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Othello
updated 3.6.2002

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
While I found the production of Othello excellent and the acting superb, I have to wonder about the value of a tale wherein the good guys die and the villain rises to power at virtually no cost. I can see how this story could be used to demonstrate the evils of jealousy to some. For others, however, it may only raise awareness of the usefulness of guile, deceit, manipulation, and a sociopathic personality. Or am I just over-reacting?

Bob Sliwinski
Atlanta, GA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Masterpiece Theatre's presentation of Othello was absolutely fabulous. I have read the original play, seen numerous theatrical stagings of Othello, as well as other movies. But Andrew Davies's new version of Othello was one of the best interpretations I have ever seen. It was a wonderful idea to modernize Othello and use modern English. The acting was also very, very powerful. The last 10 minutes of the movie, I was absolutely bawling. I used up about a half a box of Kleenex! Please keep airing such wonderful, powerful movies!

Liz Russell
Sewickley, PA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Mark Twain said a classic is something people praise but do not read. How true. You obviously did not read Othello, or perhaps the fool who wrote your opening speech did not read it, nor did the person who should have checked the facts in your opening monologue. If you had read the play, even the first act, even the first scene, even the first few lines of the first scene, you would have realized that Iago hates Othello because Othello has promoted a younger, less competent (in Iago's view) man in place of Iago. How "modern," as you observed. So, you see, the author of your new Othello did not use "consummate nerve" in giving a reason for Iago's hatred. It's in the original classic play. Read it. Don't just praise it.

John Lipman
New York, NY




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Last night's performance of Othello was superb! Each of the three leads was outstanding: so strong, so passionate, so intense, and together insured the success of the performance. I thought that the "master of ceremonies," if you will, was unnecessarily pessimistic about this particular modern day production of Othello, but in my view he was off the mark. It's unfortunate, as he may have biased some viewers against what I thought was a very powerful presentation.

S. Coughlin
Alexandria, VA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I wonder how many people saw the fact that Othello is more about a tale of misogyny than racism. Othello "loves and trusts" his wife. He also loves and trusts Jago. But whose side does he take when Jago insinuates that his wife has a "wild past"?

Does a man who loves and trusts his wife more than his friend believe the friend's obviously nasty remarks? Or does a man who loves and trusts his wife tell that friend where to go and to not speak of his wife in such a way? And what sort of person marries someone without knowing that person's past history? He watches her sleep at night and wonders who she is, but he never cared to ask about her past previously, or to listen to her talk about anything for that matter (he readily admits that throughout their relationship, he always talked and she listened).

This is not a story of a man persecuted from all sides, but of a man whose sense of being a victim makes him need to victimize others. He sees women as either a possession ("You're mine!"), or as "damaged goods." He shows little remorse after killing her when he still believes her to be "damaged goods," but when Jago claims her to be "clean," he breaks down and feels his guilt.

Poor Othello.

Robert Epstein
Long Beach, CA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Hats off to a fine Masterpiece Theatre production. Othello's crisp teleplay and modern adaptation was realistic thanks to Eamonn Walker's strong, inventive acting. The tragedy joins the urban messages of human frailty and subtle racism. Cynics would say it's just a story about love and ambition where they're out to get the boss. True, but Shakespeare today would have done the same with a fuse or firebrand if he thought it safe. Such a wild element in 17th century London -- a "man of power" of a different color -- but not so set in 21st century "politics of delivery." (Maybe take a look too at Training Day. Another setup?)

My favorite adaptation, not yet seen, would reverse all the roles by race. A black Iago? A white Othello having sensual sex with a black Desdemona? Oh come on! It would leave the race in and just change the colors for the message!

Kudos with and without 'blackface' ...Olivier probably wanted it the way I noted!

Scott M. Connolly
West Springfield, MA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was so moved by Othello. Mr. Walker was so fantastic. The story had me spellbound and I could not move or speak. What a magnificent piece of work. Thanks for bringing Shakespeare to the modern day world. I read Othello in school and I couldn't relate to it at all.

Shirley Kraft
San Diego, CA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I'm not an expert on Shakespeare's plays. I haven't read Othello in 20 years. But if memory serves me correctly, the greatness was (other than use of language) in the idea that a subtle single hint of an affair, as planted by Iago, could develop in Othello's mind to the point of uncontrollable jealousy leading to murder. This remake missed that completely. Sure, modernize the story, add a subplot, even write new dialogue. But if you have Iago pounding away at Othello's doubts you lose the study of a mind (Othello's) gradually turning on itself. When "Jago" suggests testing the robe for "sexual secretions" I gave up. I started reading with the television on but sound off.

Michael Rudnick
Bedminster, NJ




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Great! Keep it coming!

Diane Collins
Oakland, CA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I enjoyed Othello last night. It was an interesting modern version. Continue your great performances.

Boris DeLaine
Charlotte, NC




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This modern-day adaptation of Othello was magnificent -- the best I've ever seen done of a Shakespearean tragedy. I hope this film will eventually be available on DVD because it is certainly one to add to your collection.

