Transcript of Othello Newspaper
Wednesday, November 18, 1604
- BREAKING NEWS -
KILLED BY JEALOUSY
The newlyweds, (Desdemona, left; Othello, right), shortly after swapping vows in Venice.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, CYPRUS
Venic and Cyprus are in mourning today after loosing both their brave general Othello and his wife Desdemona in a terrible domestic incident.
Witnesses say a general of the Venetian army smothered his 23-year-old wife of only a few hours, Desdemona, in their marriage bedchamber. The newlywed couple had been residing on the island for only a day or two when the husband, Othello, age 34, entered his wife’s bedroom and murdered her. Before police could arrest him, he took his life with his own sword, dying over the body of his wife. Cyprus, which had just avoided a major battle against the Turks, is now reeling in the aftershock of this massive scandal.
Iago, the Venetian general's ancient, escaped the crime scene after murdering his wife, Emilia. Police later arrested him. He is being held for questioning in the case of Othello and Desdemona.
Desdemona, shortly after arriving at Cyprus. This would be the last picture taken of her alive.
However, the tragedy of this story runs much deeper. Before his death, Othello stabbed his closest associate, Iago, who had been proven to be the one who created the "uncircumcised dog" that killed Desdemona. Though police continue to piece together evidence, it seems clear that Iago played a greater role than any of Othello's acquaintances could have known. "His wife, Emilia," said Lodovico, "was confessing Iago's crimes as she figured out the clues. He kept telling her to shut up, but she refused. So he killed her." When asked about the crimes Iago was guilty of, Lodovico continued, "It appears that he orchestrated the whole murder. He told Othello that Desdemona was having an affair with none other than Michael Cassio."
"Desdemona was a proper lady, but she belonged solely to Othello, "Cassio said in response to the allegations of the affair. "I had no interest in her, but even if I did, she would never have stepped out on her husband."
Othello, who had enjoyed a successful career as a Venetian army general, has been buried in a cemetery outside Venice after a troubling murder-suicide in which he strangled his wife. The general was well liked and admired by his men; his reputation as a level-headed, confident leader preceded him. "His only enemies were the Turks, or anyone on the opposite side of the battle field," reported his ex-ancient Michael Cassio. "No one thought badly of him until recently. Now we're all struggling to keep his good reputation in tact." Others who witnessed the crime scene seemed shocked by the entire ordeal. "He loved Desdemona so dearly! There wasn't a single person who suspected otherwise."
She may have been happy, but clearly something was amiss in the relationship. Lodovico, a cousin to Desdemona, was the only person who offered evidence of problems between the couple: "He hit her once. He did it in front of me. She hadn't done anything to deserve it, and he treated her very badly. He seemed angry, but he never said why."
When friends of the couple were asked about this alleged domestic abuse, no one mentioned other incidents. "He would never hurt her! Well, that's what I thought—what we all thought—before this," said Cassio.
One thing all the witnesses can agree on is this: Othello was under extreme mental stress at the time of the murder. Reportedly, before the general stabbed himself to death, he addressed those present and gave an explanation for all that had taken place. He claimed his love for Desdemona was not wise, but "too well." His suicide he described as the killing of an uncircumcised dog, and a malignant and turbaned Turk; this metaphor has been said to refer to a "dark side" of himself, and therefore his death was also the end to his evil other half.
It seems Othello was deceived by Iago, which led to the untimely death of Desdemona. Iago was not available to comment on the allegations, as he was being treated for a stab wound. Iago is charged with second-degree murder for the cold-hearted slaying of his wife, Emilia; other charges are expected to follow, as links have been made between Iago and Desdemona's death, as well as the recent murder of another man, Roderigo, and the injury of Michael Cassio just before Desdemona was murdered. However, there is speculation that the death penalty will not be sought in this case, as Othello himself stated before his own death, "I'd have thee live; for in my sense, 'tis happiness to die."
"I didn't approve of Othello stabbing Iago, which is why I ordered his sword to be taken away," said Lodovico. "However, there wasn't one person in that room who did not want to stab Iago at that point."
A thorough investigation is taking place throughout Cyprus. Though Othello has already been buried in a private ceremony near Venice, a burial service for Desdemona has yet to be arranged.
Desdemona, the beloved daughter of the recently-deceased local senator, Brabantio, eloped with the Moorish general, Othello, only days before she was found murdered in her bed. Her friends say that she was completely enraptured by him. "Oh, she was heavenly true," one woman said of Desdemona. "The Moor secretly courted her, and they must have eloped sometime over the weekend," said another. Her father certainly was not pleased with the marriage (in fact, many say the heartbreak killed him), but Desdemona seemed so happy!"
I wish a less creepy picture of Othello could have been provided.
