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Othello Introduction

A brief introduction to reading Othello
by

Jami Martin

on 15 January 2013

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Transcript of Othello Introduction

Othello Some important things to know
before reading Basic Plot and Themes Important Things to Know About Shakespeare's Plays The Globe Theatre When seeing a play, you must willingly suspend your disbelief One Last Important Thing Before We Start Reading... Themes Continued Relationship Woes Themes Before the play begins First stop: Venice Cyprus Next Stop: Cyprus Setting As one of the world’s leading sea powers, Venice was the center of commercialism and materialism making it a place for corruption and conflict arising from social status and fierce competition. Othello soon gets transferred to Cyprus to help defend against the Turks. Cyprus was a strategically located island
which also yielded substantial harvests. Othello, a Moor, has just secretly eloped with Desdemona.
This is a big deal because they're of different races and Desdemona's father would never have approved this marriage. Iago is mad at Othello for passing him over for a promotion and choosing Cassio instead.
Roderigo is in love with Desdemona so he also hates Othello.
Iago decides to get revenge on Othello by making him believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. The Power of Jealousy:
Iago's jealousy causes him to go to extreme lengths to destroy Othello.
Roderigo's jealousy causes him to blindly follow Iago in his plan.
The Existence of Racism:
Othello's status as a black-skinned foreigner in Venice marks him as an outsider and exposes him to some pretty overt racism.
Desdemona's father even believes his daughter's interracial marriage can only be the result of Othello's trickery. Developing One's Identity:
Shakespeare explores factors that play an important role in the formations of one's identity.
race, gender, social status, family relationships, military service, etc.
The play is also concerned with how an individual's sense of identity (which can break down and be manipulated by others) shapes his or her actions. Willing Suspension of Disbelief is a crucial part of the implied contract between theatre audiences and theatrical actors.
It means exactly what it sounds like, as a member of the audience: some things in the play may seem unreal or even absurd to you. To properly enjoy the play as an art form, you cannot question whether these things can or cannot happen, you must just accept them as such. Shakespeare does not slowly introduce you to all the characters and their back-story. He drops you right in the middle of the action and leaves it up to you to figure out what is going on.
This is a literary technique called in media res (in latin it means in the middle of things)
This means that the author begins his work at a crucial situation in the action.
What happened to lead up to this event is usually told through flashbacks or character explanation later in the play or literary work. Time Period Takes place sometime between 1489 and 1571.
Othello was first performed by the King’s Men on November 1, 1604. The Globe was one of four major theatres in the area,
along with the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope.
The open-air, octagonal amphitheater rose three stories high
with a diameter of approximately 100 feet, holding
a seating capacity of up to 3,000 spectators.
The rectangular stage platform on which the plays were performed
was nearly 43 feet wide and 28 feet deep.
This staging area probably housed trap doors in its flooring and
primitive rigging overhead for various stage effects. The Audiences and Performances at the
Globe Theatre Performances were always done during the day since the actors needed the light from the sun.
Your social ranking and wealth affected where you would sit.
The poorest people would pay a penny to stand and watch the play, they were often referred to as groundlings.
The more wealthy people could purchase a seat in one of the gallery levels.

Let's take a tour of the theatre: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/about-us/virtual-tour
Full transcript