(1965 c 165’)
En: 8 Ed: 9
Based on William Shakespeare’s play, a Moor marries an aristocratic Venetian woman but is made insanely jealous by an officer under him who wants revenge against him because of his own jealousy.
At night Roderigo (Robert Lang) complains to Iago (Frank Finlay) that he has held him in a high place but got little. Iago explains that the captain has chosen Cassio as his lieutenant rather than Iago who is only his ancient. Roderigo says he would not follow him, but Iago says he follows the Moor to deceive him. Iago urges Roderigo to call up Desdemona’s father to make him angry at Othello. Iago begins shouting to Brabantio that a thief is robbing him.
Brabantio (Anthony Nicholls) comes out on his balcony to ask what it is. Iago hides underneath and shouts to him to watch out. Roderigo identifies himself, and Brabantio says he has rejected his suit for his daughter. Iago says that his daughter and the Moor are “making the beast with two backs.” Roderigo narrates how his daughter has gone with the Moor. He suggests he see if she is still at home. Brabantio gives the order to search for her. Iago tells Roderigo he has to go. He tells him to lead them to the Moor.
Brabantio comes out and says she is gone. He asks Roderigo if they are married, and he says he thinks they are. Brabantio calls his brother and asks where he can find them. Roderigo says he will lead him to them, and Brabantio follows him.
Iago tells Othello (Laurence Olivier) that he has killed men in war but that he lacks iniquity. Othello has a rose and lets Iago smell it. Iago asks if he is married. Othello laughs with joy. Iago warns him about her father, but Othello says that his service will overcome his complaints. Othello says he loves Desdemona. He is not afraid of being found.
Cassio (Derek Jacobi) arrives with three men and tells Othello that the Duke has summoned him, and not being found at his lodgings they sent out three search parties. Othello is glad that Cassio found him, and he goes in to get ready. Cassio asks Iago why Othello is there, and Iago says he captured a prize and is married. Roderigo arrives with Brabantio and his servants. Roderigo and the servants have drawn their swords. Othello calmly tells them their swords will not be needed, and they put them away. Brabantio accuses the black Othello of enchanting his daughter to go against nature. Othello says he will not fight and asks where he is to go to answer his charges. Brabantio says he must go to prison until the law can act. Othello asks how the Duke will be satisfied. Cassio explains that the Duke is in council. Brabantio doubts he could be in the middle of the night and orders his men to lead him away. Brabantio says the Duke will take his side.
The Duke of Venice (Harry Lomax) greets Othello and says they must employ him against the Ottoman Turks. Then he notices Brabantio and welcomes him. Brabantio says he has a private grief that makes him ignore this crisis. His daughter is dead to him because she has been abused and stolen from him. He charges that witchcraft has beguiled her. The Duke promises to give him relief. Brabantio accuses the Moor who is to lead Venice’s forces. The Duke is sad and turns to Othello who admits he took away the old man’s daughter and married her. That is the extent of what he has done. He denies that he is a good speaker, but he has been active in military fighting. He will explain what magic he used to win her love. Brabantio says she was never bold, and he cannot believe she went against what she feared to look on. He speculates that he must have used drugs. Othello answers that they can send for the woman and ask her what happened. He tells Iago to conduct them to the place, and they go off. Othello says they fell in love with each other. Her father often invited him and asked the story of his life. He told them of his adventures of being captured and sold as a slave before he was freed. He met cannibals and strange men. He says Desdemona liked hearing these stories. He took this as a cue to speak more affectionately. She often wept at his suffering and then sighed. She wishes she had such a man and thanked him. She even suggested that this would woo her. He then began to court her.
