Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Birmingham & Royal Shakespeare Company's online course, Othello: In Performance. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Despite the fact that the play is called, “Othello, the Moor of Venice,” this play is about a number of different characters and their relationships with each other. Iago, for example, delivers 31% of the lines in comparison to Othello’s 25%. And ultimately it’s Iago, who drives the action of the play. So we’re going to hear now from some of the RSC’s current acting company, as they talk about the characters they portrayed on stage, and what they feel motivates those characters.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds LUCIAN MSAMATI: Iago for me is motivated by a love, by hate, and by jealousy, a real deep-seated bitter and broken jealousy. But it is the type of jealousy that can only be born out of extreme love.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second AYESHA DHARKER: In this version, the way I see the relationship between Emilia and Iago is that he is the centre of her universe. It’s already quite broken, completely broken. By the time we begin the journey with them, Iago really– I mean, she’s irrelevant in his world. I think she’s only there because Othello has asked for her to be there to care for Desdemona. But she, I think is in denial about how broken her relationship is with Iago, and is absolutely desperate to make herself relevant again.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds JOANNA VANDERHAM: In my opinion, the most important relationships for Desdemona– well, obviously her relationship with Othello. That’s mentioned before she even walks on stage. And then also her relationship with Cassio because that relationship is the one that comes into question and ultimately leads to her death.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 second HUGH QUARSHIE: Iago plays on the idea that it’s somehow unnatural for Desdemona to have fallen in love with Othello. But that must be offensive to somebody like Othello who is proof that actually going against nature, or going against convention is not the same as going against nature.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds JAMES CORRIGAN: It’s very easy describe Roderigo as gullible, or a fool. But there’s more to him than that. I think he’s very easily led. I think he craves exactly what Iago gives him. He craves sort of friendship and kinship and love and the other thing is also, he’s used to always being in a position of authority, because of what money gives him.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Well a huge thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts with us. Before we move on to look at places and settings, Dr. Nick Walton will be joining us to look more closely at the role of Iago. But hopefully in this section we’ve opened up some of the discussions around the other roles in the play and their significance to it.

Relationships and connections

In this video Jacqui joins the RSC acting company to think about the significant relationships between characters and each of their motivations in the play. As you watch consider:

  • What the most significant relationships in the play are.

Having watched you might also want to ask yourselves:

  • Does anything surprise you in the discussions you have heard?

  • What other relationships might need to be considered when talking about these characters’ motivations?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Othello: In Performance

University of Birmingham