see an interview clip here.

Okay, done fangirling for a bit. Seriously, the play is great, and definitely not outdated. Worth a read and a view.

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