Desdemona (Maggie Smith) arrives and goes to Othello. The Duke says this would have won his daughter too. Brabantio asks her where she owes obedience. She says she is bound to her father for her life and education, and he is her lord of duty as her father; but now she has a husband and must obey him as her father preferred his wife to his mother. Brabantio tells Othello he has her, but he warns him she may fool him too. The Duke appoints Othello to lead the expedition against the Turks, and Othello accepts and asks that his wife may have proper housing. The Duke suggests her father’s, but Brabantio and Desdemona both reject that idea. She asks the Duke to let her go with the Moor because she loves him so. Othello also wishes this and assures them he will still do his duty. The Duke says they may do as they wish. Othello says he will assign his wife to his trusted ancient Iago. The Duke commends Othello who kisses his hand. The Duke and the senators say farewell and leave. Brabantio warns Othello again that she may deceive him as she did her father. Othello says he trusts his life on her faith. He takes Othello with him, leaving Iago and Roderigo who says he will drown himself. Iago asks why, and Roderigo says he is too fond of Desdemona. Iago advises him to listen to his reason to control his emotions and lust. Iago urges him to be a man and to get money and follow the wars. He says Desdemona will tire of the Moor and may turn to him. Iago keeps telling him to make money, and he says he hates the Moor. They will work together to get revenge against him. They plan to meet in the morning at Iago’s lodging. Roderigo says he will sell all his land and leaves. Iago is using Roderigo and wants to get revenge against Othello because he is jealous that he has slept with his own wife. He forms a plan to make Othello jealous of another man with his wife.
During a storm soldiers discuss what is happening. They suspect the Turkish fleet may be drowned. A soldier arrives and tells them that the Moor has arrived here in Cyprus. Cassio comes in and says he hopes Othello is all right. He sends a man off to bring them a report. Cassio says that Othello has a beautiful wife. The man reports that Iago has arrived safely. Cassio thinks the storm was calmed for the sake of Desdemona. He prays for Othello’s safe passage. He sees Iago and Desdemona and kisses her hand. She asks about her lord, and Cassio says he has not arrived yet. Cassio kisses Iago’s wife Emilia (Joyce Redman) on the lips and explains that is his manner. Iago complains how she uses her tongue on him. Cassio tells Desdemona that Iago is more a soldier than a scholar. Iago notices how courteous Cassio is with her and plots how he will use this to make Othello jealous. They hear shouting, and Othello arrives and tenderly greets Desdemona, telling her he is most happy now. She hopes their love will increase, and he laughs and kisses her tenderly. He announces that the war is over because the Turks are drowned. He laughs and tells Desdemona she will be well received in Cyprus. He gives Iago orders and goes with Desdemona.
Iago sends men to the harbor and tells Roderigo that Cassio has been assigned to watch. He tells him that Desdemona is in love with Cassio. Roderigo is surprised, and Iago tries to persuade him they love each other. Iago tells Roderigo to obey him and find a way to anger Cassio so that he will strike him. Iago then will announce a mutiny so that Cassio will lose his position and be removed. Roderigo says he will do this and leaves. Iago admits that he loves Desdemona too because he wants revenge against Othello for his affair with Emilia. He will put the Moor into a strong jealousy. He will get revenge against Cassio too because he fears he loved Emilia too.
Othello orders Cassio to supervise the guard, and Cassio explains that Iago has commanded him. Othello says that Iago is most honest. Cassio goes out. Othello tells Desdemona that now the fruits are to ensue. He kisses her, and they walk inside.
Cassio tells Iago they must go to the watch, but Iago says not until ten. Iago talks with Cassio about Desdemona, and they agree she is alluring. Cassio sits down, and Iago offers him some wine. Cassio says he has trouble with drinking and has already drunk one cup. Iago urges him to join the revels and sends him to call over a maid. Iago plans to get him drunk, and Roderigo is going to help him. The revelers come near, and Cassio kisses Bianca (Sheila Reid). Iago sings a drinking song, and the others join in. Cassio is drinking another cup of wine, and Iago tells about how the English drink. Cassio finishes the cup. Iago starts another song and plays a drum as a couple dances. Cassio has fallen down and likes this song too. He kneels before Iago, and Bianca takes him and kisses him. Cassio stands up and says they must look to their business. He denies that he is drunk and says he can walk and speak well. He walks off and is obviously drunk. Guards go to set the watch. Iago tells one man that Cassio should not be so trusted by Othello. Iago sends Roderigo after Cassio. Soon Cassio is chasing Roderigo in a quarrel. Cassio attacks the guard, and Iago tells Roderigo to cry mutiny. He does so, and a bell rings. Iago encourages the brawl, and Cassio warns the guard with his sword. Othello arrives and orders them to stop fighting. He asks if they have turned Turks. He orders the bell silenced and asks Cassio what is the matter. Cassio is silent, and Othello asks Iago what happened. Iago says he does not want to offend Cassio; but he says how Cassio attacked this guard even though Iago tried to stop him. He makes excuses for Cassio because he must have been provoked. Othello says that Iago is making this seem light to Cassio. Othello tells Cassio he is no longer his officer. Desdemona comes out, and Othello tells her all is well and asks her to come with him to bed. He says he will be the surgeon for the wounded man. Othello goes in with Desdemona.
