The realm of Othello is not of great kingdoms lost and won, nor of courtly politics. It is the marriage bed and not the throne that rivets our attention. Othello aspires to belong to Desdemona’s world, and instead becomes victim to its bigotry and his own monstrous terrors.
Marti Maraden, who returns to CST after directing Much Ado About Nothing in 2006, stages Othello—featuring leading classical actor Derrick Lee Weeden in the title role.
Approximate running time: 3 hours (including intermission)
"I enjoyed Weeden's performance [as Othello] very much!"
"Shakespeare doesn't get much better than this!"
Team Shakespeare Student Matinees of Othello are sponsored by Kraft Foods and Nuveen Investments, with additional support from Ms. Sheila A. Penrose and Mr. R. Ernest Mahaffey.
Funding for the composition and sound design of original music for Othello is provided by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.
Othello is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
In the street shadows of night, two men discuss the news: Desdemona, a young aristocrat of Venice, has just eloped with Othello, a hired general in the Venetian army—and a Moor. Iago assures the heartsick Roderigo that he, too, harbors hatred for the Moor, who has promoted Cassio over him as lieutenant.
Rudely awakened out of sleep by the report of his daughter's marriage, Brabantio seeks the full justice of Venetian law. At the moment, however, the Duke and senators of Venice are concerned with more pressing affairs of state: the Turks are threatening Venetian interests in Cyprus, and the Moor's service is required. Granted permission to be accompanied by his bride, Othello prepares to embark for Cyprus.
Iago conceives his plot—he will make the general believe that the young Venetian officer Cassio is Desdemona's lover—and so begins his work. Ensnaring Cassio in a drunken brawl, Iago looks on as Othello predictably dismisses his new lieutenant. Iago urges Cassio to seek Desdemona's aid in recovering Othello's favor, then suggests to Othello that his wife's interest in Cassio's misfortunes may signify her infidelity. Demanding "ocular proof," Othello is soon convinced when his first gift to Desdemona—a charmed handkerchief his mother had given him—is misplaced and, with help from Iago's wife Emilia, ends up in Cassio's possession. For service to his general, Iago is appointed Othello's new lieutenant.
Stunned by her husband's accusations, Desdemona pleads with Othello—first for his compassion, then for her life. As Emilia comes to understand her husband's crimes, she is murdered for the truth she speaks. Tormented by remorse and grief, Othello takes his own life, and Iago, silent at last, is taken into custody.
– Contributed by the CST Education Department
A Scholar's Perspective by Wendy Wall
Wendy Wall explores the pervasive, illusory presence of "home" in Shakespeare's Othello.
A Scholar’s Perspective by Carol Thomas Neely
Carol Thomas Neely asserts that in facing Othello's relentless tragedy, its characters and audiences alike seek justice and relief, wanting to blame someone else and absolve ourselves.
Open Door: Audience Enrichment Programs
CST offers pre- or post-show programs with members of the cast or scholars: PreAmbles, Pub Cast Calls and Talk Backs.
Othello in Historical Context
The Turkish attack on Cyprus, recounted in the play, took place in 1570—and in the memory of most of Shakespeare's theatergoers. More significant, perhaps, was the ascension to England's throne by King James I, ending the Elizabethan era.
The primary source for Othello appears to be Italian author Giraldi Cinthio’s 1565 collection of stories, in which the "Moro," or Moor, was a distinguished soldier.
Performance History on Stage
From the eighteenth century when the play was censured in France to the early twentieth century when actor Paul Robeson had to leave his own country in order to play its title role, Othello in performance has been as controversial as it has been popular.
Performance History in Film
From the silent 1920s German film version to Bollywood’s take on the story in 2006, Othello has proven one of Shakespeare’s most popular—and flexible—works on the big screen.
Scholars, Authors and Artists on Othello
Themes of identity, race, domesticity and the nature of evil in Othello have resonated through the centuries and are commented upon by Allan Bloom, Victor Hugo, Bernard Shaw and John Quincy Adams and others.
A portal to the world of Shakespeare, these selected internet sites lead further into the exploration of Shakespeare in performance, his life and times, the original texts, and much more.
See who's who among the actors, with their bios, headshots and resumes.
The Creative Team
See who’s who on the creative team—the director, designers and other artists who contribute to the creation of the world of the play.
A Conversation with Director Marti Maraden
Guest director Marti Maraden, one of three newly appointed artistic directors of Canada's famed Stratford Festival, met with Director of Education Marilyn Halperin and Associate Director of Education Beatrice Bosco in late October 2007 when she visited Chicago for a series of production meetings at CST. Here, she discusses her thoughts about Shakespeare's play and her upcoming production of Othello.
Preview the Costume Designs
See some of Costume Designer Christina Poddubiuk's elegant sketches for CST's Othello. Poddubiuk made her CST debut with Much Ado About Nothing in 2006. U.S. regional credits include The Tempest and The Philanderer at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Canadian credits include work with the Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, National Arts Centre, Canadian Stage Company and Canadian Opera Company.
Director Marti Maraden sets her production at the turn of the twentieth century in Venice and Cyprus. Ms. Poddubiuk describes the design choices she made in creating the costumes for Othello.
Rehearsal Photo Slide Show
View a slide show of rehearsal photography from Othello.