February 18

April 10, 2016

at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

by WIlliam Shakespeare
directed by Jonathan Munby

The Story

In the city street shadows, two men discuss the night’s intel: Othello, a hired general in the Venetian army—and a Moor—has eloped with a young aristocrat of Venice, named Desdemona. Iago, the soldier, reassures Roderigo that all hope of winning the young woman’s heart is not yet lost; and that he, too, harbors reasons for hating the Moor, who has promoted over him Cassio, a young and privileged officer. Iago and Roderigo yell from the street below the news of Desdemona’s elopement to awaken her father Brabantio, who immediately seeks the full justice of Venetian law. But this night the Duke and senators are intent upon more pressing affairs of state: the Turks threaten Venetian interests in Cyprus, and the Moor’s service is required. Othello prepares to deploy to Cyprus and, with the Duke’s permission, Desdemona will join him there, attended by Iago’s wife Emilia.

Now Iago conceives his plan: he will make the general believe that his new lieutenant is Desdemona’s lover. And so begins his work. First ensnaring Cassio in a drunken brawl, Iago looks on as Othello predictably dismisses the officer from his service. Iago urges Cassio to seek Desdemona’s aid in recovering the general’s favor—while suggesting to Othello that her interest in a man’s misfortunes might signal a wife’s infidelity. Demanding proof, Othello is convinced when his first gift to Desdemona—an embroidered handkerchief belonging once to his mother—is misplaced and now passes, with guidance, to Cassio, then into the possession of a Cypriot prostitute named Bianca.

For his great service to the general, Iago is appointed Othello’s new lieutenant. Desdemona, stunned by her husband’s accusations, pleads with him—first for compassion, then for her life. And as Emilia comes to understand her own husband, two women become caught inextricably in the crossfire.

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