About the Author
Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.
Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.
Date of Death:2018
Place of Birth:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Place of Death:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
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Cambridge University Press
0521618762 - Othello - Edited by Jane Coles
List of characters
|OTHELLO||A black army general in the service of the Duke of Venice|
|DESDEMONA||Othello's wife, daughter of Brabantio|
|IAGO||Othello's ensign (standard-bearer)|
|EMILIA||Iago's wife, companion to Desdemona|
|BIANCA||in love with Cassio|
|BRABANTIO||A Venetian senator, father of Desdemona|
|RODERIGO||A Venetian gentleman, in love with Desdemona|
|MONTANO||Governor of Cyprus|
|Senators of Venice|
|Gentlemen of Cyprus|
|CLOWN||Servant to Othello|
|Musicians, soldiers, attendants, servants|
The action of the play takes place in Venice and Cyprus.
Two men are in the middle of an argument. Roderigo accuses Iago of cheating him. Iago is angry about failing to gain the promotion that has gone instead to Michael Cassio.
1 A dramatic opening (in pairs)
In the theatres of Shakespeare's time there was no electric lighting and no stage curtain. The playwright had to signal the start of the play by means of a dramatic opening scene. Here, the noisy audience would be silenced by two men in the middle of a heated argument, with much swearing.
- Read this opening conversation (lines 1-34) aloud. Try reading it in several different ways to find which way sounds best. Discuss which words in the script gave you clues as to how it should be spoken.
- Film and theatre directors have chosen various ways in which to begin the play (see pp. 240-1 for a detailed activity exploring some of these). Think about ways in which you might want to set the scene, how you might have actors enter the stage, and what sound and lighting effects might suggest a street at night.
- The play opens half-way through an argument. Make up what you think Iago and Roderigo have been saying before the play begins. End your dialogue on the first line of the play.
2 Michael Cassio - why does Iago dislike him?
Iago explains why he believes he has not been promoted to the rank of lieutenant (lines 8-27). Look carefully at the way Iago describes Cassio (lines 19-26) and pick out four key phrases which suggest why Iago is jealous of him.
Othello, the Moor of Venice
Act 1 Scene 1
Venice A street at night
| Enter RODERIGO and IAGO. |
RODERIGO Tush, never tell me, I take it much unkindly
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
As if the strings were thine shouldst know of this.
IAGO 'Sblood, but you will not hear me.
If ever I did dream of such a matter,
| Abhor me. |
RODERIGO Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.
IAGO Despise me if I do not: three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capped to him; and by the faith of man,
| I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. |
But he, as loving his own pride and purposes,
Evades them with a bombast circumstance,
Horribly stuffed with epithets of war,
And in conclusion,
| Non-suits my mediators. For 'Certes', says he, |
'I have already chosen my officer.'
And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
| A fellow almost damned in a fair wife, |
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the devision of a battle knows
More than a spinster, unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the togèd consuls can propose
| As masterly as he. Mere prattle without practice |
Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election,
Iago continues to complain about 'the Moor' and the system of promotion. He says he pretends to be a faithful officer, but follows Othello only to serve his own purposes.
1 First impressions of Iago (in small groups)
Read the page of script aloud several times, sharing out the lines.
On a large plain piece of paper, write IAGO in the centre (see the diagram below) and collect together any key things Iago seems to say about himself. Include anything that reveals something about his character or motivation. On the outer layer of the diagram explain in your own words what you believe each quotation might indicate about him.
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When you have finished, join together with other groups and compare your sheet with theirs. Explain how and why you chose your particular words/phrases/lines.
Pool your ideas to produce one final diagram for display on your classroom wall.
| And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof |
At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds
Christian and heathen, must be lee'd and calmed
| By debitor and creditor; this counter-caster, |
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
And I, God bless the mark, his Moorship's ancient.
RODERIGO By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman.
IAGO Why, there's no remedy. 'Tis the curse of service;
| Preferment goes by letter and affection, |
Not by the old gradation, where each second
Stood heir to the first. Now sir, be judge yourself
Whether I in any just term am affined
To love the Moor.
RODERIGO I would not follow him then.
|IAGO O sir, content you. |
I follow him to serve my turn upon him.
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
| That doting on his own obsequious bondage, |
Wears out his time much like his master's ass
For nought but provender, and when he's old, cashiered.
