We’ve upgraded Othello to our latest format which lets you explore the play in many ways. We’ve taken the Oxford University Press First Folio Edition of the plays, and enhanced it to let you explore Shakespeare’s plays in ways which are are more fun and much easier to use than in a paper format. The focus is on ‘playing’ the play, rather than studying it. With this new release of Othello, you can:
- Use “Let’s Explore” to explore the individual characters of Iago, Othello, and Desdemona (or any other character in the play) by reading (out loud) their key speeches.
- Use “Let’s Play” with a few friends to play key scenes in the play: A3S3, Iago sowing the seeds of jealousy in Othello; A3S4 The lost handkerchief; A4S2 Othello distrusts Desdemona; or other scenes you want to play.
- Watch ‘Video Readings’ of various soliloquies, dialogues, and scenes, as performed by the Edinburgh Shakespeare Play-reading Group. We’ll be adding more of these in the coming weeks.
- Play-read the whole play with 2 to 10 play-readers (we recommend 7)
- Find out how our (Edinburgh Shakespeare play-reading group) play-readings went in March ’17 and in January ’15.
- Read a 5-* review and then watch the BBC Shakespeare Collection production of the play. This production dates back to the 80’s and the 4 x 3 format really suits the intimate scenes of the play. Alan Howard and Bob Hoskins excel.
As well as the script, we provide an index to these different ways of exploring the play. On a laptop, or on most tablets (held in landscape shape), this index appears to the right of the script. On a smartphone, the index occurs after the script. Click on the links in the index to select one of these ways of exploring part of the play.
This is the sixth play that we’ve published with this level of support. The others are: All’s Well That Ends Well; Hamlet; The Merry Wives of Windsor ; Romeo and Juliet; . and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We plan to publish at least one a month from now on in this format, and plan to have Twelfth Night, Henry IV Part I, The Tempest, and Macbeth published before September 2017. All the plays we’ve published are available from a table on our Home Page at https://players-shakespeare.com.
Let’s explore the different ways of exploring the play outlined above in more detail.
We’ve introduced this feature fairly recently. It allows you to explore any character in a Shakespeare play by reading (out loud preferred) the character’s lines in Parts and Cues format (where only that character’s lines are shown), or in Highlight Text format (where the whole script is shown, with the character’s lines highlit in colour).
Many people find it strange to only see one character’s lines, but for an actor, it is what they are going to end up doing on stage, and it is how scripts were given to actors in Shakespeare’s day. It helps the players to focus on the lines of their characters without the ‘noise’ of other roles’ lines. It is particularly useful where a character has large speeches in a scene. When all the players read their lines in ‘Parts and Cues’ mode, it keeps everyone alert and listening, as they wait for their cue.
In ‘highlight text’ mode the text of the whole scene is shown, with the character’s lines highlit. This gives context to a scene which has already been read in ‘Parts and Cues’ mode, and is really useful when there’s lots of dialogue with short speeches.
For Othello, we’ve provided links to allow you to explore Iago, Othello, and Desdemona. Click on the links under Let’s Explore, in the index. Of course, you can explore any character in the play, by:
- Clicking on the ‘Complete Script of Othello’ link in the index
- In the script window that appears, click on the gearwheel in the top right-hand corner – a ‘setup window’ appears
- Click on the ‘Single Part’ radio button, and then select the character you’re interested in from the drop-down list of characters to the right.
- Select ‘Show Parts and Cues’ or ‘Highlight text’ as you prefer.
- Click on the gear-wheel again to close the set-up window. The script will now be shown in the format you prefer.
Note that if you don’t like our “Let’s Explore”, or you want to add some others, you can set up your own “Let’s Explore” in any environment, for example MS-Word, that supports URLs, provided you also have a web browser and access to the Internet. We show you how at: Let’s Play Hamlet – setting up your own “Let’s Play”
This lets you play scenes, or extracts of scenes, with a small number of players. It’s not unlike a rehearsal of a scene from a play, with the difference that you can swap characters and run it again and again.
