With the play about to be seen only in our rear-view mirror, let’s close this three-month discussion with a simple question:
What’s Othello about?
For me, it’s all about jealousy. Even if you believe that Iago’s motivation is being passed over to be Othello’s lieutenant–and I don’t–then jealousy is at the root of the play. Othello’s consumed by jealousy. Bianca’s jealous over Cassio’s “hobbyhorse” (IV.i.152). Roderigo is jealous of what Othello has. [note: I don’t think it’s the promotion that motivates Iago, but rather the fear/suspicion of being cuckolded…which is another form of jealousy, in my mind]
Jealousy is something that everyone has felt. That’s what makes this play universal. Not everyone sees a ghost of their dead father urging them on to revenge (sure, we might all feel unsure about what to do at times, but, please, we don’t act all crazy to cover it up). By that little mini-rant, you can probably tell that I rank Othello above Hamlet. In fact, it goes in the top three of the plays in the Canon thus far (bumping down Titus Andronicus, if you can believe it–shocker, I know), and number two of the tragedies overall (Romeo and Juliet still stands atop both those pyramids for me).
There’s just so much there in Othello. Race. Religion. Jealousy. Rank sexuality. Male insecurity. Status in both society and the military. Sexism. Romance. Violence.
This is one of those plays that just feels like it could be done in so many incredible ways on stage, but still reads with depth (as opposed to something like Troilus and Cressida that reads well, but I’m not sure is producible, or Much Ado About Nothing that rocks on stage but just kind of sits there on the page). I mean, I love looking at the preponderance of animal imagery in this play… what does that have to say about the humanity of the characters? And with that as a launching pad, what better character do we have in Shakespeare that demonstrates the concept of being at the top of the food chain as Iago (save possibly for Richard III)? The Moor is this tower of strength at the beginning of the play, a power easily presented physically on stage; watching that physicality deteriorate over the course of the production would be heartbreaking to see. To hear his verbal acuity, so well represented in Act One, Scene Three, be reduced to fits, grunts, and monosyllabic bursts that follow would be just as sad.
So we’ve come to the end of another play. This one with a little more personal drama/trauma than most. The loss of my father near the beginning this discussion threw me (and continues to throw me) for a loop. Even though I added a month to our discussion, I feel as if much of that time was spent in a fog. I have to admit, I’m only now starting to feel like I’m actually writing again, rather than just pecking away at the keys. So I apologize for any shortcomings, and I sincerely thank those of you who have stuck around.
Like I said, I really like this play. In fact, the more I think about this play, the more I like it. I just wish I had been at the top of my game for it…maybe when this project is all said and done, I’ll revisit this. Only time will tell. But that’s a long way off, and we’ve got a new month tomorrow.
Anyone up for a little Lear?