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are
Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty,
| Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves, |
And throwing but shows of service on their lords,
Do well thrive by them; and when they have lined their coats,
Do themselves homage. These fellows have some soul,
And such a one do I profess myself.
| For, sir, |
It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago;
In following him, I follow but myself.
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
| But seeming so for my peculiar end. |
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
|For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.|
Iago suggests a way of taking revenge against Othello. They shout in the street outside Brabantio's house, and tell him the news that he has been 'robbed'.
1 'BRABANTIO [appears] above at a window ' (in pairs)
Turn to page 186, where you will find an illustration of an Elizabethan theatre. It has a deep 'thrust' stage, with two exits at the back and a balcony above. Some of the audience stood crammed in 'the pit' (the 'groundlings'), others sat in tiers of seating around the walls, and a few even sat on the stage.
Talk together about how you would stage lines 68-93:
- on the Elizabethan stage
- on a modern acting space.
Think about use of lighting, and any props which seem appropriate.
2 Iago's role (in groups of three)
Take parts and read lines 68-143 (to 'Light, I say, light!'). Notice the differences in the way the three characters speak. Do Iago and Roderigo take an equal share in giving information to Brabantio? Now look more closely at the way Iago speaks:
- Identify each occasion on which Iago uses the imperative form of a verb (lines 68-74).
- Find any times Iago uses animal imagery between lines 68 and 92. What kind of animals are they and what are they doing? (This activity is continued on p. 8.)
- On the previous page Iago has talked a good deal about himself - count how many times he uses the first-person pronoun in approximately ten lines of script (see lines 57-66).
Discuss what Shakespeare's use of language suggests about Iago and his relationship with the other men at this point in the play.
|RODERIGO What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe, |
If he can carry it thus!
IAGO Call up her father:
Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight,
Proclaim him in the street, incense her kinsmen,
| And though he in a fertile climate dwell, |
Plague him with flies: though that his joy be joy,
Yet throw such chances of vexation on't
As it may lose some colour.
RODERIGO Here is her father's house; I'll call aloud.
|IAGO Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell, |
As when, by night and negligence, the fire
Is spied in populous cities.
RODERIGO What ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!
IAGO Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves!
| Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags! |
BRABANTIO [appears] above at a window.
BRABANTIO What is the reason of this terrible summons?
What is the matter there?
RODERIGO Signior, is all your family within?
|IAGO Are your doors locked? |
BRABANTIO Why, wherefore ask you this?
IAGO Zounds, sir, you're robbed; for shame, put on your gown;
Your heart is burst; you have lost half your soul;
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise;
| Awake the snorting citizens with the bell, |
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.
Arise, I say!
Brabantio suspects the two men are drunk. He learns Roderigo's name, but not Iago's. Iago obscenely tells him that Desdemona and Othello are having sexual intercourse and that his descendants will be mere animals.
Read through the script on pages 7 and 9. Identify any references to animals or insects in the dialogue. It may help you to know that a 'Barbary horse' is a North African breed, 'coursers' are racehorses, and 'jennets' are a breed of small Spanish horse.
Write down which characters make the comments, and what significance the choice of each animal image carries for you. Discuss what effect this choice of language might be intended to have. You will find further examples of this type of imagery on page 229.
2 Verse and prose
Brabantio and Roderigo speak in verse. When Iago interjects (at line 109), the script switches to prose. Read 'Verse and prose' on page 228, then suggest why Shakespeare gives Iago prose here.
3 A different perspective (in pairs)
Imagine you are two servants in Brabantio's house, intrigued by the commotion outside. What can you make of the rag-bag of information shouted by the two men in the street? Improvise a 'below-stairs' scene between the two servants.
|BRABANTIO What, have you lost your wits? |
RODERIGO Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?
BRABANTIO Not I; what are you?
|RODERIGO My name is Roderigo. |
BRABANTIO The worser welcome;
I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors;
In honest plainness thou hast heard me say
My daughter is not for thee. And now in madness,
Being full of supper and distempering draughts,
| Upon malicious bravery dost thou come |
To start my quiet.
RODERIGO Sir, sir, sir -
BRABANTIO But thou must needs be sure
My spirit and my place have in them power
To make this bitter to thee.
