Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review for You - Othello

Othello by William Shakespeare
4 stars
Everyone knows the tale of Othello, or almost everyone at least. A Moor (otherwise known as black guy), Othello, falls in love and marries a white woman, Desdemona, and through the evilness of his servant, Iago, is tricked into thinking her untrue and unloyal and kills her in a fit of rage. Sorry for the spoiler there but, like I said, who doesn’t know this story? I knew it before I read it. The real point of reading it is in the beauty of the language and to see it all unfold.

From the moment the play starts Iago feels slighted for basically no reason at all and sets it in his mind to ruin his master, Othello. To do this he enlists the help of his friend, Roderigo, who wants the lovely Desdemona for his own. They come up with a wonderful plan to make Othello think that Desdemona is sleeping around with Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant. However Iago doesn’t really tell Roderigo the whole plan because well, it won’t work if Roderigo LIVES at the end of it. Of course, Othello thinks of Iago as nothing but a kind and loyal servant and calls him “honest” over and over again. So naturally when he calls Desdemona unfaithful Othello believes him almost immediately. The wheels having been so easily set in motion, Othello goes into her room at night and utters the famous line: “Have you prayed tonight, Desdemona?” And thusly strangles her.

Now this was a fantastic Shakespeare play. It had all the elements to make it great, even though I knew the ending. Murder, deception, jealousy, intrigue. However a feminist work it certainly was not. I could not count the number of times the men threw about the words “whore” and “strumpet” simply because the women said something they did not like or because Othello wrongly thought Desdemona untrue. And the implication that it is alright to KILL your WIFE just because she cheats on you is entirely ridiculous as it is. Only when Othello finds out that he was wrong and Iago tricked him does he feel any sort of remorse for his actions.

So, read it for the language and the awesomeness that is Shakespeare. But don’t expect to feel all warm and tingly inside afterwards. And Iago is a very good evil villain indeed.


Red said...

I certainly wouldn't think of this as a female friendly play but I still love the play. Even knowing how it's going to end I still find myself hoping something will change this time around and Desdemona will be spared. And of course Iago is such a great character to watch, it helps make up for any faults in the story.

Deborah Lawrenson said...

I love the way you relish the complex, beautiful language of Shakespeare. Of course, just as that is out-moded now (though an accurate rendition of how language - exquisite language - sounded in Elizabethan times) so are the portrayals of women and society.

llevinso said...

I kind of do like the word strumpet though. It sounds like a dessert. "I'll have the raspberry strumpet please!"

bookspersonally said...

I love that you are reading Shakespeare - we so rarely get to/make the effort to once we are out of high school or college. The very few times I've done so have been so rewarding. I found myself speaking the lines "aloud" in my head as I read, did you?

llevinso said...

Oh I'm totally in love with Shakespeare, as you can see by this post I did not too long ago:
I try not to read aloud too much though since I read a lot in public and I don't want people thinking I'm bonkers! ;)

Cathy Kozak said...

You've reignited my love of Shakespeare, you and Richard B. Wright's new book: Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard.

llevinso said...

I've never heard of that book Cathy. Must look into it!

Laurie said...

Glad you're back online!

I would love to know your response to my Shakespeare's B-Day-to-Baptism blog hop, now that you're haunting the interwebs again... You'll see that my response relates to your post here.