Gender Bending “Othello”

kim kardashian

According to the Broadway news site, the Titan Theater Company will be doing performances of the Shakespearean play “Othello,” with a twist. The entire cast is female! “The Tragedy of Othello” is about the title character’s fall into madness from jealousy. Iago, the antagonist, makes Othello believe that his wife is being unfaithful in their marriage. Iago is able to accomplish this by feasting on Othello’s insecurities about being a Moor and an outsider. He starts thinking to himself, Why would Desdemona, his wife, love him since he is so different and is an outsider? The play goes over the themes of jealousy and insecurity, which is why it has been able to survive all these years.

The Titan Theater Company’s performance of “Othello” will be exciting to see the women portray both Othello and Iago. The audience can see these feelings that Othello felt  through the eyes of a woman, providing that such emotions are gendered and certain roles are not gendered as well. This rendition of “Othello” will push what gender roles and stereotypes mean. The performances start April 17 2015 at the Queen’s Theater.

Oddly enough, recently there has been another performance of “Othello” with an all female cast.  The Public Theater’s Public Forum Drama Club Series performed select scenes from the Shakespearean play on March 16, 2015. The cast included Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame as Emilia, Iago’s wife. While the the Titan Theater Company’s performances interpretation will be up to the audiences, the Public Forum was more focused on the domestic abuse in the play. Buzzfeed News held an interview with the director, Jeremy McCarter said that Desdemona “is the most famous victim of domestic violence in literary history.” That is a bold claim in general since literature has been around since the ancient times. Also, compared to to other Jacobean era plays “Othello” is pretty tame. Not that Othello doesn’t abuse in Desdemona, just that there have been women in literature with worse fates.

After the Public Forum’s performance, which was more like a dramatic reading with the scripts in front of the actors and the stage directions being read aloud, there was an open discussion about the fate of the women in the play. Based on what Buzzfeed News had reported the discussion focused on if the play was a feminist play or not with the audience. Nixon answered, saying “If this was a feminist play, the tragedy wouldn’t be that [Othello] killed [Desdemona] because she wasn’t true,” Nixon said. “The tragedy would be that he killed her.”

“Othello” was written in an era where women were treated more like possessions rather than people, but Shakespeare has written characters that lower status wise with some of the best lines. Since, this play has been proclaimed very masculine, Shakespeare writes the truest lines for Emilia about the treatment of women in their society. Shakespeare has done this also with the play “The Merchant of Venice” where all the other characters are anti Semitic. The Jewish character, Shylock, has arguably the best speech in the play. It is the famous “If you prick us do we not bleed?” So who is to know what Shakespeare had intended, but that is up to interpretation. Either way, the new performances of “Othello” with an all-female cast are a breath of fresh air.

Photo: Simon Luethi


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