I haven’t read a play since university and I haven’t read any Shakespeare since school. School put me off Shakespeare, we started with Macbeth which was fine, then moved onto Julius Caesar, which wasn’t bad but then I didn’t like Henry V and we had Richard II for O Level (old exam in England and Wales, the O was for ordinary, usually taken at 16). I don’t remember anything about Richard II apart from the title, and I failed the English Literature O level … I say failed, I actually got a “D” when in my other subjects it was all As, Bs and Cs… Our English teacher chose, what to me was a rather perverse selection of literature works for us at O Level: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, Richard II by William Shakespeare and Nun’s Priest’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer. Two plays and a Middle English poem…I love reading but I felt no connection with those works. I would have loved a novel to get my teeth into.
The last play I read was “Death of A Salesman” by Arthur Miller in my first year at university…thirty years ago! I’d never read a play for pleasure until now. In the last few years I’ve warmed to Shakespeare, visiting his house in Stratford-Upon-Avon and seeing a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the theatre in Stratford. In Second Life my initial avatar was called Iago or Iago Zabibha, the name Iago wasn’t chosen for Shakespearean reasons but because of Santiago del Compostela…Iago being Spanish for James and at the time I was toying with the idea of making the pilgrimage to Santiago (I still am). I then developed a couple of “alts” (alternative avatars) these I named Othello and Desdemona, clearly because of the Shakespearean connection. Shakespeare’s Iago I discovered was evil, intelligent and highly manipulative.
The Othello of the title is a Moor, an African, respected by the nobles in Venice and by those who serve him. Only Iago despises him, possibly because he is black, or possibly because he passed Iago, his ensign, over for the position of lieutenant in favour of Michael Cassio. The story is about Iago’s manipulations to bring down Othello. At the beginning of the play Othello has just married Desdemona. Roderigo and Iago wake up Desdemona’s father, Brabanzio, to tell him the news. Brabanzio is incensed and seeks Othello with Roderigo and others, finding him, he accuses Othello of stealing his daughter by witchcraft. Brabanzio wants to denounce Othello in front of the Senate, but the Duke and the Senate are sympathetic to Othello and when Desdemona is summoned she defends her choice in marriage. Othello is sent to Cyprus to fight the Turks.
The action shifts to Cyprus. Once Othello, Iago, Desdemona, Emilia, and Roderigo reach Cyprus, a storm having defeated the Turks, they have nothing to do but prey upon one another. Iago contrives to make it look as though Desdemona has been having an affair with Michael Cassio, and provokes Othello’s jealous rage. I won’t go further with the plot for fear of spoiling it for anyone who doesn’t know what happens.
The Shakespearean English was easier to understand than I had expected and I enjoyed reading through it on the metro. Maybe I shall continue to other Shakespeare plays like Hamlet or King Lear.