RODERIGO Patience, good sir.
|BRABANTIO What tell'st thou me of robbing? This is Venice; |
My house is not a grange.
RODERIGO Most grave Brabantio,
In simple and pure soul I come to you.
IAGO Zounds, sir; you are one of those that will not serve God if the devil bid you. Because we come to do you service and you think we are ruffians, you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans.
|BRABANTIO What profane wretch art thou? |
IAGO I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
|BRABANTIO Thou art a villain. |
IAGO You are a senator.
Roderigo tells Brabantio that Desdemona has run away to live with Othello. Brabantio leaves to check if the story is true, saying he has already dreamt of such a happening.
1 Desdemona's flight (in groups of three)
Read Roderigo's report of Desdemona's secret departure from home (lines 119-36).
Mime her flight, using captions taken from Roderigo's story. Share your version with the rest of the class.
2 '. . . a gross revolt' (in small groups)
Desdemona has run away from home to marry a man of whom her father disapproves. There are several of Shakespeare's plays in which young people rebel against their parents' wishes (most famously Romeo and Juliet). Generally speaking, in Shakespeare's comedies the young people are eventually forgiven; in tragedies the situation ends with disaster for them.
Talk together about other stories you have read or films you have seen which include a similar plot element. How is the family split resolved in those stories?
3 Word association (in pairs)
In lines 119-39 Roderigo refers to Desdemona in positive terms (e.g. 'fair'), whereas he uses derogatory language to refer to Othello (e.g. 'gross clasps'). Identify all words/phrases he uses to talk about Othello and Desdemona. Discuss with your partner why you think he makes this distinction.
© Cambridge University Press
Table of Contents
List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations and conventions; Introduction: Date; Sources; Othello's race; The plot and its inconsistencies; The play and its critics; The language of the play; Stage history; Criticism and productions of Othello since 1984 by Scott McMillin; Note on the text; List of characters; THE PLAY; Supplementary notes; Textual analysis; Reading list.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This review is not of Othello itself (which is tremendously good), but rather on this edition of Othello (ISBN: 9781411400399), which was edited by Daniel Vitkus and David Scott Kastan. I read a lot of heavily annotated books, and I have to say that the Barnes & Noble Shakespeare editions have one of the best book designs I've ever encountered. The various references materials (footnotes and definitions for archaic words) appear in a manner that makes the text very easy to follow. The scholarship is also top-notch. The annotations give you enough to make things clear without insulting your intelligence, or without overburdening you with unnecessary detail. The essays are also interesting and informative. I've been avoiding Shakespeare ever since high school, which was many years ago. Now that I'm reading him again, I'm glad I'm in such good hands. It is making the experience a joy, rather than a chore. My compliments to the editors and the book designer. They have done a superior job of making this difficult text accessible to the modern reader. Highly recommended.
Why give samples of books if the sample is only the introduction or publishers notes? It gives no sample of the actual story itself, so you have no way of knowing how the story is written to see if you understand it. Very annoying.
The story of Othello is one of Shakespeare's best: Iago is the ultimate antagonist you love to hate. On the one hand, it is fascinating to watch him plot, scheme and set his traps. On the other, you are appalled at how quickly Othello turns on his new wife, just on the word of Iago. Shakespeare is the master! The Folger edition is also a classic. These are the editions I bought as a student, and now that I'm teaching Shakespeare, I was delighted that this was the edition my students requested. The edition combines the Folio version and the Quarto version, indicating those words unique to one version. My (middle school) students enjoy the plot summaries at the beginning of each scene and the definitions of unfamiliar words on the left hand page. Definitely a book to keep in your library.
I absolutely loved Othello. The love between Othello and Desdemona was beyond comprehension. Shakespeare uses beautiful metaphores and use of language that makes us believe the beauty of love, power of hatred and most of all, jealousy. My all time favorite villain is Iago. Shakespeare gives this particular character its own world. The multiple personality of Iago is very frightening that leads to a great tragedy of this play. Throughout the play, Iago builds his way up to the top and explodes leaving his good side behind. A true Shakespeare classic that will never leave your heart.
This is a good book for those who are somewhat familiar with the works of Shakespeare as it provided translation to some of the text (but not all). The beginning gives good insight into Shakespeare.
