OK, so it’s been a while (this crud that’s been going around has been brutal: Lisa still hasn’t returned to work… pneumonia layered on top of the crud; mine’s lasted for far too long for my liking; grandma’s not doing great…luckily, Jack’s been–knock on wood–spared thus far). But enough with excuses. It’s media Thursday, when I usually try to discuss a Shakespeare-related piece of media.
But not today. Today, I want to knock around out loud, an idea that been percolating since about midway through our run of Othello (which went well btw)…
Othello’s a long play. Duh. Seventh most in the Canon.
And honestly, it usually plays longer. That first act is all domino-setting, with not much driving the plot. Act Three, Scene Three, the pivotal duping scene is a behemoth. And Act Four, Scene One gets drawn out by the epilepsy. And that last scene is a fairly drawn-out affair as well. There are only 15 scenes in the play which makes it feel longer (compared to Antony and Cleopatra’s screenplay-like 43 scenes).
So my idea is to cut the play. Pretty much jettison the Venice section (Act One). But how then to get us the domino setting? Well, this is where the idea gets a little crazy.
I see Iago as one of the top three villains in Shakespeare: him, Richard III, and Edmund the malicious in Lear. These are all bad, bad men. All three are puppet-masters, virtually becoming the playwright, and the first two verbally dominate the plays they manage. What ties them is not merely their villainy, but their openness about it. They make the audience a part of their thinking process, and almost-but-not-quite collaborator.
So my idea is this: cut much of the first act, saving only the major soliloquies by Iago. By rearranging the text, and supplementing it with some of what he tells both Roderigo and Othello, I think you could create a “winter of our discontent”-like opening to the play. I might even have Iago bring out Othello for part of his speech on how he wooed Desdemona (“her father loved me”), before Iago finishes his setting of the dominoes, and the play kicks off in Cyprus as we await the landing of the Moor.
We’re not in Venice anymore, Toto.
If you’re thinking: But Bill, that takes away from the focus on the Moor…well, then I’d respond with: while the Moor does have more speeches than Iago (by a whopping two: 274 v 272), Iago has more lines in the play by more than 200 (1097 v 888). He has the longest speech. He has more speeches longer than 10 lines. Like I’ve said before, Othello may be your tragic hero of the piece, but I think Iago is the protagonist (I mean, after all, he’s working toward something…Othello begins the play having already achieved his goal).
This edit of the play takes that protagonist concept and puts it front and center.
We’re not in Venice anymore. And the name of this adaptation is
I want to work on this script so badly. But there’s so much work to be done: Venus and Adonis needs finishing, I’m in a new play (non-Shakespearean, can you believe it?), I’m putting the final touches on my Shakespeare/Westworld presentation for the Popular Culture Association conference in Indianapolis later this month, and I’m working into shape the Shakespeare for Actors course that I’ll be delivering next month. And I’m in my final third of my Masters program. And I occasionally work on my chainmail.
But, someday, I’m going to make that edit. I’m going to get a staged reading of that edit. And then if that works, I want to direct that edit.