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Iago and a comrade-in-arms are outside the Venice home of Desdemona's father, who does not yet know that she has eloped with Othello. Iago confides to his friend -- who had hoped to marry Desdemona -- that he serves Othello to further his own ends. Venice needs Othello to protect its commercial interests in Cyprus where the Turkish fleet is headed. Desdemona insists on going to Cyprus, too. In Cyprus, Iago plots to convince Othello that Desdemona has betrayed him with Cassio. A lot more than political ambition seems to be motivating Iago.Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
Cedric Messina had initially planned to screen Othello during season two, and had attempted to cast James Earl Jones in the part. However, the British Actors' Equity Association had written into their contract with the BBC that only British actors could appear in the series, and if Messina cast Jones, Equity threatened to strike, thus crippling the show. Messina backed down and Othello was pushed back to a later season. By the time it was produced, Jonathan Miller had taken over as producer, and he decided that the play was not about race at all, casting a white actor in the role. See more »
Shortly before stabbing himself Othello bounces the blade of the dagger on the bed and we both hear and see the blade retract. See more »
This is an impressive and unrelievedly grim production that omits most of the light-hearted bits of Shakespeare's play -- light-hearted bits that are few and brief in any event.
Because the acting by Penelope Wilton is so excellent, we forget that she is not quite young enough and not quite attractive enough to be fully suitable for the role of Desdemona. Wilton vividly conveys the bewilderment and desolation that Desdemona experiences as her beloved husband turns against her.
Bob Hoskins is superb as Iago. He could have reined in his giggling at times, especially in the first Act, but his delivery of his lines is impeccably well-judged. Precisely because Iago as played by Hoskins is highly likable on a superficial level, his merciless and devious psychopathy is truly chilling. Hoskins displays his skill as an actor when he adopts an upper-crust accent in his summoning of Brabantio and in his gloating over the supine Othello. He thereby signals one of the motivations behind Iago's crimes (without obscuring the fact that the crimes are driven partly by a love of evil for its own sake).
Anthony Hopkins is not quite as successful in the role of Othello, but his performance is generally very good. He overacts rather irksomely at a few junctures, and he looks like a slightly pudgy actor rather than a rugged soldier. Nonetheless, he delivers most of his lines well. His slapping of Desdemona is jolting, and his final speech is both poignant and devastating.
Most of the supporting actors are fine. David Yelland is good in the difficult role of Cassio, and Anthony Pedley gives a splendid performance as the foppish Roderigo. Best of all is Rosemary Leach with a riveting performance as Emilia. (Because her performance is so good, however, it highlights one of the problematic features of Shakespeare's play: namely, the implausibility of the fact that Emilia waits until the end to disclose why Desdemona's handkerchief has gone missing.)
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