For Othello, we’ve taken four scenes and cast them for as few players as is practical and they can be used to let a few people explore scenes. It lets people explore their acting abilities in a fairly non-threatening environment, and perhaps best of all, the casting can be gender-blind. The players can get a good understanding of the scene and the character of the roles. The scenes we’ve provided for Othello are:
- A3S3: Iago arises Othello’s suspicions
- A3S4: The lost handkerchief
- A4S2: Othello distrusts Desdemona
Of course, you’re not constrained to play only these scenes, you can play any scene, but you have to set up the casting yourself, using the Script Setup gearwheel on the script window. You can set up your own “Let’s Play” in any environment, for example MS-Word, that supports URLs, provided you also have a web browser and access to the Internet. We show you how at: Let’s Play Hamlet – setting up your own “Let’s Play”
Also, you may spend an evening with some friends ‘playing scenes from Shakespeare’. The number of players is likely to be fixed, but you don’t have to limit yourself to one play. Our Let’s Play menu allows you to see all the scenes we’ve put into “Let’s Play” format for 1, 2, 3, or 4 players, or even more).
Play-readings of the complete play:
Of course, what we really want you to do is get a group of friends together for a few hours (Sunday afternoons are good) to read a whole play together, and that is why we we provide castings which let a small number of people play the play. For Othello we provide castings for 2 – 10 players.
What we have found in Edinburgh is that there are two forms of play-reading that work for us:
- In the first you have enough players to give each player one principal role. This is usually somewhere between 10 and 12 players but varies, of course, by play.
- The second approach, which is what we do now, is to have somewhere between 6 and 8 players. This means that each player is kept much busier in the play-reading, which most players like, but may have to speak to themselves (in different roles) occasionally). For Othello, we think the best number of players is 7. Everyone is kept busy (though Iago and Othello are particularly busy) and only one player has to talk to himself in different roles (Player 4 in A5S2).
Play-reading is perhaps one of the most under-rated ways of experiencing Shakespeare. I’d like to try and explain those delights from a recent experience we had with music.
We are occasionally invited to a run-through of a concert by an Edinburgh Chamber Music group that specialises in Modern music. The most recent event was a run-through of a concert of Peter Maxwell Davies’ music. This run-through was not a concert. It was preparation for a recording (later the same day) of the same set of music. The group invited a small number of friends to hear the run-through. We, maybe 20 or so guests, sat in Greyfriar’s Church and listened to the music.
It has a completely different feel from a concert. There is a certain formality to a concert: the players tend to be dressed up; there is a separation between the audience and the players; there may be special lighting. Instead, the run-through feels as if a few friends are playing music to other friends. When players weren’t needed for a piece, they sat with the other friends, listening to the music.
A play-reading is rather similar. It does not have the formality of a performance, with stage curtains; lights; darkness in the auditorium. Instead, a few friends get together and read a Shakespeare play. They perform their parts as well as they can, but they are also the audience, listening to the play. We play the play for each other. When it goes well, it’s magic.
You don’t believe me? Then try it – I think you’ll be surprised.
Of course, the way most people experience Shakespeare is by watching a performance: in the theatre; at the cinema; or more and more frequently on your television at home.
There can be little doubt that the most emotionally powerful way of experiencing a play is to see a great performance live, in the theatre. If the performance goes well, the audience are moved, and that stimulates the actors to give even more, and we all have a wonderful experience. Cinema too, can provide powerful emotional experiences.
And so we provide links to performances of Shakespeare’s plays that we think are interesting and that you can watch at home. For Othello, we provide only one, though we’ll add reviews when we find productions which we think ‘hit the spot’. These films can give you powerful emotional responses to the play. However, they don’t let you explore the depths of the play, primarily because you are a fairly passive participant, they happen in real time, and everything happens so fast that you miss a lot.
This new version of Othello (and the other plays we’ve already published and will publish soon) allow you to explore the play in ways that are not easily achieved with standard versions of the play. We hope this will be useful to play-reading groups; drama students; community drama groups; and everyone who is interested in Shakespeare’s plays.
There’s a lot of different things you can do, but they are all aimed at the same thing – experiencing the play emotionally by playing it. Experiencing the emotions generated by the plays is one of the key ways we grow to love Shakespeare.