I decided, since we own the BBC version of this, to attack this play differently than I read Shakespeare last year. I am happy to report that not only did I actually get it this time, I even actually enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy a Shakespearean tragedy).

On the movie: the costumes were horrible, and watching Anthony Hopkins in blackface was a bit odd and uncomfortable. That said, the acting was superb. Hopkins does crazy violent, jealous rages excellently.

Othello isn’t a very sympathetic tragic hero. Then again, I’m not sure tragic heroes are supposed to be sympathetic. His tragic “flaw”, if you can call it that, is that he wants to know too much and is willing to listen to (very lousy, superficial) anything to believe what he wants to believe.

Iago is a racist, and an ambitious man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He’s also a butt-kissing ass. No, I didn’t like him either. (Though Bob Hoskins performance made me laugh on occasion.)

Desdemona is a victim of the fact that men will always believe other men rather than listen to the sense women talk.

It has one of the more pathetic endings of any Shakespeare play. Save Romeo and Juliet. I think their end is even more pathetic.

I have no tolerance for pathetic characters. (If you haven’t noticed.)

I think there are some interesting things to say about race, stereotypes (both racial and about women and men), jealousy, ambition, curiosity, and jumping to conclusions.

At this rate — one a year (though maybe we can call it two a year, since we saw Much Ado About Nothing last week… and thought that the local company did a fine job with it. We had a very spirited discussion about Claudio and Hero afterward.) — it’ll take me 35 more years to get through all of Shakespeare’s plays…

9 thoughts on “Othello

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, as much as you can enjoy it. I REALLY enjoyed it, but I guess that’s just how I am . . .You should watch the Orson Welles version. It’s great.


  2. You make me laugh. Good observations, though. I was thinking today, about how long it would take at one year. Thanks for sharing – may we still be reading together then – a trip to London might be in order, at that point 🙂


  3. The only film version of Othello that I’m familiar with is the Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob one. It was quite good. Though of course it’s not an *easy* play to watch. It’s hard to like Othello. It really is. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s hard to like many of these tragic heroes found in Shakespeare’s plays. Have you seen the Much Ado about Nothing film with Kenneth Branagh? It’s one of my all-time favorite favorite favorite movies. That and the play is without a doubt my favorite favorite favorite Shakespeare. So if you haven’t seen the movie, I’d definitely recommend it!!!


  4. I haven’t seen the Branagh version of Othello… I’m not even sure what I remember hearing about that one. Perhaps I’ll search it out. I have seen his Much Ado About Nothing, though, and remember thoroughly enjoying it. Ironically, the friend we went to see the local production with completely trashed that version. Said it was the worst one of Branagh’s (he likes Hamlet best) movies. Hubby and I remarked later that we were both thinking: “Well, <>I<> liked it…” but were ashamed to admit it! (Friend is, after all, an English professor, therefore he <>must<> know best…right?)


  5. How funny, Melissa. Well, I’ve got two literature degrees, and I say it’s the best 🙂 I really don’t come across many people who don’t like it. I find it easily one of the more accessible movies.


  6. Andi — you are right: Iago is a terrific villain. Probably Shakespeare’s best. And Becky: it’s loads better than his Love’s Labor Lost, which truly did stink. (Maybe Friend couldn’t get past Keanu Reeves Don John? You do have to admit, that no matter how good the movie, Keanu is just plain lousy at Shakespeare. Dude.)


  7. Film versions of Shakespeare rarely work, mostly because they insist on giving parts to famous normal actors who wouldn’t understand blank verse and end stopping if their life depended on it. As exhibit A, I submit Mel Gibson’s attempt at Hamlet.


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