Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story 'Un Capitano Moro' ('A Moorish Captain') by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565. The work revolves around four central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army; his wife Desdemona; his lieutenant, Cassio; and his trusted ensign Iago. Because of its varied themes - racism, love, jealousy, and betrayal - Othello is widely felt to remain relevant to the present day and is often performed in professional and community theatres alike. The play has also been the basis for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.
[Iago] Out of my scattering, and unsure observance;
It were not for your quiet, nor your good,
Nor for my manhood, honesty, or wisedome,
To let you know my thoughts.
Oth. What dost thou meane?
Iag. Good name in man and woman (deere my Lord)
Is the immediate Jewell of our soules:
Who steales my purse, stealses trash, tis something, nothing,
Twas mine, tis his, and has bin slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that, which not inriches him,
And makes me poore indeed.
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.