Iago takes Cassio’s sword. Cassio says he has lost his reputation. Iago mocks that as an idle disposition. He says he can recover his reputation by suing to the general. Cassio says could not do that. He calls the wine a devil. He cannot name the cause of the quarrel. Cassio admits he loves Iago and admits he is drunk. Iago advises him to confess himself to the general’s wife and entreat her to take his part. Cassio agrees with the advice and will talk to Desdemona in the morning. They say goodnight, and Cassio leaves. Roderigo comes back with a bloody nose. He is discouraged and says he will return to Venice. Iago urges him to use his wit. He says Cassio has been cashiered. Iago says it is morning and tells Roderigo to go. Iago plans to ask his wife Emilia to solicit for Cassio with Desdemona.
Cassio asks a man to tell Emilia to solicit with Desdemona on his behalf. Iago comes and says he will send his wife to him. He goes in, and Emilia comes and tells Cassio that Othello loves him and will bring him in again. Cassio asks for a chance to talk to Desdemona alone, and Emilia says she will arrange it. They go in. Othello tells Iago that he is going to inspect the fortifications. They go off. Desdemona comes out with Cassio and Emilia and tells him that she will plead to her husband for him. Cassio is afraid his general will forget him. Desdemona says she will plead his case fervently. Iago and Othello come back and see Cassio kissing Desdemona’s hand before parting. Iago says he does not like that, and Othello asks what he means. Othello asks if that was Cassio, and Iago says it could not have been him acting in such a guilty way. Desdemona asks Othello to be reconciled with Cassio and to call him back. Othello says another time, and she importunes him. He makes excuses, and she asks for the earliest time. She reminds him how Cassio came wooing with him. Othello says he can come when he will because he will not deny her anything. She says this is not a boon. He asks her to leave him to himself, and she goes in with Emilia.
Othello realizes how much he loves Desdemona; without that love would be chaos. Iago asks Othello if Cassio knew of his love for Desdemona. Othello says he went between them often and asks if he is honest. Iago says he is as far as he knows. Othello questions Iago about Cassio and implies he is protecting him and concealing information. Iago says he thinks Cassio is honest. He says men should be what they seem. Iago walks off, but Othello calls him back and asks what his worst thoughts are. Iago says he is not bound to do that. Iago admits he may be vicious in his guesses, but he may be mistaken. He says it is not good for Othello to know his thoughts. Othello has Iago sit by him and puts his arm around him. Iago does not want to ruin a man’s good name. Othello stands up, and Iago warns him against jealousy which suspects but strongly loves. Othello says he will not be jealous. She chose him, and he will not doubt without proof. If he has proof, he will do away with love or jealousy. Iago says now he has reason to speak. He advises him to look to his wife especially with Cassio. He says the Venetians often have affairs but do not tell their husbands. He says her father thought she was bewitched. Iago says this may have dashed his spirits, and Othello denies it. Iago says he only did as he was commanded. Iago says Cassio is a friend. Iago is concerned that Othello is moved. Othello thinks Desdemona is honest, and Iago hopes she is. Othello says nature can err from itself. Iago wonders how there may have been unnatural thoughts, and she may want to return to her countrymen. Iago goes off.
Othello thinks that Iago knows more than he has said. Iago comes back and tells him to leave it to time. He advises him to hold off Cassio for a while and see if his lady entreats for him. He tells him to hold her free. Othello gets angry, and Iago leaves again. Othello assumes Iago is honest. If he proves Desdemona false, his fortune is lost. He wonders if because he is black and older than she is, he may lose her. He does not want to keep a woman for another to use. He sees Desdemona and Emilia come out. He says if she is false, then heaven is mocking itself. Desdemona comes over and says he is invited to a dinner. Othello says he is to blame. She asks why he speaks so faintly. He says he has a pain in his forehead, and she kisses him. She offers to bind it with her handkerchief. He tells her no and kisses her. As they leave, the handkerchief is dropped. Emilia runs over and is glad she found it because her husband asked her to steal it for him. She says it was used in their courtship. She will make a copy for Iago. He comes over, and she asks what he would give her for that handkerchief and shows it to him. He tells her to give it to him. She wants to know what he will do with it. He takes it. She kisses him and goes in. Iago plans to give it to Cassio in order to entrap Othello.
