Customer Reviews


38 Reviews
5 star:
 (22)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make sure you get the version you need (if not two or more)
'Othello' is one of Shakespeare's later plays and one of his great tragedies, penned sometime between 'Hamlet' and 'King Lear'. It's a play which emphatically presents cultural tensions - gender, race, religion, nation, role. It's a play which, perhaps more thoroughly than any of his other works, relies on the potency of opposition and contrast, the characters being...
Published on 13 April 2009 by Budge Burgess

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A superb study of ambition, love and revenge
Hard work to read, yet one of the Bard's easiest plays as a stage work. My mark reflects the reading experience but it's fantastic if staged well. This is a real potboiler with beautiful poetry thrown in for free.

This is one of the Bard's more easily digested plays, since the themes and the plot are relatively straightforward - although there are plenty of...
Published on 28 July 2010 by Brownbear101


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make sure you get the version you need (if not two or more), 13 April 2009
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) (Mass Market Paperback)
'Othello' is one of Shakespeare's later plays and one of his great tragedies, penned sometime between 'Hamlet' and 'King Lear'. It's a play which emphatically presents cultural tensions - gender, race, religion, nation, role. It's a play which, perhaps more thoroughly than any of his other works, relies on the potency of opposition and contrast, the characters being polarised into black and white.

Othello is a Moorish general who has saved Venice and who is now based on the exotic Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Here is a man who, despite his 'alien' origins, is hailed as the saviour of his community, a man who is universally loved and admired, except by his lieutenant, Iago.

In Iago Shakespeare beats out with blacksmith rhythm one of his greatest creations, a man fired by jealousy, tempered by hatred, a man whose determination is hammered into shape and whose evil expresses itself in duplicitous twists and malignant turns enough to topple Othello. It is the nature of Shakespearean tragedy that the hero should plunge from the sublime heights to utter destitution, despair, and death.

The cornerstone of Othello's triumph is his great love for his lady, Desdemona. Winning her hand, securing her devotion is his greatest achievement and elevates him to unimagined happiness. Yet it this very foundation which Iago undermines with the seed of jealousy. As suspicion takes root, the whole edifice of Othello's power and completeness collapses about him. He murders his wife, faces the realisation of what he has done, and recognises that eternal damnation is less of a punishment that enduring life aware of his own guilt.

Shakespeare is a major architect of English. His phraseology permeates the language like the mortar binding together a building. 'Hamlet', it has been said, is a play written in clichés, so commonplace have become the scores of quotations which have been lifted from it. 'Othello' has had a less dramatic impact on the language, but it remains one of the great examples of the tragedian's craft.

'Othello' embodies Shakespeare's oft-repeated theme of love and duty as the mortar mix which binds society. It is Othello's tragedy that he should adulterate both, exposing them as weaknesses rather than strengths, the alchemy of his emotions reducing them to acids which will eat into his soul and corrupt his very nature.

Shakespeare took characterisation to a new level. His triumph is not only in his invigoration of the English language but in his psychological awareness and insight, his ability to get inside the minds of his characters long before social science was conceived or psychology became the lingua franca of literature. Shakespeare's characters have a realism which contrasts with the earlier role of the staged character as a mouthpiece for words and vehicle for action. Shakespeare's characters breathe, their dilemmas and tragedies are painfully human.

Othello and Iago are two of his greatest creatures. Villainy, we discover, can be as enthralling and dramatically dynamic as any heroic role. A play which can pit such characters against one another is a play which will provide lasting rewards for both its audience and its actors. Shakespeare's plays, remember, have thrilled and inspired actors for centuries: they continue to do so, and each generation of actors wrings new interpretations and understandings from performance.

There are many published editions of the play available - your choice may reflect your pocket, it may more likely reflect your need to study for school or college. It's worth contrasting the various popular editions available and considering which most adequately meets your needs.

My first choice, for any student or anyone seeking a sound understanding of the play, is the Arden edition. It provides the most extensive notes, offers insights into the play and its performance, explores the dynamics of its characters, and offers you an excellent appreciation of the text. The textual notes are comprehensive and readily comprehensible. They are included on the same page as the text - text at the top, notes at the bottom - and make it easy to follow the meaning of the dialogue. Add to this good quality paper and printing, and you have a robust edition and an exciting resource for the student.

