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Othello

Discussion Questions

Othello
by William Shakespeare (circa 1604)

  1. Andrew Davies played freely with the character and plot of Shakespeare's Othello when he wrote his new screenplay. How do the characters in each correspond to each other? What did Davies have to change when he set his screenplay in 2001? How do Davies' changes restate or reexamine the themes of Shakespeare's play? What contemporary questions and issues does the screenplay explore? What do you think Shakespeare would think of Davies' adaptation?

  2. Over the years Othello has left critics and viewers of the play wondering and debating: Does Shakespeare provide Iago with enough human motivation for the malevolent acts he commits? Is it plausible that the intelligent, noble Othello could fall so quickly into Iago's trap, turning from blissful newlywed to murderer in three days? What do you think? Is the play deeply flawed or is it disturbing and challenging because of its problems? How has Davies changed the plot to address the "problems" of Othello? Does the screenplay provide satisfactory answers to the two questions above? Why or why not?

  3. What is a stereotype? How do stereotypes originate? In Shakespeare's world Othello, an African, would have been viewed as inferior. Does Shakespeare's play encourage or challenge the racism of the time? Is the Othello in the screenplay a stereotype? Why or why not? Do other characters see him as one? How do you think a modern viewer's response to stereotypes differs from viewers in Shakespeare's time?

  4. One can argue that Othello is an outsider in both Shakespeare's society and in 2001. Why do you think Shakespeare placed this character from the outer circle of society at the center of the action in his play? What is the role of the outsider in Othello? What can outsiders see that other characters cannot?

  5. In the banquet scene of the film, how does Jago use the camera? What is the camera's point of view during the speech? How does the camera's point of view control how we understand and interpret events? Is Jago controlling what we see in the story and how we see it?

Questions by Carol Cashion © WGBH Educational Foundation, 2004

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