March 3, 2021

Othello Adaptation

Adaptation: Othello directed by Oliver Parker and performed by Laurence Fishburne. (close reading)

In Oliver Parker’s film adaptation of Othello, Othello is played by Laurence Fishburne. In this film, Othello is confident, calm, and passionate. The best word to describe Othello in this film is suave. This film removes some of the dialogue and replaces it with actions. For example, when Iago is conspiring with Rodrigo in Act 2 Scene 3 about getting Cassio drunk the lines are removed and we see the characters in the background talking to each other secretively. Parker’s film intensifies Iago’s hatred for Othello, but it also reduces it at times. An example of Iago’s hatred being intensified is in Act 2 scene 3. Iago says “She shall undo her credit with the Moor. So will I turn her virtue into pitch. And out of her own goodness make the net That shall enmesh them all” (Shakespeare 2.3.270). In the film, Iago picks up burning log and smudges the black ashes over his white hand when he says, “I will turn her virtue into pitch.” Iago picking up a burning log makes this scene more intense than simply reading it from Shakespeare’s play. There are times when Iago laughs while reciting his asides in the film, which he does not do in the play. This action at time lessens Iago’s intenseness and seems to be added in for the audience’s entertainment. There are many differences in Shakespeare and Parker’s work, but the key differences that stand out are the characterizing of Othello and Iago and the use of actions to substitute words.

 

Reitz-Wilson, Laura. “Race and Othello on Film.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture: A WWWeb Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, 2004. ProQuest, http://proxymu.wrlc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxymu.wrlc.org/docview/53987728?accountid=27975.

In “Race and Othello on Film,” Laura Reitz-Wilson examines how race is portrayed by Shakespeare and Hollywood. She argues that Shakespeare’s Othello’s blackness is what separates him from the rest of the other characters and that Hollywood has avoided this issue of racism. The author feels that Othello is “whitewashed” in Hollywood through language, costumes, actions and imagery (Reitz-Wilson, 4). In other words, she feels that Othello’s otherness was due to evident his blackness and the evident racism is glossed over by making him similar to the other characters through his clothing, language and how he is presented on the screen. In sum, Reitz-Wilson believes that the presence of racism is apparent but the way it is portrayed in Hollywood is too subtle. Racism in Othello is important to the author because it is the key issue in the play and Hollywood’s glossing over the issue takes the focus off of the issue at hand.

I found this article very interesting and it allowed me to reevaluate scenes on a deeper level and take notice of things I hadn’t before. For example, Reitz-Wilson notes that one of the images of black and white were Othello and Desdemona kissing in Cyprus. She points out that the characters surrounding them appear to be uncomfortable (Reitz-Wilson 8). I hadn’t noticed this initially when I discussed this scene in one of my blog posts. Reitz-Wilson’s article really focuses in on the way race is presented in the film. I agree with the author when she says that Othello is whitewashed in Hollywood films. However, the aim in Hollywood is to entertain and that filmmakers are choosing to creatively incorporate racism within the films.

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