(Cover picture courtesy of Monster Marketplace.)
One of the greatest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Othello tells the story of a Moorish general who earns the enmity of his ensign Iago when he passes him over for a promotion. Bleak and unsparing, this play offers a masterly portrait of an archvillain and an astute psychological study of the nature of evil. Explanatory footnotes.
Hmm, how does one review Shakespeare? Not easily, as it turns out. (This is my third attempt at doing a review for Othello.) So I’ll basically just discuss the play and my thoughts about it.
One thing I always have liked about Shakespeare is his characters. His characters are vibrant, complex beings that stick with you long after you’ve finished the play. Othello is one of them, but Iago is my favourite out of the whole play. He’s a fascinating character and his soliloquies are some of my favourites in all of Shakespeare’s plays. Iago’s interesting in that he doesn’t really have a concrete motive for hurting Othello. Is it because he’s miserable and wants other people to be miserable too? Could it be he’s jealous of Othello’s rank? Or does he see Othello’s good traits and want to turn them evil to bring Othello down to his own level? It’s certainly up for debate.
Desdemona is fascinating as well in her own way. She dared to love Othello, a black man, in a time when racism was completely socially acceptable. She even married Othello against the wishes of her father, which was extremely rare in those days even if you don’t consider the societal taboos on interracial marriages. In the end her only fault was trusting her new husband, the man she loved.
In some ways Othello is one of my favourite plays by Shakespeare not just because of the characters but that every scene advances the plot. There’s always a hint of what is to come maybe in a dialogue between two characters, Iago’s soliloquies or even just in the mood of the scene itself from the stage directions. I sped through Othello like I have with no other Shakespeare play and it’s one that I really enjoyed even though it was pretty easy to predict the ending.
As for this Dover Thrift Edition, it’s adequate but nothing more. There are notes about definitions of words that have changed over time but if you’re someone looking for an analysis of the play I’d recommend a different edition.
So overall? One of the best Shakespeare plays I’ve read so far.
I give this play 5/5 stars.