For years the story about the Moor of Venice has trapped me, almost like a moth to the flame. I don't quite know why as this is one of the most dramatic of all the tragedies. It has given me a lot to think about, and it still does really. I find it a brilliant base for stories I write myself, as it is such a complete story. I'm normally not very drawn to social realistic dramas, as they are too realistic. But the realism in Othello is probably one of the features of the story that has brought it into the new millennia. It could happen. Now, I could say that the unrealistic of A Midsummer Night's Dream is what gave it its ability to survive time, and I would contradict myself. So to conclude before I begin, let's just say that the genius of the writer is what makes it live still, and then get back to the scary realistic plots of Othello.
I have really dug deep to find the reason for my fascination of this play, and it suddenly struck me when it all began. I must have been ten or something, and my favorite show on TV was Fame. I had all their...wait for it... tapes, yes tapes, because I am that ol... mature, and obviously I'm talking about music tapes, not video tapes.
One very appealing, and well used tape (this I think I had a video tape of as well), was a concert with The Kids From Fame, and Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy) played Othello in a song called Desdemona. This particular picture is from a song called Starmaker, which in the concert was the closing act. But as you can see, they are in their...well Medieval costumes, not actually correct in my mind and not so according to the historical period, as Shakespeare is very much a renaissance writer, but there you go.
Another mistake is that Desdemona lives in the Fame version (at least in the version from the show, from the concert I'm not sure...). I'm all for happy endings, but one of the biggest truths in the story about Othello is that he's lured, tricked, convinced by Iago into distrusting and eventually killing his sweet young wife, and out of pure jealousy as such. Had he not killed her, he would have been the man Iago knew he was not, and the reason for telling the story would not had been pertinent at all. So, through The Kids From Fame I got my first encounter with Othello, but I learned the true story later.
Morpheus as Othello and Victor Frankenstein as Iago
My entire life I have been a singer. When I grew up I attended a conservatory of fine arts, and my instrument of choice was (and still is) my voice (only now I use my voice a bit different, meaning I write).
My parents are musicians, my father plays the viola and my mother is a singer, and I inherited a taste for the classical tunes from them. My favorite classical composers are Vivaldi, Purcell, Mozart, Verdi and Bruckner. And as I now mentioned Verdi, some of you might know that he wrote a beautiful and extremely powerful opera called Othello, and those of you that read my blog know it now.
I would not look at myself as a true soprano if I hadn't given Desdemona a go, and in particular the "Saliche-part", for the record, Saliche means Willow in Italian. It is an aria that is dreaded by sopranos all over the world, as it is very difficult and comes at the end of the opera when you're tired and about to die...at least on stage. But it is one of the most sublime pieces of music I've had the honor of singing. I actually performed the prayer in a small church in Liguria, Italy, and I almost felt like crying, but then the high note would have been a sob, and that's the most dreaded of all the notes, as it's in pianissimo. I nailed it, by the way!
But before Othello was an opera, and longer before it was a dance act in a Television show in the eighties, it was a play by Shakespeare.
A small image here with Gandalf as Iago...
It was first performed in 1604 at The Globe Theatre, and since then it has continued to inspire and live on.
Othello is a saluted soldier that has a soft spot even with the King. All though, after "fooling" around with the King's daughter, Desdemona, he's welcome into the family as a son (all though the king gets a bit angry at first...). But now, Othello makes a choice that seals his destiny. Instead of choosing his friend, Iago, as best man, he chooses Cassio, as this man has a star with the King. Iago gets insanely jealous, but gets so quietly. He's pretending to be Othello's friend, but at the same time he's feeding him small drops of distrust towards Desdemona.
Othello is also a story about racism. Iago several times refer's to Othello's black skin, and that he finds it hideous, and he can't for the life of him understand why this black man has so much success and he himself doesn't. Using Desdemona's personal items, and his own wife (Emilia) as an instrument to place them where they should never be found (in Cassio's possession for instance), Iago drives Othello insane, playing his friend like a game...)
and Othello eventually kills his beloved Desdemona. When he understands what he has done he takes his own life. It becomes apparent to the characters of the story (as well as the reader, who has had the general idea the whole time) that the one orchestrating the tragedy was Iago.
I have included a lot of images of the character Iago, as I'm sure the bright reader will have noticed. There is a perfectly good reason for that. For a while now I think the play should have another name, or at least a sort of "sub-title", as Iago is the lead character, I think. Had there not been Iago, Othello would have married Desdemona and lived happily ever after, and the play would have ended with a wedding ( I mentioned in an earlier post that a tragedy ended in death, a comedy ended in a wedding and the historic plays have their previous historic ending...often a tragic one, except for HenryV that ends in a marriage...and a sonnet with grim prospects for what's to come
A very young Kenneth Branagh here...).
After Desdemona sings her Willow-tree-song she prepares for her husband to come home and take her life. She's seventeen, but she knows. She pleads for her life, but it is no good. She dies, and at that moment Othello wakes up, and ends his pain (this is a very common way of dealing with pain, apparently, kill oneself.). Now, take a look at his last words, the poetry is that of the eternal kind.
Othello's last words: I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee: - no way but this, (falling upon Desdemona) Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.