We went to see Bell Shakespeare do it last night. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for months, so I was glad that it was good. And I had worded J up beforehand, so that he at least knew the story line. Speaking of whom, at half time he said: “I don’t see why it’s called Othello; it’s all about Iago.” Which was a good call, I thought – Wayne Blair was good, as the Moor, but Marcus Graham absolutely kicked ass as Iago. He was so… evil. And manipulative. And just plain brilliant.
Couple of things I noted:
1. I have studied this play maybe three times, in different subjects, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it performed. Iago is so sexual! Half his big speeches seem to have to do with sex. Which is not a bad thing, but I had never realised it before, so it goes to prove that seeing a performance is infinitely better than simply reading words on a page (well, duh). And no, I don’t think it was just the twist Graham gave the words… although his body language certainly reinforced it!
2. It’s really quite racist. Well, duh, say all the historians – but you know, you’d think that if Shakespeare was putting a black man as nominally the lead it would be a bit sympathetic to him, but… not really. Othello isn’t rational – he “loves not wisely, but too well” – while many of the white (male) characters are; he is made to say some bad things about his own colour, and most of the other speakers get in a comment about his colour too. It made me think – and I’m not sure I ever considered this before, which is to my shame – whether a black man would actually have played Othello in Elizabethan times. I bet that if one did, you wouldn’t have been able to hear the words of the play, for all the excitement it would cause in the audience. Or maybe I’m overestimating the ability of an Elizabethan crowd to be impressed by anything.
3. The female characters are dreadful. Desdemona is weak (although there was one point in this version where it did look like she and Cassio were getting… close…); Emilia is devious, and would be a slut if given the opportunity; Bianca is a whore. Delightful!
4. The Cassio last night was disappointing. He’s meant to be this great lady killer, and Tom Wren just isn’t… pretty enough. He was a bit weak, I thought.
And of course it made me think of Wise Children, since Othello is one of the plays whose plot the family follows in some respects. If you like Shakespearean drama at all and haven’t read it, you really really have to. I would go so far as to say that it was the best book my Arts degree introduced me to.
And then, after, we had a lovely walk to the tram, looking at all the buildings in the mist. Our city is best by night.
Am listening to the BBC4 programme on Christopher Marlowe at the moment. I had no idea that he was born in the same year as Shakespeare. Interesting discussion on how they influenced each other – apparently Shakespeare actually quotes Marlowe somewhere, which is very cool. And Marlowe is the one who first really exemplifies blank verse and long soliloquies, taken up by Shakespeare. Very cool. I always did love Faustus.
I finished Origins and Form of Early Greek Tragedy on the weekend. It was fun – I really enjoyed it. He’s quite convincing, about tragedy not actually starting from satyr plays and Dionysus, but rather developing through Solon’s ideas (that bit I’m not entirely convinced about, not least because I don’t actually know enough about the time or the man), and Athens’ experiences in the Persian Wars, etc. What I really need to know now is why people today don’t take any notice, apparently, of what the dude said – this was published in the 1960s, and yet to this day it’s said that tragedy started from the “goat-songs” of Dionysus. So did someone write a rebuttal? Or has it just been ignored? Very curious… I might have to ask some people.
Oh my GOODNESS.
Oh my GOODNESS! I came home after Macbeth (sorry, The Scottish Play) tonight and looked at my fish and this is what I saw!! The Monster Angels were patrolling, so I can only think that they are the parents! Although I am positive that I saw the white one take a few nibbles of the clump, so they are both protecting and eating… EEK! How exciting. Again!
I have been a very cultural girl the last two days.
Last night I went to see David Malikoff’s one-man performance of the poem, mostly using Raffell’s (I think that’s right) translation. It was very impressive; he was exceptioanlly good at changing voices and stances to indicate different characters. I have only ever read an abridged version of the poem, and it probably wasn’t a very good translation; I think I will have to remedy the situation. He really made it come alive.
I didn’t really know what this was going to be like, but I should have paid more attention to the subtitle and got an idea: “A Masterclass in Evil”. That’s what it was; rather simply doing various soliloquys, which I was worried would be boring, he also commentated on the villains and the plays and the nature of evil and villainy themselves. Stephen Berkoff was amazing. David M was good; he was brilliant. He did Iago (mediocre); Richard III (genius); Macbeth (wannabe) and his Lady; Shylock; Hamlet; Coriolanus; and finally Oberon. I think the highlight probably was the scene between Macbeth and Lady M plotting Duncan’s death (drifting in and out of a ridiculously strong Scottish accent), although Hamlet and Gertrude in the bedchamber came a close second. I will never look the same on some of these characters again.
And in between, I saw my Nana and two of her brothers, which was a very pleasant interlude indeed.