Beware the green-eyed monster! – Othello at the Folger Theatre

November 15, 2011 at 2:25 am (Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Shakespeare)

Owiso Odera as Othello and Ian Merrill Peakes as Iago

The exact words spoken by Iago, as provided by M.I.T.’s Shakespeare site, are

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on….

What a pleasure to hear once again Othello’s extravagant tale of his wooing of Desdemona, culminating in two of my favorite lines in all of Shakespeare:

She loved me for the dangers I had pass’d,
And I loved her that she did pity them.

All of this, to be systematically destroyed by one of the most coldly calculating characters in all of literature. In Shakespeare After All, Marjorie Garber says this of Iago:

Hate for hate’s sake. Motiveless malignity. Iago is successful precisely because he has no second dimension, no doubt, no compassion. From the start he is all action, and he is everywhere. Flattering Othello, and then Rodrigo. Shouting out of the darkness, and calling for light. Yet notice that in fact he does nothing himself.

Indeed not. He goads, he taunts, he mocks, he inflames passions, he poisons true feeling.

In the play’s final scene, after Othello has been made aware of Iago’s perfidy, he looks down to see if Iago has cloven hoofs instead of the feet of a human being.. It was a moment that cast me back to my college days and a Shakespeare  class I took at Goucher College with the wonderful Brooke Peirce. He explained that according to legend, the Devil possesses cloven hoofs. But Iago displays no such blatant badge of infamy. He has the feet of a man – an unspeakably evil man.

The final scene in its entirety was so intense that my eyes were stinging. Emerging into the light afterward, I said to my companion, “I feel shattered.”

I want to say a word about the set. At the beginning of the play, the stage resembled a seraglio, with billowing fabrics shot through with color. Later this same material became the sails of a ship in peril. The mariners were pulling at lines that seemed anchored in the theater’s  far upper reaches.

Oweso Odera and Ian Merrill Peakes were both terrific. Odera was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and began his acting career in Kenya. Peakes has several Folger triumphs to his credit. The review in the Washington Post hails him as “one of the finest Shakespearean actors regularly appearing in Washington.”

The run for this production has been extended through December 4. Here’s the trailer:

1 Comment

  1. Yvette said,

    Would that I could see these. Thanks for a great post. 🙂

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