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Othello: Black Or White? Essay

1781 words - 8 pages

Being pressed for time and money, Orson Welles tried his hardest to recreate an accurate depiction of the Shakespeare play, Othello. Unfortunately, it turned out less than spectacular, and it was a blemish on the otherwise great career Welles had as a director. Although some may say the use of shadows to show characterization was stellar, it was not enough to salvage the otherwise poor decision-making in the movie. The casting is the most striking different interpretation that Welles put on display in the movie.
Emilia, who was Desdemona’s servant and Iago’s wife, was a voice for the women in Shakespeare’s original play. She and Iago’s marriage was incredibly tumultuous, with Iago constantly regarding her as an object rather than an actual human being. When regarding men, she states, “They eat us hungerly, and when they are full / they belch us” (III.iv.122-123). Emilia is a strong, independent woman who is not afraid of speaking her opinion. She does not like being told what to do anymore, and she stands up for Desdemona throughout the play. Although she plays a meaningful part in the play, Welles seemed to have diminished her presence and fortitude by having an older woman play her. She just does not have the same power as Emilia in Shakespeare’s play would have. When she looks old in the movie, she will not be able to establish presence because her age does not fit in with her characteristics given to her by Shakespeare. Also, when she is counseling Desdemona in the movie in their room, (right before Othello kills Desdemona), she seems almost like just somebody that is “reading their lines” and she never established presence within the movie. Desdemona just seems to be listening to her because she has to, and she is not saying her lines with the feeling and passion that Emilia would have said in the original play. Also, many would have pictured Emilia as a 30-year-old woman, not a 50-year-old, tired, worn-down lady that she was in the movie. Clearly, if Welles had done a better job of casting, or he was not stressed from the budget, the audience would be able to capture the passion and presence that Emilia demands in the play.
Desdemona, who happened to be the purest and most beautiful person in the play, was falsely accused of cheating and later killed by her own husband, Othello. Shakespeare uses the color white to describe her beauty, because in the time the play took place, it was very common for white to be used as a measure of beauty, and black would be associated with darkness or ugliness. As Iago says to Brabantio, “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / is tupping your white ewe” (I.i.97-98). Desdemona is depicting, at least in the play, as an innocent, young and beautiful woman that is the purest person on the planet. Since she is so pure, her whiteness is also amazing. But, in the movie, Welles decided to have a brunette woman play Desdemona. The fact that the hair completely goes against what Shakespeare was trying to depict...

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