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"Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her!
Come, go with me apart; I will withdraw.
To furnish me with some swift means of death
For the fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant.
I am your own for ever.
Iago " Act III, scene iii

Written: 1604

Stratford Festival of Canada ; August 4, 2007 Stratford, Canada
Director : David Latham ; Starring :
Reviewed on : 2007-08-05 12:49:11 ; Reviewed by : Margarete Mandry

Othello has always been a play about the outsider and how his acceptance or exclusion from society affects not only him, but also those around him. The “Moor” is designated a hero, valiant and true, but never without the attached tag of “Moor”. And while he is praised for his military ability and promoted and invited to dinner, when he tries to join that society by marrying Desdemona, there’s resistance from her father who doesn’t want to welcome this outsider into his family.

Philip Akin’s Othello is like the proverbial football hero, all swagger and aptitude on the field, but definitely out of his element elsewhere. He believes all too easily in “honest” Iago’s lies and is quick to condemn Desdemona and Cassio with very little proof. He’s won Desdemona to marriage, approaching it like a battle with a certain outcome, and is moved to frenzy when her love is doubted. This, then, is the man “whom passion cannot shake.”

Jonathan Goad’s Iago is, by contrast, constant in his passionate hatred of Othello, for whom he feels he’s been passed over. For once, Iago’s motives and malevolence are palpably clear and Goad’s portrayal is a stunning portrait of deceit. To the very end he is unrepentant over the misery he has caused, as his aim was to discredit Othello and take from him all that Iago feels is undeserved-- his reputation, his position, the love and respect of his fellow soldiers, and his wife. His joy in the utter destruction of Othello is shocking, as is the lengths to which he will go, even discarding his friends and wife en route. The idea that he will use even his wife’s passion for him to achieve his ends is thoroughly revolting, while being at the same time, completely understandable.

The costumes also serve to reinforce the characterization of various persons. Desdemona is always in shades of white (purity), Iago in red for passion and evil, Othello in black. And yet when Othello is in deshabille, having just murdered his wife, it is as though his jealousy and madness is as pure and clear to see for all as his integrity was at the beginning. The vocal nuance of his “put out the light, and then put out the light” gives a different insight, in that even in his madness he seeks to hide the vicious murder of his wife.

So, is this a man “who loved not wisely but too well”? Is Shakespeare’s interpretation that passion engenders jealousy? The beauty of this production is that it seeks to answer this question, while still allowing some latitude for thought.

Sir John Gilbert, R.A.,
Othello and Iago

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