Othello comes back out wondering if she is false to him. He tells Iago that he has put him on the rack. Now he cannot sleep well. He fears Cassio’s kisses are on her. He would have been happy if he had not known. He says farewell to content and the pride of war. He says his occupation is done. He grabs Iago and tells him to make sure he prove his wife is a whore. He puts him on the ground and warns him. Iago gets up and asks Othello if he is a man. Iago says that he has made honesty a vice and says he will go. Othello calls him back and says he must have proof. Iago asks how he can be satisfied except by seeing her topped. Iago says he will lead him to the door of truth. Iago says he does not like this, but he does it out of love. He says he lay with Cassio recently who spoke in his sleep to sweet Desdemona and gripped his hand and kissed him and laid his leg over his thigh and cursed that God had given her to the Moor. Othello screams in agony. Iago asks about the handkerchief decorated with strawberries and says he saw Cassio wipe his beard with it. Othello says he will get his revenge. He believes it must be true. He blows away all his fond love and calls forth black vengeance and hate. Othello shouts for blood. Iago tries to calm him. Othello says how angry he is, and he weeps over his lost love. He kneels down to make a sacred vow. Iago offers his loyal service to Othello in his bloody work. Othello tells him to make sure that Cassio is dead within three days. Iago tells him to let Desdemona live, but Othello wants her dead too. Othello leaves, and Iago follows after.
Inside Desdemona asks Emilia how she could have lost that handkerchief. They see Othello coming, and Emilia goes out. He asks Desdemona how she is. She says she is well, and they shake hands. He says her hand is moist and hot. She may be too liberal. He says she needs fasting and prayer. She asks him to fulfill his promise to speak with Cassio. He asks for her handkerchief, and she gives him another one. He asks for the one he gave her and says it was charmed for his mother to keep her husband. She gave it to him and told him to give it to his wife. He says it has magic in its silk. She wishes she had never seen it. He gets upset and orders her to fetch it. She says he is trying to avoid her suit for Cassio. As she pleads for him, Othello gets more jealous. He goes away, and Emilia comes in and asks if he is not jealous.
Cassio kneels before Desdemona with his suit to speak with Othello. She says her lord is not himself now. Iago comes in and asks if Othello is angry. He is surprised and says that is unusual. He says it may be something momentary and he goes off to see. Desdemona says they must realize that men are not gods. Emilia says he is jealous, and Desdemona says she never gave him cause. Emilia says jealousy is a monster. Desdemona says goodbye to Cassio and goes off with Emilia.
Bianca runs to Cassio, and he embraces her happily. She entreats him to spend time with her. He kisses her and hands her the handkerchief and says he found it in his room. He asks her to make a copy of it for him.
Iago is walking with Othello and asks him if they could be naked in bed and not mean harm. Othello says that is not likely. Iago mentions the handkerchief, and Othello gets upset. Iago says he has heard Cassio say that he did it. Othello asks what. Iago says he lied with her and on her. Othello says he should be hanged. He asks for instruction for his passion, and he faints. Iago hopes his medicine will work. He takes his dagger and tries to arouse him. Cassio comes in, and Iago says Othello had another fit. Othello makes sounds, and Iago has Cassio withdraw for a while. Iago asks if he hurt his head. Othello says a horned man is a monster. Iago suggests it is common. Iago says his case is better. He lifts up Othello and says that Cassio was here. He says he will come back and talk with him as Othello hides and listens. Iago holds Othello in his arms to calm him. Othello controls his passion and goes behind a nearby wall. Iago plans to ask Cassio about his girlfriend Bianca.
