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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Admittedly, perhaps like most people, I have not read Shakespeare since high school, lo' those many decades ago. I've recently decided to remediate this major deficiency in my reading, and have re-read some of the classics from school, such as Hamlet (Wordsworth Classics) and Macbeth. And it is so much more a pleasure now that a "grade" is not hanging in the balance, with the principle concentration being on figuring out what the teacher wants. For "Othello," this read was for the first time, and I was impressed how many of the issues which were raised then, reverberate today.

True, Venice is no longer a major world power. But the principle geo-political concern in Othello is the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, an event which reoccurred since my high school days. The political leadership in Venice recruited Othello, a dark-skinned Muslim, to defend their interests in Cyprus, and defeat the Turks. Nature proves to be the best ally of Venice, and a Mediterranean storm sinks most of the Turkish fleet. Thus, there are no scenes of combat. The real combat is much closer to home - as it so often is - and involves those who portray themselves as your friend.

Religion, per se, is not an issue. So, there is no Christian-Muslim conflict portrayed. But skin color is very much an issue. As topical as today's headlines concerning a white woman passing for black, and being an official in a predominately black organization. Othello marries Desdemona, a white woman. The father, Brabantio, feels betrayed, in part because he did not know his daughter's plans. He plants a seed in Othello's mind, that another will nurture, and it will bear awful fruit. Brabantio says: "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see; She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee." Further, he issues an admonishment: "Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds."

The nurturer of this seed is Iago. He is the master villain and manipulator. He is a key component in almost all large organizations. He is the individual who connives to gain your trust, in order to bury the knife in your back. His motivation, in part, as he says: "Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe." I consider Shakespeare's portrayal of Iago absolutely brilliant. The "dropped handkerchief" is a key tool that Iago deliberately uses to turn Othello first against his lieutenant, Cassio, and then against his wife, the actually faithful, Desdemona.

As in much of Shakespeare, there are the side currents, and the development of subsidiary themes. Certainly there is another key one, the relationship between men and women, and Emilia, wife of Iago, is the spokesperson for some remarkably modern views on the subject; in ways she is a Hedda Gabler, centuries earlier. In her own words: "'Tis not a year or two shows us a man; They are all but stomachs and we all but food; They eat us hungrily, and when they are full; They belch us." Later, Emilia delivers a classic soliloquy of the relationship of husbands and wives, in part saying: "Let husbands know Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell and have their palates both for sweet and sour, as husbands have. What is it that they do When they change us for others? Is it sport?... And have not we affections, Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?"

As in all of Shakespeare, there are numerous other worthwhile quotes, for example from Roderigo: "...for your words and performances are no kin together." And the master villain himself proclaims: "Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit and lost without deserving; you have lost no reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser." 5-stars.
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on 25 July 2015
One of Shakespeare's best texts, especially considering its controversial subject matter. The specific edition was fine. Characterization was very effective, but Iago truly stole the show. A must-have for any Shakespeare fan.
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"Othello" is sort of a companion piece to "Macbeth" -- both are about noble, upstanding men who are destroyed by their own weaknesses. But where Macbeth was ruined by ambition, Othello's destruction comes from his jealousy and gullibility. And the play is really ruled by the nastiest, cruelest, most devious villain Shakespeare ever wrote.

That villain is Iago, a high-ranking soldier who has a grudge against the noble Moorish soldier Othello, who has just eloped with the beautiful Desdemona. Using a nobleman as his pawn, Iago first turns Desdemona's father against Othello, but the new soldier defends himself agains claims of witchcraft.

But Iago's true plan is far more devious, as he disgraces Othello's lieutenant Cassion and plants Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's room. Othello finds himself confronted by a chess game of lies, deceit and suspected infidelity, and his jealousy reaches a fever pitch that can only end in death.

Yeah, the real star of this play is undoubtedly Iago. This is the most repellent mixture of absolute malicious evil and crazy-smart intellect that anyone could write -- he is the person you love to hate, even as you admire how devilishly perfect he is at playing the chessmaster who whispers poison into your ear while playing your "friend." He doesn't quite think of EVERYTHING, but he comes close enough that you would NEVER want to deal with someone like this.

But this tragedy is also underscored by the depiction of Othello, a truly noble and loyal soldier who is turned into a deranged homicidal mess. It's somehow even more disturbing to see him deteriorate than it was to see Macbeth, because this guy was on top of the world in every way -- he was smart, eloquent, a brilliant soldier and a newlywed. And look what happens to him.

And Shakespeare deftly builds up this tragedy with a subtle, interconnecting web of lies and misdirections, with the tension building slowly until something has to blow. His writing is typically powerful, generating some quotable phrases ("It is the green-ey'd monster") and lots of cynical, dark dialogue ("Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch?").

"Othello" is a strangely fascinating tragedy, with Shakespeare absorbing us again in the tale of a good man corrupted. Definitely a good, if harrowing play.
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on 25 June 2015
This is one of the all-time great plays, full of wonderful poetry, great psychology and dramatic scènes. Four hundred years before everybody else, Shakespeare gets stuck into issues of race relations, and even if his ideas aren't up to date, his eloquence is unbeatable. A must-read book.
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on 12 March 2016
The play is immersive and helps to identify and explore the deeper themes of many of the characters and their motives.

I think the question of Iago's motives or lack thereof comes down to the issue of whether his actions can be justified by his reasons for the actions. In other words, in motives, we look for some egregious grievances for which any rational being would want to seek revenge or some reparation. But Iago does not provide us with an outrageous grievance to warrant his ceaseless machinations.
He is a low ranking officer, who does have a good record of loyalty and valour ( by his assessment), but is overlooked for promotion. Well, probably other low ranking officers had some hopes as well, and not every potential candidate gets selected. That is life in an army.
His thought that his wife was seduced by Othello he admits is just "a mere suspicion" that he decides to use as a justification for his "sport and profit".

He seems to be a born manipulator, who gets bored unless he stirs the pot and makes mischief. The more the daring and risk to himself, the more he derives pleasure. Overall an interesting read especially from an academic perspective.
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on 4 July 2013
Felt like a change from reading my usual thrillers/crime stories and tried this classic. I was surprised at the topical story line and how racial prejudice existed back at that time. Liked the characters and the story-line - nice tragic romance story with jealousy intertwined.
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on 1 August 2013
Othello is my absolute favourite of all Shakespeare's plays, it's just absolutely brilliant. It's a wonderful, but tragic play that has one of the best villians of all time. (Iago) The reason why this play remains so popular today is because the concepts of love, hate, jealousy, racism and violence are still very much relatable to today's society.
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on 19 October 2012
Quick delivery and I bought it for my GCSE so i could revise, although i did not need to buy it as the school provided it. I have not yet attempted to read Othello, however for the price it's a classic.
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on 20 April 2016
Bought this book for school, but I despise the storyline. Maybe that's just because I'm a teen who doesn't like to read but it's pretty boring. However, the actual book is durable and sturdy enough to last.
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on 8 March 2013
It's a great read and is easy to download but it would be brilliant if there were line numbers, although it is a free copy so you can't really complain.
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