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Othello: In Performance

Explore how Othello has been performed and interpreted, from its original staging to the modern day, with this free online course.

6,387 enrolled on this course

Two actors from the RSC's production of Othello take in the applause from the audience on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

While Shakespeare’s Othello is studied and read all over the world, it was written to be staged and can only be fully understood as a play in performance.

Discover how Othello has been performed through time

On this free online course, designed with A-level learners in mind, you will discover how the performances and interpretations of Othello have evolved from its first performance in 1604 to the present day. You will find out what influenced performance choices then and now, and how specific themes within the text have been addressed at different moments in history.

After an introductory week looking at Othello as a whole, we will explore different themes and ideas each week:

  • The significance of race
  • The role of women
  • The form of tragedy

Ultimately, you will analyse the Royal Shakespeare Company’s most recent production of Othello, informed by your learning over the four weeks and exploring three specific scenes.

Learn from Othello actors, academics and directors

You will learn with leading experts, based in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford upon Avon, from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  • Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, will offer an overview of Othello, with insights from: Professor Michael Dobson of the Shakespeare Institute; RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and Director Iqbal Khan; and members of the 2015 RSC Acting Company, including Hugh Quarshie, Lucian Msamati and Joanna Vanderham. As part of this, we will explore what Othello is ultimately about, looking at people, places and perspectives.
  • Dr Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will discuss the issue of race in Othello, exploring critical responses to this idea, both in original performance and through its performance history before focussing on Act 1 Scene 1.
  • Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall from the Shakespeare Institute will look at the role of women in the play, uncovering the treatment of those roles in performance from 1604 to the present day, with an emphasis on Act 4 Scene 3, also known as the “Willow Scene”.
  • Dr Anjna Chouhan from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will explore Othello as a tragedy, looking in detail at the tragic journeys of the play’s characters and discussing the conclusion of the drama in Act 5 Scene 2.

Along the way, you’ll be able to debate the questions that the play raises - with both course educators and learners from around the world - and draw your own conclusions.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Thank you for your interest in our upcoming course, Othello in Performance, created by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the University of Birmingham, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. I’m Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of education at the RSC, and the lead educator for the course. So over this four week course, we’ll be exploring the many ways in which Othello has been performed and interpreted here at the RSC. In the first week, we’ll be introducing the play itself. Then, to help us think about the themes more deeply, Dr. Nick Walton will be joining us, in the second week, to explore the much debated theme of race in the play. Dr.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds Abigail Rokison-Woodall will then lead us in the third week, considering the role of women. And finally, in week four, Dr. Anjna Chouhan will look at the theme of tragedy. I really hope that you will join us for this exciting course. And I look forward to exploring Othello in performance with you.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is open to anyone to join and will be ideal for 16-19 year olds in full-time education.

You can start to prepare for the course by familiarising yourself with Othello. If you have the opportunity, it would also help you to see the play in performance, via the RSC Schools’ Broadcast on 17 March 2016, which is free for all UK schools, or the RSC production, which will be available on DVD in September 2016.

Who will you learn with?

I am Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company. We work with young people, teachers, schools and theatres across the UK and the world transforming experiences of Shakespeare's work.

Who developed the course?

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is a public research university, consistently listed as a leading UK university and ranked among the top 100 in the world.

Royal Shakespeare Company

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control

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