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1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Friday, July 17, 2015

Patrick Stewart as Othello


Great news!

Sir Patrick Stewart has announced that he will play Othello again!

Yes, you read that right. He will play Shakespeare’s great Moor — without black-face make-up, without playing the character as black.

He did this before, in 1997, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. The rest of the cast was all black in what was called a photo-negative production of the play.

I have read about this production. I even saw his Desdemona, Patrice Johnson in a production of Tamburlaine. She was great. 

Patrick Stewart as Othello
and Patrice Johnson as Desdemona
 Shakespeare Theatre Company, 1997

Ron Canada as Iago


But it is a crime that this earlier production of Othello was not preserved for DVD. But now we get to see this new production! I really hope it is filmed for DVD/Blu-Ray.

It’s very funny, I sent him a tweet for his birthday on Monday begging him to do some more Shakespeare soon, and two days later he announces this! Sometimes wishes do come true. 

I applaud him for performing this play again, and for the courage to perform a role that has too often been thought to be only for black actors. He is in rare company, with Sir Laurence Olivier and Anthony Hopkins, white actors who have performed Othello.

And I especially applaud him for not acting black as they did. He seems to understand that there is more to the character than his race. He seems to know that for Shakespeare, Othello’s race is only skin deep.

as Macbeth

Sir Patrick is such an incredible actor, and I consider his work with Shakespeare to be as important if not more important than his remarkable TV and film work. The shame is that so little of it is preserved.

I still can’t wait to see him as King Lear. I have no doubt that his Lear would be an extraordinary experience both for him as an actor and for his audience.

But what intrigues me more than anything now is why does he want to play Othello again? 

What is it about this role that speaks to him so loudly and insistently? 

What compels him to explore this character again? 

What questions does he have about this character that he feels have been unanswered?

Is it the heartbreaking relationship between Othello and Desdemona — how true love can turn to jealous hate and result in murder?

Is it the Othello and Iago relationship — how a great man can be destroyed by a small and perverse man?

Perhaps Sir Patrick understands, as I have discovered while writing my own interpretation of the play, that Shakespeare wrote the play not because of the race of the character. The play is not about race or discrimination. Those are modern-day interpretations.

as Prospero

The real question is why did Shakespeare write this play in 1603/4? 

He had different reasons,  religious and political reasons to write Othello. When we consider the play in the historical context of when it was written, during the dangerous and frightening days of the Reformation and during the very first years of the reign of King James, the play means something very different than we have come to know.

When Shakespeare put a Moor on stage in 1603/4 he knew that his audience would be shocked. They would have expected Othello to be a monster like Christopher Marlowe’s bloody conqueror Tamburlaine. 

But Shakespeare pulls the rug out from under their feet. Othello is no monster. He is good. He is brave. He is a convert to Christianity!

That is just the beginning of the tricks that Shakespeare pulls on the audience. 

as Shylock

Perhaps Sir Patrick understands that this is arguably Shakespeare’s first truly psychological play. In fact it is a psychological thriller, that explores the duality of a man’s nature. I’m surprised Alfred Hitchcock didn’t film Othello, since he loved brooding and psychologically complicated men, like Cary Grant in Suspicion and Laurence Olivier in Rebecca.

As a thriller, it keeps us on the edge of our seats. Today, most of us know that Iago triumphs over Othello because we have heard about this play, and studied the play before. But Othello himself doesn’t know how his own story ends. Iago doesn’t know if he will triumph or be killed in the process. Desdemona doesn’t know until it is too late that her husband will murder her.



Shakespeare’s original audience in 1603/4 didn’t know how the play would have ended. They would have rooted for Othello while disliking his race, while rooting for Iago because he is such a charismatic villain while also hating themselves because he is so villainous, while rooting for Desdemona to survive her husband’s jealous fury. The tension, the suspense Shakespeare creates here is unparalleled in his plays.

I can not wait until Sir Patrick Stewart plays Othello. I think it will be one of the greatest adventures in his already incredible career, and one of the greatest chapters in the performance history of Shakespeare.

Cheers,



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