The Penguin Shakespeare edition offers an excellent introduction - some seventy pages of analysis of the play's themes and dynamics. This is well worth reading by any student. A small, pocket-sized edition, it is also convenient for carrying around. However, the notes on the text, while excellent, are confined to the back of the book - you have to keep turning backwards and forwards to refer to them, and this can be a drawback. Note, also, that there are three Penguin edition available. The Penguin Shakespeare is more up-to-date than the New Penguin Shakespeare, and the Penguin Popular Classics simply delivers the text of the play with little or nothing in the way of notes.

The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides a dynamic Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.

The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.

The Heinemann edition is aimed at 'A' level students in the UK. It offers page by page notes on the text plus an overview of what is happening on stage to give you an insight into this as an active dramatic production, not simply words on a page. It's well laid out, well produced, well printed, making the text easy to follow. There are questions posed about the drama and characters, providing stimulating material for teaching and learning in groups, or for individual thought. There's a significant section at the rear of the book exploring themes and the major questions in the play, leading the student (and teacher) into a deeper awareness of language, setting, characterisation and drama. Designed emphatically for 'A' level students, it will nevertheless prove useful for first year at university (and possibly beyond), thanks to its ability to generate ideas and questions.

The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.

The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.

For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge, Heinemann, or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it's worth collaborating with your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant, 19 Mar. 2010
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Shakespeare based this play on a short Italian story, of course adapting and changing the story to meeet his own requirements. Written sometime between Hamlet and King Lear this shows an author who was most definitely at the peak of his powers.

One of Shakespeare's tragedies this is easily deceptive, as the plot is about love, jealously, race relations, revenge and betrayal, but when you read it you find that it isn't that simple. With his insight into how people think Othello has been criticised for being too egotistical or too much of a romantic, showing how Shakespeare can cause people to analyse his characters centuries after he wrote about them.

With its storyline this play is still relevant today. Arguably all his plays are but this one you can see immediately carries a strong resonance in the modern world. The expression Moor at the time this was written would indicate to people that Othello was black or at least swarthy in appearance. Othello being duped into believing that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful by the machinations of another is nothing new in today's world, after all we have all witnessed or heard about similar things happening.

I know that some people find plays hard to read, but here is a piece of good advice that I heard with regards to reading Shakespeare - just relax and read the dialogue. It does work, before you know it you are into the story and feel the emotions of the different characters. As one RSC actress said when she played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, 'You don't have to do anytihng because the words show you how to act.' Possibly the greatest compliment that can ever be given to a playwright.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars A superb study of ambition, love and revenge, 28 July 2010
Hard work to read, yet one of the Bard's easiest plays as a stage work. My mark reflects the reading experience but it's fantastic if staged well. This is a real potboiler with beautiful poetry thrown in for free.

This is one of the Bard's more easily digested plays, since the themes and the plot are relatively straightforward - although there are plenty of academic theories and counter theories if you want complexity.

Iago is passed over for an army promotion by Othello and swears revenge - which he takes by planting the seeds of jealousy in Othello's mind about the fidelity of his new wife Desdemona, whom he suggests is having an affair with Cassio, Iago's successful military rival. A simple enough plot made interesting by three things. First the scale of Iago's success in his plans is such that Othello murders Desdemona and kills himself - revenge indeed, although some critics can't equate the quarrel with the outcome - I suggest that they have never sought revenge. Secondly Othello is black - a Moor - and yet holds a position of command in the Venetian army. There are reams of material written about the significance of Othello's colour both as regards Iago's revenge and Shakespeare's racism. Personally I found it an irrelevance and I suspect that as much as anything Shakespeare might have needed to find a role for a black actor. Finally and most interestingly is the manner in which Iago executes his revenge, which is a model of subtlety and how well he knows the weak spots and vanities of his target.

Othello is in many ways the perfect man, he is physically strong and courageous, and is an acclaimed war hero and respected general. So much so that, although he steals Desdemona without her father's permission, the state of Venice is anxious to overlook any impropriety so that Othello can lead a campaign against the Turks in Cyprus. And it seems that he is good with people and a wise and kind human being but it transpires that he cannot bear disloyalty, neither in Cassio - his lieutenant, who is induced into drunkenness by Iago, or his wife who might be having an affair with that same Cassio.

