Theatre Night (1985– )
4 user 1 critic
A slightly updated version of Othello set in the 19th century Cyprus, where all characters wear uniforms and dresses from the American Civil War era. Othello, a heroic aging Moroccan ... See full summary »


Trevor Nunn


William Shakespeare (play)

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Episode cast overview:
Michael Grandage Michael Grandage ... Roderigo
Ian McKellen ... Iago
Clive Swift ... Brabantio / Gratiano
Willard White Willard White ... Othello
Sean Baker Sean Baker ... Cassio
John Burgess John Burgess ... Duke of Venice / Lodovico
Brian Lawson Brian Lawson ... First senator / Second Cyprus soldier / Second Othello soldier
David Hounslow ... Servant to the Senate / First Cyprus soldier / First Othello soldier
Philip Sully Philip Sully ... Montano
Imogen Stubbs ... Desdemona
Zoë Wanamaker ... Emilia
Marsha A. Hunt ... Bianca (as Marsha Hunt)
Jonathan Goldstein Jonathan Goldstein ... Musician
Peter Rolinson Peter Rolinson ... Musician


A slightly updated version of Othello set in the 19th century Cyprus, where all characters wear uniforms and dresses from the American Civil War era. Othello, a heroic aging Moroccan mercenary marries beautiful and loving Desdemona, daughter of a general. Their love has no match, but their doom is spelled by non other than Othello's personal confidant Iago, a master manipulator, who believes that a trained loyal soldier like him is more deserving of a good life than a foreign mercenary.

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Comedy | Drama | Romance







Release Date:

23 June 1990 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Television version of the Royal Shakespeare Company production from their 1989 Stratford and London season. See more »


Version of Othello (1951) See more »

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User Reviews

The best Othello for Shakespeare fans.
14 January 2005 | by patrick.hunterSee all my reviews

While many people may like films such as Verdi's OTELLO, with Placido Domingo, or "O" with Mekhi Phifer, others of us like Shakespeare and want to see an OTHELLO with some devotion to the play. However, doing so is tough....and the other dramatizations prove it. I recall when the BBC version of it first aired in the United States, the director, Jonathan Miller, uncomfortably tried to defend having a white actor play the part of Othello. Afterwards, many of us watched the great Anthony Hopkins disappointingly perform Othello in very unconvincing blackface make-up.

Orson Welles directed a visually-brilliant black-and-white film version, but the play was cut severely and, frankly, a white actor in black face, doesn't really work anymore. The same goes for the Laurence Olivier film version, which was stagily directed, with disappointing set design and color.

At least Olivier played Othello with gusto, unlike so many other actors, such as Hopkins, who underplay Shakepeare's most passionate tragic hero. Laurence Fishburne, normally a great actor, underacted the part to the point of being monotonal. Even if one can accept a white actor in the part, however, the Olivier version, like the Welles one, suffered from an Iago less charismatic than Othello (perhaps because Olivier and Welles, both prima-donnas, in portraying the character, didn't want to be upstaged?). Too bad, because the play needs a great ensemble cast.

There have been other dramatizations; however, this version tops them all, especially for Shakespeare lovers. At three-hours running length, the play is hardly cut, if at all, and one can't ask for a more uniformly talented ensemble. While Ian McKellan is as likable oily as Iago as he was for RICHARD III, Willard White gets the kudos for being one impressive Othello--the best on DVD (If you see White in the Glynbourne video of Mozart's "Abduction in a Seraglio," you'll see how he is always a very effective scene-stealer). Imogen Stubbs actually makes sense of Desdemona, a female character many of today's audiences have trouble understanding or even liking, and Zoe Wanamaker is the most appealing Emilia of them all. Like most Trevor Nunn productions, the acting is uniformly right in terms of chemistry, pacing, etc.

Some might be bothered with its setting. Personally, I'm all for setting Shakespeare plays in different time periods, especially when they serve the drama's themes/characters, as TITUS and McKellan's RICHARD III did. In this case, Shakespeare's most Mediterrian tragedy is set, somewhat abstractedly, in the U.S. Civil War era. To me, it works--as does most everything else in this, the best production of OTHELLO, at least for Shakespeare fans.

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