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Othello

Osama Ali

Othello Characters              

Othello- The Christian Moor and the General Desdemona- Othello’s wife Iago- Othello’s ensign Brabantio- A Venetian Senator and the father of Desdemona Michael Cassio- Othello’s lieutenant Emilia- Iago’s wife Roderigo- A Venetian, in love with Desdemona Bianca- Cassio’s lover Duke of VeniceMontano Lodovico- Brabantio’s kinsman and cousin of Desdemona Gratiano- Brabantio’s brother Clown Officers, Gentlemen, Messenger, Herald, Sailor, Attendants, Musicians, etc.

Plot Analysis Othello has secretly married Desdemona without her father knowing. He passed over the promotion to lieutenant to Michael Cassio instead of Iago. Roderigo has found out about Othello and Desdemona being together. He asks Iago for help to break the marriage apart as Iago also hates Othello. Iago plans an evil plot to make all this happen. Iago and Roderigo both go to Brabantio to tell him that his daughter has been stolen by Othello. Meanwhile Iago secretly goes to Othello and tells him about Roderigo’s betrayal and warns him about Brabantio coming. Before he arrives Othello is summoned to the Duke of Venice to command the army of Venice to protect Cyprus from the Turks. Brabantio accuses him but he defends himself successfully in front of the Senate. Othello leaves to command the Venetian army. The Turkish fleet is destroyed by a storm. During the celebration Iago makes Cassio fight with Roderigo while he’s drunk. Othello gets furious and strips Cassio off his rank. Iago convinces Othello about Cassio and Desdemona having an affair. To do this Iago plants


Othello

Osama Ali

Desdemona’s handkerchief which was accidentally dropped by her and plants it in Cassio’s lodgings. Iago then tells Othello about the handkerchief and the supposed affair between Cassio and Desdemona. Othello gets mad at Desdemona and threatens to kill her. Iago convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio however Roderigo is wounded fatally. Iago cuts Cassio’s leg and successfully manages to hide his identity but Cassio gets a glimpse at Roderigo’s face and Iago is forced to kill Roderigo to stop him from revealing his plot. That night Othello infuriated at Desdemona, smothers her to death. Emilia arrives and reveals the whole plot planned by Iago who then kills her and runs away. Othello who gets arrested kills himself. Literary sources for the story

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Shakespeare got the idea about the conflict between Turkey and Venice from a book written by Richard Knolles in 1603 called “The History of the Turks”.

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The primary source for the story was from Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinzio, who was an Italian author

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In 1565 he wrote a prose tale about a General Moor called “A Moorish Captain”, whose ensign led him to believe his wife was unfaithful to him. Shakespeare had added his own supporting characters on top of this story including Roderigo and Brabanzio with Iago being portrayed as an Archvillain.

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There are also similarities Othello and the story called “The Three Apples” narrated by Scheherezade.

Historical Background -

Written in 1603

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From the eleventh to the fifteenth century, Catholics battled to re-conquer Spain from the Islamic Arabs and Berbers, or Moors, who had successfully occupied it since the 900s.

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Philip III of Spain expelled 300,000 "Moriscos" from the Iberian (Spanish) peninsula not long after Shakespeare finished Othello.


Othello

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Osama Ali

England maintained independent trade relationships with "Moorish" Northern Africa, despite Spanish and Portuguese protest.

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Elizabeth issued a degree expelling Moors from Africa and Spanish "Moriscos" from the boundary of England in 1599 and 1601.

Social Background -

The word Moor now refers to the Islamic Arabic inhabitants of North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century, but the term was used rather broadly in the period and was sometimes applied to Africans from other regions.

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Othello’s darkness or blackness is alluded to many times in the play, but Shakespeare and other Elizabethans frequently described brunette or darker than average Europeans as black.

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The opposition of black and white imagery that runs throughout Othello is certainly a marker of difference between Othello and his European peers.

Political Background Othello touches upon a major issue in Europe at the time period about the intermingling of the Muslim region with the western culture and this hostility between the west and the east is shown in the play as a conflict between Turkey and Venice. The Christian Venetians want to protect Venice from being influenced by Muslim Turks and Othello, who is a Christian Moor is sent to this mission.

Staging over the years -

First performed by the Kings men on November 1st, 1604.

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It was then performed in 1629 and then in 1635 at the Blackfriars Theatre.

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At the start of the Restoration era in 1660 the play was performed in the Cockpit Theatre.


Othello

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Osama Ali

One performance of Othello, produced in 1660, starred an actress by the name of Margaret Hughes in the role of Desdemona. This production is of particular importance because it marked the first time a woman was accepted on the English stage. Before this, all the characters, whether male or female, were played exclusively by men.

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The most notable American production may be Margaret Webster's 1943 staging starring Paul Robeson as Othello and Jose Ferrer as Iago. This production was the first ever in America to feature a black actor playing Othello with an otherwise allwhite cast

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A film adaptation was made in 1952. Another one was also made in 1965. The first major screen production to cast a black actor was in 1995.

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The play had also been performed in London on 4 th December, 2007.

Othello  

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