Zoe Ingram 11B
Throughout this unit of 'Communication and Conflict in Drama' we have been studying one of Shakespeare's unique play called Othello' this unit links in with 'Identities and Realtionships' as our global context. The play is a romantic tragedy. Othello tells the story of a powerful general of the Venetian army, Othello, whose life and marriage are ruined by a conniving, deceitful, and envious soldier, Iago. For this newspaper I have decided to write about the last scene - Act 5, Scene 2. The reason for this choice is because there are multiple events/actions that showcase an understanding/reasoning of the whole play and the result of it.
My newspaper begins with a bold headline 'Killed by Jealousy' linked to Othello's killing of Desdemona, he's growing jealousy maddens him past the recall of reason. Upon seeing that she was innocent and that he killed her unjustly, Othello recovers. He can again see his life in proportion and grieve at the terrible thing he has done. Once again, he speaks with calm rationality, judging and condemning and finally executing himself. Thoughout my newspaper article I have added in images, alongside quotations to link into my report. Finally, I have added in conversation from close friends/relatives from the play to show their individual opinions on what they saw in Othello and the incident.
'Identities and relationships' - human nature and human dignity; moral reasoning and ethical judgment; consciousness and mind. Therefore, it links into this scene as it demonstrates a good image of heightened conflict. This is further shown through Iago's reveal of his true identity which, later results in many break throughs in relationships, with both Othello and Desdemona in specific.
"Othello is, perhaps, the greatest work in the world," wrote that famous man of letters Thomas Macaulay. And nothing, I think, has happened in the century since to alter his verdict. Giraldo Cinthio's story of the Moor of Venice, his ensign Iago and his wife Desdemona has, in fact, been the source of several superlatives: it gave us Rossini's Otello, his finest serious opera; it gave us the best of all Italian opera libretti (by Arrigo Boito), which, when set to music by Verdi, became the supreme Italian tragic opera of the Romantic century; and it gave us Shakespeare's unequaled, Baroque-styled drama (as distinguished from his Renaissance plays like Romeo and Richard II, and from his Mannerist plays like Hamlet and Lear). It gives us now another superlative--the production of Shakespeare's masterpiece that has inaugurated the third season of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre. I have seen some seven or eight Othello productions over the years, and this far surpasses all the others.
What is Othello about? Sexual jealousy, most people will say at once. True, but it is also a play about miscegenation, about reason and passion, about different personal approaches to good and evil, about inferiority and superiority complexes, about the interaction of two kinds of unusual egoist, and about many other things. There is a whole universe in this play.
The Festival Theatre's artistic director, John Houseman, served as the director of this production. Clearly understanding the special demands of the play, he has avoided all the major pitfalls and most of the minor ones. For the constructive plan of Othello, Shakespeare's most masterly, and most daring, occurs nowhere else in the playwright's works. Othello lacks the usual extraneous trappings and non-essentials. We do not have here scenes of tension or conflict alternating with scenes of "comic relief"; nor do we have any separate sub-plots. Everything is directly related to the main current of the drama. Once Iago begins to poison Othello's mind, the play moves slowly, unswervingly and unalterably to the final catastrophe like a runaway steamroller grinding down a hill. But the conflict between Iago and Othello (if we can call it a conflict, for it is a battle in which one of the two combatants does not realize there is a battle at all, except within himself) does not start at once. Iago's scheme has a long incubation period, which we in the audience watch with suspense until it bursts out and sweeps us along with it. Now this incubation is hidden from the others on stage; so Shakespeare skilfully wrought a preliminary though related conflict between Othello and his father-in-law Brabantio.
Houseman has come up with a superb example of living theatre, a production of tremendous impact and impetus. The marvelous characteristically Baroque drive and momentum are there, thanks in part to the right pace throughout. To this end he has wisely allowed only one ten-minute intermission. And he insisted that there be no pause or lowering of curtain between scenes, a demand that fortunately Rouben Ter-Aruntunian's ingeniously mobile slatted sets and a precision-drilled stage crew have been able to meet. He moves his cast fluidly over the stage and the apron that projects into the audience; his blocking of characters is imaginative and tastefully unmechanical; and the "stage business" and byplay are always meaningful.S
I regret, however, that Houseman succumbed to the temptation of "improving" the play by cutting, although there are fewer cuts than one normally finds. A museum director does not crop a Rembrandt painting to fit the space on the wall; nor do music publishers and performers "correct" Beethoven's and Chopin's "mistakes" as they used to. We should be allowed to judge a play just as the author left it, without the benefit of the director's superior insight as to how it ought to have been written. And, of all Shakespeare's plays, Othello is the one that most unhappily suffers cutting. The playing-time of this production is 165 minutes; the restoration of all the cuts would make the total running-time about three hours. Surely audiences now accustomed to four-hour movies and O'Neill plays can take three hours of Shakespeare. Hamlet, a much longer work than Othello, was given at Harvard this season without a single cut, and without any intermission whatever, with good results. So, at an institution exclusively devoted to Shakespeare, let's have him with both ears, with ten fingers and with ten toes.
