In seventeenth century Venice, a wealthy and debauched man discovers that the woman he is infatuated with is secretly married to a Moorish general in the Venetian army. He shares his grief and rage with a lowly ensign in the army who also has reason to hate the general for promoting a younger man above him. The villainous ensign now plots to destroy the noble general in a diabolical scheme of jealousy, paranoia and murder, set against the backdrop of the bloody Turkish-Venetian wars.
This timeless tale, Othello The Moor of Venice was one of the ten famous tragedies that William Shakespeare wrote. It is also one of his plays that has the best documented performance history. First staged on 1st November, 1604 at Whitehall Palace, it was regularly performed at the playwright's own Globe Theater and the Blackfriars Theater in London besides touring the country as part of the repertoire of the King's Men which was the theatrical company that Shakespeare belonged to for most of his career.
Such is the power and appeal of the play that it has remained completely unchanged or unrevised over the centuries, while many other Shakespearean plays were adapted, rewritten or trimmed during the Restoration and the eighteenth century.
The doomed figure of the lovely Desdemona who is murdered so cruelly by the ill-fated Othello based on a tragic misunderstanding continues to haunt playgoers and readers the world over even today. Modern performances have explored the race and class aspects of the play. Famous actors like Laurence Olivier have given legendary performances, while opera, ballet, television, film, stage, graphic novels and animation versions have kept the magnificent story alive today for audiences all over the world.
Shakespeare was probably inspired by the sixteenth Italian writer Cinthio's story titled A Moorish Captain. Many scholars have deemed this to be based on a true incident that happened in Venice in around 1508. However, only the mere skeleton of the story has been used by Shakespeare and most of the characters and sub-plots are his own dazzling creations. He may have also been influenced by the delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England in 1600. For other details like location and manners, he probably used Venetian history books and contemporary sources.
Whatever the history and inspiration of the play, it remains one of the most powerful, compelling and towering works in English literature. This tale of deception, heroism, love, hatred and the demonic obsession called jealousy sparkles with brilliant lines that have entered the English language and become immortal.
A majestic work by a supreme artist - Prepare to be overwhelmed!