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Let’s Explore: Othello, the Moorish general

Before we explore the character of Othellolet us remind you how you can explore a Shakespearean character in any of our published plays.  If you haven’t tried out our  techniques of using ‘Parts and Cues’ and ‘Highlit Text’ to explore a Shakespeare character, then you’ll find it helpful to read the detailed explanation we give for the character Hamlet (click on Let’s Explore Hamlet).

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Othello, the Moorish general:

You can explore any Shakespearean character in a play  published by Players-Shakespeare.com in a similar way. Here we help you explore Othello

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The story of Othello tells of a Moorish general, newly married, who has a  standard-bearer (‘ancient’), Iago, who hates him, and makes Othello think that his new wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful too him. The jealous Othello murders Desdemona, and when he finds out the truth, kills himself. Our “Let’s Play” section will help you explore how Iago persuades Othello, but here, we explore how Othello’s character changes:

  • In A1S3, Othello, who has been accused by Desdemona’s father of stealing Desdemona by witchcraft, tells the State Council how he wooed her. His story is interesting, but even more interesting is how he tells the story. To me, it speaks of a self-controlled man, capable of using persuasive language to subtly convince his audience that he wooed Desdemona fairly. What do you think? Explore his speech, by going to Act One Scene Three in Parts and Cues form, by clicking on the link, and then scroll down to Othello’s fourth speech, which starts: ‘Her Father loved me, oft invited me…’ and read the whole speech out loud, feeling Othello’s feelings. The language is formal and sophisticated, but Othello’s fondness shines through, and convinces the Duke and most of the councillors.
  • Now contrast the language and emotion of A1S3, with Othello’s language when he begins to wonder, due to Iago’s manipulations, whether his wife is unfaithful to him. This occurs long before Othello becomes a dominating, jealous lover capable of murder. It happens in A3S3, during which Iago first insinuates that Desdemona might be unfaithful. Click on the link to Act Three Scene Three in Parts and Cues mode, and then scroll down through Othello’s speeches until you reach a speech, just after Iago leaves him,  that starts: ‘This Fellow’s of exceeding honesty…’ and read it out loud all the way until after Desdemona enters and Othello says: ‘If she be false, O Heaven mocked itself:/ I’ll not believe’t.’  Othello is still not sure if Desdemona is unfaithful to him, but see how his language has changed from his language in A1S3: ‘whistle her off’;  ‘prey at Fortune’; ‘I am abused’; ‘loathe her’; ‘Curse of Marriage’ etc.

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How Othello has changed from the courtier before the Council of State in Venice, to the tormented, jealous lover, and general of an army in Cyprus! How can one man have two such different emotional states within him!

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And now, listen to him speak just before he murders Desdemona, at the beginning of A5S2:

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Of course, by reading the scenes above, you may well see things differently from what I’ve outlined above, but  you should come to clearer view of what you think about the character of Othello. 🙂

Let’s play!

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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