This play was absolutely amazing. It definitely teaches you the result of jealousy without "ocular proof". A great read. I zoomed by it so fast... finished it in two days. Amazing amazing amazing. This addition is absolutely perfect for Shakespeare beginners. :))) Whoever said his plays were a bore?
Yes, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth are indeed more famous plays, but Othello deserves more recognition! It's a delightfully convoluted plot, and the characters are so believable. Plus, the dialogue is beautiful, and it deals with a problem relevant to today's society:racism. So, yeah, read this play.
The play itself was rich as expected. It is the informative background provided by the Folger edition that allows for a more satisfying experience.
Iago is EVIL! Just sayin'. Iago is the serpent of Genesis 3 in human form. He is possibly the most evil character of all of literature. Which is why this play is so amazing! I saw this performed on stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but this is the first time I have ever read the play. It was good to have the visual picture of the blond haired Iago on the black background of the stage with the big, burly, black Othello contrasted on the white part of the stage, and the shift in the colors and lights when Iago gets a hold of Othello's ear. Chilling. I remember all of us who had attended the play sitting, unnerved at the end. It reaches to your heart . . . and rips it out.I think Shakespeare was meant to be heard. So, I listened to this unabridged dramatic version while following along on my Kindle. The host of actors in this were superb. Here is the cast: Othello, The Moor, a general in the service of Venice ¿ Hugh QuarshieDesdemona, a daughter to Brabantio, and wife to Othello ¿ Emma FieldingIago, his ancient, a villain ¿ Anton LesserEmilia, wife to Iago ¿ Patience TomlinsonCassio, his honourable lieutenant/2nd senator ¿ Roger MayBianca, a courtesan, in love with Cassio ¿ Alison PettitDuke of Venice/2nd Gentleman/Herald ¿ Roy SpencerBrabantio, senator, father to Desdemona/3rd Gentleman/Gratiano, brother to Brabantio ¿ Peter YappRoderigo, a Venetian gentleman/1st Gentleman/Sailor (I,iii) ¿ John McAndrewLodovico, kinsman to Brabantio/1st Musician/1st Senator/Messenger (III) ¿ Stephen ThorneMontano, Governor of Cyprus before Othello/Messenger (I,iii)/Clown ¿ Jonathan Keeble
Setting: This play reflects on the love Othello has for his wife on the island of CyprusPlot: Othello's jealous servant Iago schemes to come between the Moor and Desdemona and nearly succeeds.Characters: Othello (protagonist)- a Moor, general in Venice; Desdemona- Othello's wife; Iago (antagonist)- Othello's scheming servant; Cassio- a soldierSymbols: the handkerchiefCharacteristics: a major tragedyResponse: I understood better the performance by reading the play. I also appreciated Shakespeare's clever insights into human nature through all his characters especially Iago.
One of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Had the privilege of playing Desdemona; being in a Shakespeare play really gives you such a feel for what he's trying to convey. As is frequently noted, his messages and metaphors never seem to fade with time. Beautiful.
This is a sad story.Everyone in this story is very poor.Without crying, you can't read this book.
I read Othello in college and really enjoyed it! Even wrote a ten page paper on the motives of Iago. I have actually never "met" a Shakespeare play that I didn't like.
Othello, a moor from Africa, is a well-loved and respected Venetian nobleman. After the beautiful Desdemona falls in love with him, the two wed in secret. Their blissful existence is thrown into chaos as Iago, Othello's personal attendant, begins to plant doubts of Desdemona¿s faithfulness in Othello¿s mind. Iago is one of the most conniving and depraved characters I¿ve ever read. His cold calculating nature is sociopathic. He feels that Othello has slighted him and sets his mind to destroying his life. He moves each pawn to further his plan, all the while maintaining his alleged devotion to Othello and poisoning his thoughts with rumors of jealousy. He does it in such a calm, unbothered way that it¿s all the more disturbing. The worst part of the whole things is that Othello is in the thralls of newly-wedded happiness. He and his wife Desdemona are so incredibly in love and then he acts as the tool for his own destruction. He is manipulated by someone else, but no one truly forces his hand. He allows himself to be persuaded to believe that worst about his wife and causes his own downfall by his lack of faith and trust. I loved the character of Emilia. She¿s Iago¿s wife, but she¿s also Desdemona¿s hand maid. She asks as a conscience for the players, holding them accountable when they have committed a wrong. She stands up for her lady¿s honor when others doubt it. Othello pulls no punches when it comes to the issues it touches on. It deals with marital abuse, racism, trust, jealousy and more. It gives readers a lot to chew on and would be a great book to discuss. I¿ve never seen this one performed live, but I¿m sure it would be incredibly powerful.