Iago plays him like an instrument, and with the merest of shams convinces Othello of the unworthiness of Cassio and his wife. This was probably a message that was not lost on Shakespeare's royal audience who would be used to having honeyed words trickled into their ears designed to advance their author at the expense of others (and any senior manager in a large firm will be familiar with the set up).

But Iago leaves too much of a trail and is caught out - too late to save Othello and Desdemona. To that extent Shakespeare pulls his punches because we all know that in real life Iago would get away with it and take Othello's position not just Cassio's.

You will read a lot about the racism allegedly in this play but there is plenty of evidence for this being pro black as well as anti - Othello is perhaps the most beautiful character in the work. After 400 years there is nothing more left in the debate, decide for yourself.

There is a lot of good stuff here, not too many long speeches and the motivation of the characters is pretty clear throughout. I can't really recommend reading the play however - it's so much easier to understand if a great actor delivers the lines. Maybe it's an idea to have a copy for reference afterwards. My score therefore reflects the reading experience. If I scored a great performance of the play it would get five stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, so relevant to today., 23 Dec. 2000
By A Customer
Despite the difficult language, Othello has to be one of the most moving tales of tragedy available ever, with such a complex web of spins. Iago is the 'baddie', and is fantastic at his role bringing the end to many lives, in more ways than just by death itself. Othello is every part the "valiant Moor", and Desdemona, his bride, is every feminists nightmare, along with every romantics heroine.
What should be recognised is that in Othello, we see so many aspects of life today, racism and sexism probably standing out the most. Othello is a fascinating read because of this, how Shakespeare could have understood racism as he does in his age is beyond the imagination. Also, the crudeness of the character of Iago, and the pathetic Roderigo in some parts is enough to make the censors go wild, along with its political incorrectness, is great! And all in the name of education and culture.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best critical edition for pre-postgraduate students, 26 Feb. 2001
By 
Daniel P Lester (Watford, England) - See all my reviews
I don't quite know why this forum has become an opportunity for children to bandy simplistic reviews of what is universally acknowledged one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies... Many of our greatest literary minds have spent their entire lives without fully comprehending the subtleties of Shakespeare's vision! What you really need to know is that this particular edition of Othello is one of the most usefully annotated of any available. Pitched to assist all but the most advanced of Shakespeare students and phrased in language anyone can easily comprehend, it assists in the development of a profound and sympathetic understanding of the play. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Hiddleston's and McGregor's fans, 25 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The set is more than I expected thanks to the video interviews with the protagonists.
Moreover, Tom Hiddleston's voice is simply music to my ears!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for son's GCSE English!, 12 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) (Mass Market Paperback)
I never studied Shakespeare at school but my son is! First stop,Othello,they've been reading it at school and he's only brought home photo copies on A4 of certain parts!! Thought it would be a lot better for him to have the book at home,so did some research and stumbled across this little gem,makes reading Othello much more understanding,his Nan picked it up one day and read it,thought it was very good! Has exam style questions in the back aswell which is great!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Othello, 14 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) (Mass Market Paperback)
Othello is a beautifully written work by Shakespeare. Shakespeare needs no review from me but Othello is a superb piece of work that talks about the very human emotions of pride and love, at the same time the results of not controlling ones emotions but acting on them in the throes of passion. A good read for anyone.Othello (Penguin Popular Classics)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Not for students., 1 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) (Mass Market Paperback)
Really nice font, easy to read, but bad spacing, I need to write notes on the side to translate the language but have to write very limited writing so would take that in mind, not for learning as you can't write in the sides, nor any note sections to write in. Plus, if your a student and have trouble understanding Shakespeare go on spark notes.com REALLY helpful!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 14 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) (Mass Market Paperback)
I had to buy Othello for my AS English coursework, am for once I'm extremely happy with the reading set. Othello is brilliant. The language used is obviously a little old but once you get into the play it does not hinder the story at all. It's meticulous- the villain of the play is by my favourite part, Iago has been written ingeniously.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Othello (Penguin Shakespeare)
Othello (Penguin Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare (Mass Market Paperback - 7 April 2005)
£6.39
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews