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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: In 2015, Iqbal Kahn came to Stratford upon Avon to direct a new production of Othello in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. For those of you that are new to the play, we’re now going to hear from Iqbal as he explains what happens in Othello. And we’ll also hear from some of the actors he worked with all the current production as they tell us what Othello is about for them.

Skip to 0 minutes and 32 seconds IQBAL KHAN: Othello is a general tasked by the Venetian government to go and fight its wars in Cyprus. As the play begins, Othello has eloped with one of the Senate’s daughters, Desdemona. And there’s an enormous confrontation at the beginning where Brabantio claims that he’s stolen her by witchcraft. The Senate, however, find for Othello because they need him for his wars. And Desdemona goes with Othello to the wars in Cyprus. Iago, his sergeant plots he’s downfall and basically destroys his faith in Desdemona. And ultimately it ends with Othello taking the life of Desdemona.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds JAMES CORRIGAN: Othello is about love and what love can do to you. There are many, many instances where loving another person is such a powerful drive for certain characters that they’re led to do quite incredible things.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds LUCIAN MSAMATI: For me, Othello is about love, broken love, jealousy, betrayal, dishonesty, anger, hatred.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds JOANNA VANDERHAM: It is a tragedy but it is about two people who are very much in love and that love is challenged, and how they deal with that.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds HUGH QUARSHIE: I’m much more interested in the idea of the play being about a man’s sense of himself, a man’s identity, and also his sense of belonging. Who is this man? What is this man? Where does he belong? And these are the questions that he asks himself in the course of the play.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds AYESHA DHARKER: For me, Othello is about love and betrayal and identity, about the fragility of our view of the world.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Just listening to the many different responses from those involved in the current production, it’s so clear that Othello is a play that speaks to people in many, many different ways, and provokes lot of different reactions. Now that you’ve listened to Iqbal’s summary, and based on your own knowledge of the play, do you agree with what we’ve heard? What is Othello about for you? How do you think the play is different for us now? Next up, we’ll be hearing from Dr. [INAUDIBLE] and Dr. Abigail Rokison-Woodall. And they’ll be introducing the play in its time, in its context. And hopefully those insights will help you to think about the play’s significance for modern audiences.

About Othello

In this video Jacqui O’Hanlon introduces director Iqbal Khan as he summarises the events of the play, before asking the acting company to explain what Othello is ‘about’ for them.

As you watch consider:

  • Any connections between the different statements you have heard from the acting company about what the play is about.

  • Whether there are some elements of the play that come across more strongly.

Having watched you might also want to ask yourselves:

  • What do you think the play is about, based on the overview Iqbal offers and your own understanding of the text?

  • While the play is clearly about lots of different things, are some more prominent than others?

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This video is from the free online course:

Othello: In Performance

University of Birmingham