This is not my favorite Shakespeare play. I just find it so very sad. Sadder then the other tragedies. I can never get past Desdemona smothered to death. So, while this is great literature I simply cannot like it as it makes me too sad.
Not bad. Shakespeare once again shows his ability to take an age-old story and give it the Bard's Twist. However, I didn't like this story as much as Macbeth--where the magnificent Lady Macbeth helps push her husband to his crimes--nor did I like it as much as Hamlet--where the deep psychological issues rooted in Hamlet's character make him come to life in so many ways.Othello is an interesting character, but lacking in character and nobility.
Perhaps Shakespeare's best romance tragedy.
Whew!I've read this drama at least 3 times; in fact, I teach it every fall semester.I doubt my review will shed anymore life on this tragedy, so I'll go for the gist of it, and how I relate it to 16 year old I-Pod/internet/cellphone/sparknotes/cliff notes instilled with apathy and teenaged-drama inclined students:Iago is just plain wicked, amorally so; he has a real beef about Othello, a well-respected General who has passed him over for a lieutenant's position in favor of Cassio, who has very little if any military experience. Of course, such a choice flies into the face of Iago, and lights the fuse of his quest to destroy Othello.Iago employs that ol'human shortcoming of jealousy, and he does it very well. Iago knows that Othello is open, trusting, loyal, and faithful. These qualities Othello demonstrates to his friends as well as to Desdemona, his wife.From there Iago creates havoc at every turn; you would think early on after setting up Cassio in a brawl with a governor, resulting in Cassio losing his position, and Iago replaces him, that it would end all there, but noooooooooo! That's not good enough for Iago; he has to go to great lengths to manipulate all of those around him to bring Othello to a jealous pile of mush.Anyway, I think this tragedy is very revelant about Othello's racial difference among white society even by today's standards, and how instead of seeing the goodness in others we are only too inclined to not trust even if we have good qualities. Also, there are some real literary gems like "the beast with two backs" and other sexual innuendo which appeals to 16 year old hormonal instincts.Usually of course, I take the easy way out--since my students'attention spans are only geared toward the latest edition of Guitar Hero, I show the 1995 film version with Laurence Fishbourne and Kenneth Branaugh if the students find the actual study of the play or me too much.
Read this for A-Level English and really enjoyed it. I love the story of Othello - my favourite Shakespeare as of yet.Iago is one of the best villains I have ever read - I absolutely loathe him but he is so fascinating. People who can manipulate you psychologically like that, tap into people's weaknesses and use them against people - truly very fascinating.
Beware you are entering heresy: Not one of Bill's best. It was a drag to finsih, Iago's actions seem out of line with motivation, no great set speeches, few memorable lines and Othello's change of heart is too rapid. That said, Shakespeare was a working playwright and it is the academy that has enshrined all his work as great. The Folger Library edition was excellent.
too much talking, not enough happening. This is definitely a play that's better watched than read.
possibly my favorite Shakespeare play. betrayal. destruction. suicide. what more could you need? oh the epitome of artsy fartsy Mr. Shakespeare!
Loved this play from start to finish, thanks largely in part to Iago. His near flawless scheme against his general was absolutely brilliant. Shakespeare's language, is as eloquent as it is insightful, but that's unsurprising. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good tale of betrayal.
Othello is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. It stands beside Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear in this regard. Each of these works has its own 'personality' and in Othello this includes the prominence of the title character's antagonist. For it almost seems that this play could have been entitled Iago. Iago demonstrates a superior mind, coldly calculating and planning his actions to achieve his end, the usurpation of Othello. In this he appears to be completely evil. Othello, on the other hand, seems clueless and is easily manipulated. His innocence plays into the hands of Iago. There is much more in this complex drama, including two interesting and intelligent women in Desdemona and Emilia. Emilia stands out as a courageous woman who has been described by some as a "proto-feminist". The conflict between Iago and Othello is stark as Iago's schemes play out. It makes this one of Shakespeare's best plays.