Cassio comes back, and Iago says he never knew a woman love as much as Bianca loves Cassio. He asks if Cassio will marry her. Cassio laughs and says he never will. Othello comes closer and listens from behind a pillar. Cassio tells Iago he must leave her company. Cassio sees Bianca who asks him about the handkerchief he wants her to copy. She throws it down and refuses to do it. Othello recognizes his handkerchief. Bianca runs off, and Iago picks up the handkerchief. He sends Cassio off and says he will speak with him later.
Othello asks Iago how he shall murder Cassio. Iago says that Desdemona gave the handkerchief to Cassio who gave it to his whore. Othello says she shall not live another night. He says she is a fine musician and so gentle. He feels pity. Iago advises him to let her go. Iago advises him not to use poison but strangle her in the bed that she contaminated. Othello says he likes that idea.
Lodovico (Kenneth MacKintosh) comes from the Duke with an entourage and presents a letter to Othello. Iago talks with Lodovico while Othello looks at the letter abd listens. Desdemona refers to her love for Cassio in her effort to help him regain his position. Othello gets upset, yells at her, and strikes her. Lodovico says this would not be believed in Venice. Othello sends her away, and Lodovico tells him to call her back. He does so and says that she can turn and turn and be obedient. Othello says he will obey the order and return to Venice. He sends Desdemona away and says that Cassio will have his place. He welcomes Lodovico and runs off. Lodovico asks if this is the noble Moor, and Iago says he has changed much. Iago suggests they observe him so that he will not have to say what he suspects.
Othello questions Emilia about what she has seen of Desdemona and Cassio. Emily denies they did anything wrong. She says Desdemona is honest and true. Othello sends her out and believes that his wife is a subtle whore. Desdemona comes in followed by Emilia. Othello calls over his wife and asks to see her eyes. He sends Emilia out to guard the door. Desdemona kneels and asks what caused his fury. He asks what she is, and she says she is his wife. He asks her to swear that she is honest. She does so, but he says she is false as hell. She tries to embrace him, and he pushes her down and falls on the floor. He expresses his frustration. She kneels down by him. He embraces her and then shakes her and throws her down. He calls her a whore. They stand up, and she says he wrongs her. She denies being a whore. He calls in Emilia and throws coins at her, telling her to turn the key and keep their counsel. He goes off, and Emilia asks Desdemona what is the matter with her lord. Desdemona asks who is her lord because she has none. She asks Emilia to put her wedding sheets on the bed. Emilia says she has changed and runs out. Iago comes in with Emilia and asks Desdemona what she wants. She does not know. Emilia tells how Othello accused her. Desdemona asks Iago if she is that. He tells her not to weep, and Emilia embraces Desdemona. Emilia says some rogue must have caused this misunderstanding. She asks why he called her whore. She says it must have been someone like whoever made Iago suspect her with the Moor. Iago tries to keep her quiet. Desdemona asks Iago how she can win back her lord. She protests that she is innocent and loves him dearly. He may kill her but not her love. Iago kneels by her and says it is his humor and that it is the business of the state. They hear music, and Iago tells her that all shall be well.
Iago finds Roderigo outside. Roderigo complains that his wealth has been wasted. He asks if Desdemona has received his gifts of jewels. Iago says it is very well. Roderigo says he will tell Desdemona and ask for his jewels. Roderigo draws his sword, and Iago says he sees he has courage. He takes his sword and shakes his hand. He says if he has valor to show it so that he can win Desdemona. Roderigo asks what it is. Iago says Othello is going away with Desdemona unless Cassio is removed. Iago suggests that Roderigo kill Cassio. He will arrange it tonight between twelve and one. Roderigo asks for more reasons, and they go off.
Othello tells Desdemona to dismiss her attendant for the night, and he goes out to walk with Lodovico. Emilia comes in, and Desdemona says he has commanded her to go to bed and dismiss Emilia who wishes she had never seen him. Emilia helps Desdemona remove her cloak. Desdemona asks her to shroud her after she dies. She remembers a relative who died singing a song that is going through her mind tonight. She asks Emilia to help her undress. Desdemona says Lodovico is a proper man, and Emilia agrees. Desdemona sings the willow song about false love. Emilia undoes the hair of Desdemona who sends her away.
