Othello is a tragedy that explores timeless themes such as jealousy, race, and the destructive power of manipulation. The play revolves around the central character Othello, a Black general in the Venetian army, and his relationship with his wife Desdemona. The play examines the effects of jealousy on both personal relationships and society as a whole, as Othello’s jealous suspicions lead him to commit heinous acts. Additionally, the play delves into issues of race and identity, as Othello’s ethnicity is used against him by those who seek to undermine him. The play also explores the concept of appearance vs. reality, as characters’ true motives and intentions are revealed throughout the story. Overall, Othello remains a powerful exploration of human nature and the consequences of unchecked emotions, making it a classic work that continues to be studied and performed today.
Be me, on a typical school day, bustling around getting the kids breakfast as they get ready for school. My middle announces, “Did I tell you my Shakespeare story?”
Everything stops, of course. Well, more to the point everything I’m doing stops, while my wife kind of gives me the, “Seriously?” look since stuff’s still got to get done.
“Do tell,” I reply. “The very fact that you brought it up means this is going to be a blog post.”
“Ok,” she says, putting down her spoon. “Well, my friends and I the other day are talking, and somehow Shakespeare comes up, you know.”
“Sure, sure. I know the feeling.”
“And then my friend is all,” cue dripping fawning voice, “Oh, I *love* Shakespeare, I just *love* Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer’s Night’s Dream!” At this point she switches to brainy smirk, rolls up her sleeves, and begins. “Well, I said to her, do you know Othello? Hmm? How about Winter’s Tale? Or Titus Androkinus?”
My oldest and I exchange a glance and a laugh at that one. Middle continues, “Have *you* ever read the one where the husband bakes his wife into a pie? Hmmm???”
“Wait, what?” I ask.
“That’s Cleopatra,” says my oldest.
“Wait, WHAT?” I ask.
“Isn’t there one about Cleopatra and her husband?”
“Antony and Cleopatra, yes?”
“Isn’t that the one she’s talking about?”
It’s funny how sometimes the facts get garbled. I explain that Titus baked the sons of his enemy into a pie. I still have no idea where they got baking his wife – nor the connection with Antony and Cleopatra.
As regular readers may know my daughter is in her first real Shakespeare class, so we get to have regular discussions about my favorite subject and it almost always results in a blog post. Technically the class is only half Shakespeare, as it is really “Monsters in British Literature” and The Tempest was one of the topics, which makes this that much more interesting, because Othello isn’t normally part of the class.
So she’s got a writing assignment where she’s to pick a real person (can’t be fictional) that society sees as a monster, and then take a position whether to defend or rebut that argument, using what they’ve learned in class about the “definition” of what it means to be a monster.
We’ve been going back on forth on what (or who) she might pick, when she says to me, “One student did do Iago, though.” I think that may have been for a slightly different definition of the assignment as he’s clearly fictional. She continued, “But he argued that Iago’s not a monster.”
“Tough argument,” I say. Normally I’m driving while we have these conversations so I have to keep my eyes on the road. “Not really sure there’s any evidence on behalf of Iago being a nice guy.”
“That’s the thing!” my daughter responded, “Apparently the teacher read it and said, hmmm, makes you think. Like he actually had a convincing argument, at least to get her to say that much!”
“Yeah, I’ma need you to get me that paper,” I said.
Upon which my daughter freaked out. “DO NOT EMAIL MY TEACHER, DADDY!” she commanded. “I know that’s totally something you would do.”
“Yeah, you’re right, there.”
“Please don’t. You can’t just go asking for a random student’s paper.”
“Ok, then you do it.”
“I CAN’T DO IT EITHER!”
“Then I guess we’re gonna have to go Mission Impossible on this one, because I need to see what that argument was. I’m thinking we lower you into the room on cables, thread you through the laser security, and bam! You get to the file cabinet, you take some quick pictures of his homework, then we yank you out of there. No one’s the wiser.”
“Seriously, Daddy. You’re not going to email her, are you?”
“No, I wouldn’t do that,” I replied. “Besides, I’m going to get a blog post out of it either way.”
And here we are! If we start with the premise that somebody put forth a reasonably convincing “Iago’s not such a bad guy” argument…what could it possibly have been? Bardfilm sent me a piece from Arden edition which basically takes the position that we should assume everything Iago says is true — being a soldier is all that he knows how to do, it is his life, he seems himself as unfairly passed up for promotion by an unworthy candidate for all the wrong reasons, etc… It goes on to say that we should assume that, even if Othello isn’t sleeping with Iago’s wife, the important thing to take away is that Iago believes it. Iago isn’t just making some sort of alibi for his actions.
