Desdemona

By far, the most interesting part of Desdemona is the inclusion of music. Much like the Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, songs added a new element to the production. It almost feels like an allegory for the conservative, buttoned-up culture of traditional Western Europe being influenced by the vibrant African music. This, I’m sure, was intentional, as Shakespeare’s Othello seemed to only use Othello’s race as a plot device rather than a character development. Instead, Morrison approaches race and gender as only she can: together.

Othello does not consider what it means for Desdemona, a white woman, to marry a black man. The union is only seen from the eyes of the male characters. Desdemona is less of a character than a prop, and Morrison changes that. We see Othello through Desdemona’s eyes, which only exacerbates the feeling that Othello is half a play at best. It makes me think about all of the other Shakespeare plays that were missing key perspectives. How could they be adapted to include those perspectives? How many perspectives are missing from Shakespeare’s plays that would add a fuller understanding of race and gender?

I feel like Desdemona’s strongest message is that perspective is important to understanding stories, of all kinds. They help understand fiction, but they also help understand our own history. Considering all the angles is important. For Shakespeare’s plays for example, we consider the author, the audience, and the time period, but we have never discussed the actors themselves. How did their lives and perspectives factor into their performances?

3 comments

  1. I like how you brought up how this adaptation of play gives us more idea of Desdemona’s perspective on her and Othello’s relationship. When reading the original, I never stopped to ask “what would Desdemona think about this” which I think was nearsighted of me but is also, as you mentioned, a short coming of Shakespeare’s plays in general. I cannot think of any (at least that I have read) that have been told from a remotely female perspective. Perhaps Shakespeare was just more comfortable writing from perspective he knew.

  2. I agree that this rendition of Othello was effective in presenting Desdemona’s different and important perspective. In his plays, Shakespeare rarely centers the women characters and forms their character through the perspective of the men.

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