"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition;
Oft got without merit and lost without deserving."
In the city of Venice, a dark-skinned military commander named Othello secretly marries the young and fair senator's daughter Desdemona. The interracial marriage draws resentments from other Venetians, particularly from the ambitious and envious soldier Iago, who hates Othello for his success, his way with women, and for overlooking him for promotion. Enlisting the help of Roderigo, another soldier lusting after Desdemona, Iago begins to plot to strip Othello of everything he holds dear, concocting a scheme far more sinister and gruesome than murder...
More than a retelling, this aptly termed "reconceptualization" provocatively modernizes Shakespeare's play. As in the original, the middle-aged general Othello the ``moor'' and young European noblewoman Desdemona fall in love and marry secretly. But Lester (To Be a Slave; John Henry) transplants the action from Venice and Cyprus to Elizabethan England and turns Iago and Emily into Africans like Othello, so that the three of them share a distinctly non-European point of view. Iago's envy of Othello and ability to whip him into a jealous rage at Desdemona are thus cast in a new light, though the tragic outcome remains the same. While the ending feels abrupt, Lester's novel succeeds in holding up a mirror to contemporary society. Phrases and passages directly based on Shakespeare's language are printed in a different typeface, a device that may distract the reader but eases comparisons with the original work. Ages 8-12.