Albert Lee
San Francisco, CA




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The production was very moving, and I was delighted to recognize some of the actors in it. While it was very good, the ending took away my joy at watching it. It did not stay true to Shakespeare's ending. The audience had to make certain allowances for the adaptation to our modern times, but Ben Jago (Iago) did not get his comeuppance. I know Shakespeare let him live in the end of the original, but he was still punished. Is this a purposeful reflection or comment about the injustice of modern times? I know that this was a good production because I could not stop thinking or talking about it. Thank you for this thought-provoking film.

Rachel Howard
Birmingham, AL




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Othello was riveting. I wouldn't have seen the play, but after reading the review in the Baltimore Sun on January 28th, I was intrigued. Making this classic a more modern tale was a brilliant idea to draw in new fans. This should have been shown on primetime! The lead actor was mesmerizing.

D.E. Cook
Baltimore, MD




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I cannot begin to tell PBS how I enjoyed the remake of Othello. I was also moved by The Murder of Stephen Lawrence. Please continue to bring these wonderful programs to your viewers.

Charmaine Roberts
Ft. Lauderdale, FL




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Last night's Othello was really, really terrific. I spent my college career doing "transplanted" Shakespeare, in which some misguided director would put, say, Comedy of Errors in the Wild West, or do a Kabuki version of The Tempest. So I was prepared for yet another evening of saying to myself, "Well, it all looks pretty, but why on earth are they talking that way? "

I was bowled over. Every liberty that Davies took with the plot paid off many times over. The story has never seemed more contemporary or more relevant.

You kept me up past my bedtime -- and thanks!

Gary Sullivan
MD




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Bravo! I just finished watching this mesmerizing rendition of Othello, and all I can say is thank you for once again bringing our attention back to the ultimate lesson of human tragedy, where supposed betrayal by another diminishes us to such levels of insecurity and jealousy that we experience the ultimate tragedy in terms of love: loss of ourselves and of others.

Betrayal is such a myth. It comes intentionally on some occasions, but more frequently not, as it is often unintentionally manifested. To be able to make this distinction in the encounters we have as human beings might invariably lead us to avoid much of the unnecessary suffering we create. Othello teaches a lesson well-taken, indeed.

Hats off to Eamonn Walker. He had me on edge, and reminded me of some very scary boyfriends I've loved and gently dumped before it was penitentiary time for them. (I kid you not!) I look forward to more performances by him.

Carol Murphy
Littleton, CO




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
From my perspective, the movie Othello was all about betrayal. It leaves you with the feeling to not trust anyone -- definitely not a best friend. There is a scripture in the bible, Psalms 55:12-14, that reads: "For it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company."

The sex, in my opinion, was second fiddle. Could be racism in Hollywood is not ready to see the black stud with the white woman. The corruption was there, but also second fiddle. The racism that four corrupt white cops kill an innocent black man was also second fiddle.

The moral of this entire movie was the betrayal of a close friend. My stomach knotted and my anger grew because I could actually feel the betrayal. And to see its destruction up close and personal was a little overwhelming. I have never personally gone through anything like that myself that I am readily aware of, but I have seen it from a distance, and that is the most hurtful thing one human could ever do to someone that they claim to love.

Jackie Lewis
Arlington, TX




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The commercials of the Bard's masterpiece tempted me, but I made no explicit plans to watch. I happened upon Othello tonight just as is began. I have seen the most hyped movies to date and left mostly unimpressed. I have seen commercials that intrigued me to movies that then left me cold. I cannot place Othello into that category -- I am IMPRESSED. This is what movies are supposed to be about: passion, inspired storytelling, inventive translation, tasteful cinematics, heated dialogue, etc. etc. The kudos cannot support the fine nature of this flick. I was taken in so completely, like no other motion picture I have ever viewed. I am floored by this wonderful piece of entertainment. It easily gets my nomination for Movie of the Year.

Chance Correll
Plymouth, IN




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This version of Othello has so far been the best, hands down, that I have ever seen. I am a 15-year-old African American male who can relate to this production very much, as I am in an interracial relationship -- my girlfriend is white -- and I was also amazed at the acting. Truly genius and perfect performances from each and every one of the actors. I can't remember crying since the age of 11 or 12, yet this play brought out emotions in me that I didn't know I had or was even comfortable expressing. So many emotions and points of view are going through me right now that can't be expressed, so the only thing I can do is to encourage you to watch it. It appeals to everyone no matter the race or gender or sexual orientation of the viewer. In the end, all I can say is that this is now, without a doubt, the best performance that I've had the privilege to see. WATCH IT!

Daniel Hall
New York City, NY




Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I have just finished viewing Othello. It, as I'm sure was intended, left me sad. Tragic and truthful, Othello hit home the point that the human condition is often pathetically deceptive. Great presentation. Thanks.

M. Honis
Syracuse, NY



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