Personally I don’t see it. And even if we did believe that, it’s kind of like arguing first-degree murder versus third-degree murder. From the start he does show himself to be more sociopathic than that, going right through Roderigo and Cassio like they’re not even people.
<shrug> Anybody feel good taking Iago’s side? See a possible argument that we’re missing? My daughter has the same teacher for a pure Shakespeare class next semester as well, where they will be reading Othello, so if it so happens that this topic comes up again I will be sure to revisit.
So I’m not dressing up for Halloween this year, and thought I’d be lazy and do a “Best Of” Halloween post instead. But then I searched I realized … did I never post my Othello costume? I know it was on Facebook, but it looks like I never put up here on the blog!
Fall, 2016. I was hired at my new job in December 2015, so this is my first Halloween. They do a big company-wide party here, with prizes and everything, and I am definitely going through a phase of life where I’m wearing my Shakespeare devotion on my sleeve.
So I decide to go as Othello.
“Oh no,” you think, “You didn’t put on blackface like Anthony Hopkins, did you?” Well I still work here, that ought to give you a clue.
Nope, what I did was go to as both Othello the play, and Othello the board game.
Step one, I got one of those white painter’s jumpsuits to make a blank canvas of myself. Then I started transcribing.
You may not be able to make that out, but it’s the entirety of Othello Act I, Scene i. I may have had delusions of doing more, but that took me forever (and lots more space than I thought) so I stuck with just making the point.
But then I figured maybe people wouldn’t recognize the play. After all, Othello doesn’t show up in I.i. So I doubled as the board game (sometimes called “Reversi”):
Why am I carrying a stuffed animal? I’ll give you a hint, he’s got green eyes. He’s a green eyed monster.
Then I figured that there’s still a strong likelihood nobody’s going to get this, so I made it obvious on the back:
If you can get past the glare, that is. 🙂
How’d it go? I can’t say most people got it. Couple of the older people at work were all, “Oh, you’re that game!” Turns out Milton Bradley let the trademark lapse on Othello back in the 1980s and half these people have no idea what that game is. 🙂
Bonus! While we were in the mood and since I was rifling through my daughter’s stuffed animals, we were presented with this opportunity:
Finally, finally, my oldest gets to participate in a dedicated Shakespeare course this fall. I don’t have the title in front of me but it’s basically Shakespeare and Modern Film. Given that my bestest online Shakespeare pal is a dude whose actual name is “Bard Film” I can’t wait until she gets homework. (“Daddy, can I please do my own homework for once?” “It’s ok sweetie, Bardfilm and I have got this.”)
Anyway, we had to order textbooks and I see they’ll be studying Othello, Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night. Folger editions, for the curious.
Hmmm. Anybody else seeing a pattern there?
I’m calling it right now – I’m going to have my daughter watch O, 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man before school starts because I’ll bet you anything that’s what they’ll be doing in class. I never thought I’d say this but I’m glad Hamlet’s not among her required texts. If they had her watching Lion King I don’t think I could stand it.
I admit it, this post is a complete advertisement for my latest merchandise. I think I honestly do a pretty reasonable job of not spamming you folks every time I put up a new t-shirt design, don’t I? So surely you won’t begrudge me a Friday afternoon commercial.
When I’m working at night, chances are Netflix is on in the background. I’m one of those folks that just likes the noise. I would love to churn through all the new original shows they’re making, but then I have to pay attention to what’s on, rather than letting it just drone in the background. So instead I turn to old series that I know I like, that have a lot of episodes (that will auto play, you see). You see where I’m going with this.
The entire ten season run of Friends has graced my television so often I think I’ve memorized all the episodes. But it wasn’t until recently that the idea hit me … that opening font of theirs is absolutely iconic. If you do “Skip Intro” you may never even notice it, but when you see it that classic scribble font with the little colored dots you’re definitely thinking, “I recognize that!”
Shakespeare and Friends
I wasn’t even sure Amazon would let these up, so I didn’t go crazy with the “Look! It’s Friends!” keywords. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell the real story here. To get started I made a bunch of versions of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters – Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio. All are available in both t-shirt and hoodie. The t-shirts are available in men’s, women’s and youth sizes (the hoodies are unisex). All the images below are clickable, where you can see the colors available for each.
What do you think? Did I miss your favorite character? What do you think looks better, character names or play names? For those first couple it doesn’t matter 🙂 but I soon ran out of 5-7 character single words. 🙂 Should I make Prospero and Malvolio and Viola and some other more lesser known characters?