The Othello of this production is Earle Hyman, whom local playgoers will recall for his excellent work during the past year in Saint Joan and Waiting for Godot. He is ideal for the role, if perhaps still a bit young. Handsome and six-feet-three, he properly cuts a figure of great physical and moral stature. A rich, sonorous voice is complemented by an extraordinarily expressive face as, going from calm imperiousness through tormenting doubts and jealousy to become a tragically pitiful uxoricide, the Devil's agent Iago gradually wreaks the havoc of his human lord and the heavenly Desdemona (see cuts on page 10).
Hyman has played this role with the Shakespearewrights in New York and at the Antioch Festival in Ohio; it is obvious from his present performance that he has lived with the role a long time and knows exactly what he is doing. Most Othellos make the mistake of getting enraged too soon; consequently as the play progresses they try to bellow and shriek ever more loudly until the limit of intelligibility has been left far behind. But Hyman is careful to adjust to the big time scale of this process, so that the proper prolonged Beethovenian crescendo results. For, contrary to the popular conception, Othello is not by nature disposed toward jealousy: he is "one not easily jealous, but being wrought perplex'd in the extreme." He says of his wife, for example, "I'll tear her all to pieces." Most actors would here face the balcony and bellow their guts out. But Hyman, realizing that at this point in the drama Iago has not yet fully drawn out Othello's latent bestiality, delivers the line at medium volume and with his back to the audience! But he underscores the thought by extending his right hand overhead and pulling it down to his side like a claw grating on glass. That is real artistry; the effect is electric. And he makes the most of the poetry in the role; for, although a soldier, Othello is the most poetic of all Shakespeare's heroes, including Hamlet. Just as Richard Burbage was the great Othello of Shakespeare's day, David Garrick the great Othello of the 18th century and Tommaso Salvini of the 19th century, Earle Hyman bids fair to be the great Othello of our century.
Now it is possible to have a good Hamlet almost in vacuo. But a good Othello is impossible without a good Iago, and vice versa. Alfred Drake shows here that he can excel in something besides musical comedy. He brings a welcome restrained maturity to the role, and we are spared the moustache-twirling, eyeball-rolling villain. Instead of black garb with cape, how refreshing to see Iago in a series of brown costumes! Although he occasionally indulges in too studied a pose, he handles his lines with nuanced variety, often spitting them out rapidly in keeping with Iago's lightning-quick intellect. But more than that, we sense the Machiavellianism where it belongs--inside Iago's mind--even when he is just lurking silently on the sidelines. It would be easier to externalize his deviltry entirely, but it would be wrong. To the personages of the drama, Iago must seem honest; otherwise Othello becomes a stupid idiot (which he is not), to say nothing of Iago's own wife, Emilia, who only at the very end learns the true nature of her spouse. Drake is right to look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't.
Jacqueline Brookes is fine as Desdemona, "the sweetest innocent that e'er did lift up eye." Her handling of the moments when she is slapped and bewhored by Othello is deeply affecting, and her dying words most touching. Olive Deering does well as the loose Bianca. But Sada Thompson's Emilia is too Desdemona-like; she ought to be sharply contrasted with her mistress--less refined, more common and blunt, at times even vulgar. I suspect the result would have been better if the Misses Thompson and Deering had exchanged roles.
Richard Waring's dupable Cassio is convincing. But it is a mistake for him to be clean-shaven, since Iago makes a pointed reference to his beard. As the love-sick, not-too-bright Roderigo, Richard Easton indulges in the right amount of humor, even incorporating a few Harpo Marxian mannerisms. He properly appears with clean face at the beginning of the play; but, after Iago tells him to disguise his baby-face and increase the manliness of his appearance with "an usurped beard," he should of course don false whiskers for the rest of the drama.
Stanley Bell (who is the eighteenth generation in a line of actors going back to a member of Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre troupe) speaks clearly, but he makes the Duke of Venice far too young. The Duke has a marriageable daughter; and, in Bell's conception, his daughter could not be out of elementary school yet. Larry Gates, Kendall Clark, John Colicos and Jack Bittner are commendable in their supporting roles. In fact, one of the virtues of this company is that everyone has good diction; there are no harsh vowels or dropped consonants.
Rouben Ter-Aruntunian's costumes are stunning. And Jean Rosenthal has contrived gorgeous lighting, including the unobtrusively judicious use of a "follow spot"; the lighting is by no means realistic, but rather underlines the shifting moods of the drama. Virgil Thomson's trumpet calls and occasional tenuous sound effects add virtually nothing.
All in all, despite its few minor flaws, this is a lustrous production of "the greatest work in the world" and ought not to be missed. The drive from Harvard Square to the air-conditioned Stratford Theatre at legal speeds takes just a little over three hours if one uses the new Massachusetts Turnpike and takes Exit 53 from the Wilbur Cross Parkway after New Haven. And the curtain always rises on the dot.
Performances of Othello will continue the rest of the summer, with The Merchant of Venice joining the schedule on July 10 and Much Ado About Nothing on August 3.
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