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Description : If anything, Othello has increased its stature as one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies ever since it was first written, between 1603 and 1604, due to the victimisation suffered by its tragic hero, Othello, as a result of his skin colour. Othello is a “noble Moor”, a North African Muslim who has converted to Christianity and is deemed one of the Venetian state’s most reliable soldiers. However, his ensign Iago harbours an obscure hatred against his general, and when Othello secretly marries the beautiful daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio, Iago begins his subtle campaign of vilification, which will inevitably lead to the deaths of more than just Othello and Desdemona.
An extraordinary play, both for its dramatic economy and power as well as its remarkable language, from Othello’s bombastic “traveller’s history” to Desdemona’s elegiac “willow song”, the play raises uncomfortable questions about ongoing questions of not only racial identity but also sexuality, as Othello and Desdemona’s sexual relationship becomes the voyeuristic site of Iago’s attempt to destroy them. Particularly fascinated with the question of what it means to “see”, Othello also contains one of the greatest tragic death scenes in all of Shakespeare, with Othello’s final identification with “a malignant and a turbaned Turk”. —Jerry Brotton