Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review of "Othello: A Shakespeare Story," by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross

Review of

Othello: A Shakespeare Story, by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross ISBN 9781626866959

Five out of five stars

 An English professor once told me that Othello was her favorite Shakespeare story, with the villain Iago one of the most memorable characters in all of his plays. The main premise is one unusual for plays and stories of the seventeenth century, it is an unforced interracial marriage. Less commonly emphasized is the rags to riches aspect of the play. Othello, a black man that escaped slavery and then through bravery in battle rose to the rank of general, is the main character.

 He then meets and falls in love with Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian nobleman and she reciprocates the feelings. They are secretly married and are initially very happy when Othello is sent to command a garrison on the island of Cyprus. When they arrive, the despicable Iago engages in an underhanded campaign to create dissension in the garrison and between Othello and Desdemona until there is a great tragedy. It is a story about jealousy, hatred and the all-too-common actions of people that only know how to destroy.

 This book captures the essence of the story, which is in many ways more of a tragedy than Romeo and Juliet, for in this case one of the lovers is killed by the other. In many ways the English professor was right, the relationships are more socially complex, and the story is one that is easier for modern readers to relate to. I strongly recommend this book as an introduction to a great play.

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