1) Watch Shakespeare Uncovered – Othello. Be certain to watch this before you watch the movie of Othello because it will optimize your enjoyment of the film. 2) Watch “Is Shakespeare a Racist Play?” This is an excerpt from a much larger debate by the Royal Shakespeare Company. One of the most revered Shakespeare companies in the world. If you find the debate interesting, you may want to watch the entire debate.
3) Watch Othello, with Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob, and Kenneth Branagh. This film version of Othello has a dangerous edge. Fishburne plays Othello as capable of violence and Branagh is diabolical as villainous Iago. 4) Watch Othello: Behind the Lines.
5) In Theatre — The Lively Art (10th Ed.) read pp. 321-330, about Shakespeare and his time. 6) Read the article, “Are Some Humans Born Evil?” DISCUSSION TOPIC 1 (10 pts.):
Shakespeare’s Iago is a mysterious character. The poet Samuel Coleridge famously referred to Iago’s actions as “motiveless malignity”–malice without a motive. Why does Iago do it? To the best of your ability, answer the following question: What accounts for Iago’s evil? How does the military context of Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre production of Othello help to explain Iago’s behavior? (Or does it not?) Does the article “Are Some Humans Born Evil?” shed any light on Iago’s venal actions? DISCUSSION TOPIC 2 (10 pts.)
” Critical Theory” is a way of looking at literature through the lens of philosophy, psychology, sociology, and other forms of cultural criticism and/or theory. For example, “psychological theory” might look at the character of Oedipus’s mating with his mother, “queer theory” might look at examples of homo-eroticism between Othello and Iago. Below is some “feminist criticism” of Desdemona’s character. Do you agree with it? “One of the oddest things about criticism of Othello is how little usually gets said about Desdemona. She is often considered a necessary element in the drama only because she is a necessary element in its plot — the woman with whom Othello just happens to be in love–rather than a major dramatic figure conceived in relation to everyone else. There is a strong tendency in critics of all persuasions to take her as a helpless, hapless victim…” –Jane Adamson, “On Desdemona’s Role in Othello” (1980).
Do you agree with Adamson’s feminist criticism? Is Desdemona a “helpless, hapless” victim, or is she a woman of will and agency? Base your opinion on specific examples from the play.
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