Iago with a lantern tells Roderigo where to stand and urges him to be bold. Iago hopes that Roderigo will kill Cassio, or the other way would be all right too. Cassio arrives with a lantern, and Roderigo attacks him with a sword. Roderigo retreats, and Iago wounds Cassio. Iago goes to Roderigo and kills him and then shouts murder. People arrive, and Bianca grieves over Cassio. Iago asks Cassio who did this, but he does not know. Iago says the other man must have done it. He announces it is Roderigo. He organizes the care of Cassio and keeps Bianca away from him. Emilia arrives and asks what happened. Iago explains and asks Bianca where Cassio supped tonight. She says he supped with her. He tells the others to go see Cassio well dressed, and they leave.
Desdemona lies on her bed, and Othello comes in. He has a cause but will not shed her blood. He believes she must die, or she will betray more men. He thinks about putting out the light and her light. He leans down and kisses her three times. She wakes up and sees Othello. She asks him to come to bed. He asks if she prayed tonight. He urges her to confess any crime and ask forgiveness. He says he would not kill her unprepared spirit. She asks if he will kill her. She says she is not guilty. Her only sin is that she loves him. He says she gave that handkerchief to Cassio. She denies it and tells him to ask him. He accuses her angrily. She asks for mercy and says she never offended him. He says he saw the handkerchief in Cassio’s hand and that he has confessed that he used her. She says he would not say that. He says that Iago has ended his life. She resists as he holds her down and strangles her with a pillow. Emilia calls from outside and bangs on the door. Othello kisses Desdemona again. Emilia calls and asks him to open the door. He thinks Desdemona is dead and thinks about whether he should let Emilia in. He realizes he no longer has a wife. Emilia asks to speak with him, and he opens the door. Emilia says that Roderigo is killed but that Cassio is not dead. Desdemona mumbles about falsity. Emilia goes to her, and Desdemona says she is dying, but no one is at fault but herself. She dies, and Emilia cries over her. Othello says she admitted it was not he; but he says she is a liar because he did kill her. Emilia calls him a devil. Othello says she turned to folly and was a whore. Emilia says she was heavenly true. He says Cassio had her and that her husband Iago knew all about it. Emilia is surprised and says that Iago lies. Emilia runs out and shouts for help.
Iago and two other men run in. Emilia appeals to Iago to tell the truth. Iago says he told him that she was false with Cassio, and Emilia says he is lying. Emilia says she will speak, and she tries to attack Iago. He asks if she is mad. She backs away and pities Othello for killing the sweetest innocent. Othello speaks to Desdemona’s uncle Gratiano (Michael Turner) and says that Iago knows that she committed adultery with Cassio. Emilia tells Iago that she will not be quiet, and she tries to persuade Othello that his wife was innocent. Othello realizes his error and looks at Iago, and he attacks him. Iago fends him off and stabs Emilia with his sword and goes out. As she is dying, Emilia remembers the song and tells Othello that Desdemona was chaste. Othello regrets he has no sword and looks for another weapon. He finds a Spanish sword and calls to those outside. Gratiano comes back in. Othello tells him not to be afraid. He drops the sword and asks where he could go. He leans over Desdemona and says when they meet in account her look will hurl his soul to hell. He feels her hand is cold like her chastity. He curses himself. Lodovico comes in and orders the captured Iago brought in. Othello says if he is the devil, he cannot kill him. He stabs him with his sword, but Iago says he is not killed. Lodovico asks what they should say about Othello. He says he still has honor. He goes to Cassio and asks his pardon. He asks him to find out from Iago why he ensnared his soul. Iago says he will not ever say another word. Cassio says he found the handkerchief in his room and that Iago confessed that he put it there. Lodovico says that Othello has been replaced by Cassio, and he is under arrest. Othello asks for a moment as he embraces Desdemona’s body. He asks them to relate these unlucky deeds as they are. He loved not wisely but too well. He was overwrought by jealousy and threw away the most valuable pearl. He recounts how he killed a Turk and then stabs himself with a dagger, kissing her as he dies. Cassio says he was great of heart. Lodovico calls Iago a Spartan dog and blames him for these deaths. Two men carry Iago out, and Lodovico tells Cassio to enforce his punishment.
This tragedy portrays a trusting man who seems to lack experience outside of war. Ambition and jealousy motivate Iago, and he cleverly weaves a tangled web of suspicion that fools his trusting commander. The story warns against the poison of jealousy and shows how it can work even when there is no real reason for it.