The tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare tells the story of a good man who is deceived by his close friend and, subsequently, kills his honest wife.
Othello is a Moor who has just married a beautiful, white Desdemona. Still in their honeymoon stupor, the authorities in Venice send him to Cyprus to fortify the colony from an invasion from the Turks. Desdemona wishes to go with him, and he accepts her request. Jealousy enables Iago to plant doubt of Desdemona’s fidelity in Othello’s mind. At first the newlywed couple behave as equals, but soon Othello’s chauvinistic, stubborn side comes to light. Othello soon believes “honest” Iago over his own wife. Othello’s temper overpowers him and in a fit, he suffocates Desdemona. After her death the truth is revealed and a shamed Othello takes his own life.
It was difficult at first to be interested in the story. But soon I found myself reading page after page, quite interested in the story. There are so many layers, motifs, and ideas presented that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the play. It is not one of my favorites, but Shakespeare wrote of racism, jealousy, power, loyalty, domestic abuse, honesty, and more – all of which are topics that are currently being explored and expanded 400-some years later.
I watched an excellent film adaption of the play from the BBC series of Shakespeare’s Tragedies. It stars Anthony Hopkins (heavily tanned) as Othello. As you probably can guess, he can play angry very well. Here’s a link to the IMDB page: Othello (1981).
My essay for the play focused on Desdemona’s strength in adversity. She died honest – she did not lie in an attempt to save her life when Othello confronted her. She took charge of her own life, thoughts, and beliefs which is contradictory to the role and position of women at the time. Desdemona was not a trophy wife, a play thing, or a mere sexual object, she was a confident, well-articulated, passionate woman who refused to take no or admit falsehoods. I’d like to be friends with someone like her. Someone who knows when to stand up for an injustice and most importantly, knows when to back down. She did not deserve to die, however, her murderer gave himself quite, equal justice with his own life. Of course, Emilia, Othello, and Desdemona all end up dead at the end and that serves no one, but I felt all murders were avenged with poetic justice.