This page from Internet Shakespeare provides readers with a brief though useful history of Othello’s production history. This account begins with the play’s 1604 premiere and concludes with Zaib Shaikh’s 2008 television adaptation, Othello, the Tragedy of the Moor.
In his article for Slate, Isaac Butler provides an in-depth discussion of the racial politics involved in the characterization of Othello as Black. Butler’s essay is particularly useful for helping modern readers contextualize what “Blackness” meant in Shakespeare’s time, since the historical meaning does not easily map on to the racial distinctions of the current era.
The New York Theatre Workshop has compiled an exhaustive (though not comprehensive) inventory of Othello adaptations. This inventory stretches across two webpages. The first page focuses on adaptations in the contexts of visual art, drama, and opera. The second page, which features several embedded videos, focuses on adaptations in the context of film and television.
Working with the librettist Arrigo Boiti in the mid-1880s, Giuseppe Verdi composed a four-act opera based on Shakespeare’s play. This video clip from Covent Garden in 1983 shows a segment from the final act of Verdi’s opera, when Othello (played by the tenor James McCracken) confronts and kills Desdemona (played by the soprano Kiri Te Kanawa).
Elaine Sciolino reviews Desdemona, a unique performance conceived and written by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Sciolino describes how Morrison endeavors to highlight the continued importance of the Othello narrative by featuring a dead Desdemona addressing the audience about “the traumas of race, class, gender, war—and the transformative power of love.”
In his extended and sometimes humorous meditation on Iago and the source of his nefarious motives, Max Gladstone offers a fascinating and in-depth character study that should prove illuminating for anyone attempting to understand the villain’s demented point of view.
Writer and teacher Laura Gill reflects in this personal essay on how, in her own words, “I learned from teaching Othello that I am part of a system that sets Black men up to fail.” Gill’s powerful reflections offer readers another way of understanding the continuing relevance of Shakespeare’s play to the social politics of our day.
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