Wednesday, February 14th, 2018...1:25 pmElizabeth

Staging Othello (pp.62-64)

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Staging Othello

If I were to direct a new production of Othello, I would change the location to bring new insights to the play and audience. To give an example of the new staging I would produce of Othello, I chose this specific moment to look at:


Act 1, Scene 3 (Pp. 62-64)


Her father loved me, oft invited me,

Still questioned me the story of my life

From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,

That I have passed.

I ran it through, even from my boyish days,

To th’ very moment that he bade me tell it,

Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth ’scapes i’ th’ imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence

And portance in my traveler’s history.

Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,

Rough quarries, rocks, hills whose heads touch heaven

It was my hint to speak—such was my process—

And of the Cannibals that each others eat,

The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads

Grew beneath their shoulders. These things to hear

Would Desdemona seriously incline.

But still the house affairs would draw her hence,

Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,

She’d come again, and with a greedy ear

Devour up my discourse, which I, observing,

Took once a pliant hour and found good means

To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart

That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,

Whereof by parcels she had something heard

But not intentively. I did consent,

And often did beguile her of her tears

When I did speak of some distressful stroke

That my youth suffered. My story being done

She gave me for my pains a world of sighs.

She swore, in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange,

‘Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful.

She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished

That heaven had made her such a man. She thanked me

And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,

I should but teach him how to tell my story

And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake.

She loved me for the dangers I had passed,

And I loved her that she did pity them.

This only is the witchcraft I have used.

Here comes the lady. Let her witness it.


Enter DESDEMONAIAGO, and attendants



I think this tale would win my daughter too.

Good Brabantio. Take up this mangled matter at the best.

Men do their broken weapons rather use

Than their bare hands.



I pray you, hear her speak.

If she confess that she was half the wooer,

Destruction on my head if my bad blame

Light on the man.—Come hither, gentle mistress.

Do you perceive in all this noble company

Where most you owe obedience?



My noble father,

I do perceive here a divided duty.

To you I am bound for life and education.

My life and education both do learn me

How to respect you. You are the lord of duty.

I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband.

And so much duty as my mother showed

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord.



God be with you. I have done.

Please it your grace, on to the state affairs.

I had rather to adopt a child than get it.

Come hither, Moor.                             [He joins the hands of Othello and Desdemona.]

I here do give thee that with all my heart

Which, but thou hast already, with all my heart

I would keep from thee. For your sake, jewel,

I am glad at soul I have no other child.

For thy escape would teach me tyranny,

To hang clogs on them.—I have done, my lord.


To debrief what you just read, essentially, Desdemona is torn between her father and Othello—who should she respect or be with more? Desdemona had fallen in love with Othello through the stories he had shared with her. Desdemona decides her husband is essentially more important to have in her life. Her father, Brabantio, is almost forced to give his blessing. One could interpret this is emotionally hard for Brabantio, especially since Desdemona is his only child.


The original setting of this scene is at a “table, with lights.” However, because of the emotional strings that come along with eloping, and marrying into ones family for life suggests a more intimate setting. While a table invites a serious yet trusting atmosphere, the level or amount of emotions and love might require more space to walk/ get up and digest the heaviness of information being presented. With that in mind, as the director, I would have the setting/ or conversation take place at a pool table. The characters would have this serious, heavy talk with a distraction in front of them to let out any pint up feelings.


While a pool table might seem strange, it would specifically allow Desdemona’s father to have an outlet. One might infer that he is angry, or even jealous, and possibly skeptical of this “black” man, Othello, more commonly called the “Moore.” Therefore, a distraction would be beneficial. Also because this conversation has a more serious tone, the setting might complement or bring out a more relaxed side of the characters allowing them to be completely honest and genuine.

Image result for pool table settings shakespeare othello


As you can see in this photo, and in most pool settings men seem to take over the room. Therefore, I would place Desdemona off to the side of the pool table, watching her father, Othello, and the Duke playing while talking to them all. Also some fathers, and in this case specifically Brabantio is quite attached to his daughter and is probably having a hard time giving her up to another man. The pool setting could be a way for Othello to prove his manliness, and worthiness. The fact that Desdemona would even be in this room shows the depth in which she loves Othello.

Do you think the setting is “fair” (that reoccurring word) to Desdemona? Or should there be a scene that is more inviting or inclusive?


  •   Lillian Carver
    February 19th, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Oh my god, this is so interesting to me. This completely diffuses any kind of power structure in the setting. The idea that this would be in some kind of parlor? One the one hand this is a very humorous idea, just completely uprooting the situation and putting somewhere so modern (or not?), but you also do a great job of explaining how it still fits into the vibe of the scene.
    In a way, so much of this play feels like dumb bar antics that this seems to fit right in. I really love the way that it allows power dynamics to be established. You can just see Desdemona taking her father’s cue out of his hand in an effort to calm him down. Iago making a shot that looks like a mistake, but instead lines him up to win the whole game.
    I’m genuinely fascinated by the amount of analogy that is possible in this setting, and the fact that so much humor is also so easily accessed through props– I’m honestly just a little annoyed that I didn’t think of this first. Well done.

  • I think this is an innovative and almost humorous way of staging this scene. I will admit that merely setting it at a common table almost makes every action and phrase uttered seem rigid, so I like that you gave it a more dynamic direction. I like the idea of all the characters standing around a pool table. I think it would be interesting to stage Desdemona at the far end of the table with Brabantio on one side and Othello on the other. An interesting twist that I would like to see considered would be: who wins the game of pool? If Brabantio wins, does Desdemonia congratulate him? Will she equally console Othello for losing? If Othello won, would he pick Desdemona up in glory and swing her around, rubbing his victory in Brabantio’s face?

  •   Professor Seiler
    February 20th, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Elizabeth–picking up on Lillian’s and Annalee’s responses to your great idea and on our brief discussion in class today: I would add that the scene you choose–the billiard room/hall–is also a gendered space, both conventionally and in how you and your peers think about it. This sense of “men’s space / men’s games” would underscore the risk to Desdemona’s “fairness” of her being there at all–even with her husband and father.

    I wonder if your critical approach essay might be about “fairness” and womanhood…

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