Productions

Pick one of these moments, settings or relationships from Othello to investigate how they have been staged in performance.

As you explore you will find picture galleries from past productions and things to consider as you look at these.

  • Iago and Othello

    Investigate this relationship

    How have Iago and Othello been represented and staged?

    Iago influences Othello's actions from the start of the play and continues to do so the whole way through. Part of what enables him to do this is Othello's trust in his 'honest' nature.

    Take a look at the Things to Consider and investigate the different ways we’ve staged Othello and Iago's relationship in past productions in this picture gallery. There is also the opportunity to investigate Act 3 Scene 3 in more detail, to look at how they interact.

    Investigate Act 3 Scene 3

    Things to consider

    As you look through the images and photographs from past productions of Othello, think about:

    • What choices the designer has made for both characters and what that suggests about them. How is their military background shown and can you see why Othello might be dependent on Iago? What production choices help you to believe in this relationship?
    • How the relationship between these two soldiers comes across in each production. Who is more powerful and is this always the same?
    • Whether some productions are very different or if there are lots of similarities. In the 2004 production, Gregory Doran explored Othello's background and worked with the design team to create costumes for Othello that showed him as both a military general and someone who was separate, and different. What effect do you think this has?
  • Othello and Desdemona

    Investigate this relationship

    How have Desdemona and Othello been represented and staged?

    Unlike lots of Shakespeare's tragedies, Othello is very domestic. It doesn't deal with regime changes and kings, but focuses on the damage done to one relationship. Even the settings get smaller throughout the play, with the final scenes taking place in Desdemona's bedroom.

    Take a look at the Things to Consider and investigate the different ways we’ve portrayed Othello and Desdemona's relationship in past productions in this picture gallery. There is also the opportunity to investigate Act 5 Scene 2, the scene leading up to Desdemona's death.

    Investigate Act 5 Scene 2

    Things to consider

    As you look through the images and photographs from past productions of Othello, think about:

    • What choices the designer has made for how Othello and Desdemona look, and what that suggests about them. Are they similar to each other or from different worlds? How are their similarities and differences drawn out?
    • How the relationship between them comes across in each production. In the 2015 production, Iqbal Khan and actor Hugh Quarshie, who plays Othello, wanted to explore what it was that would drive a rational and confident general to murder someone he really loved. Do you think their connection comes across as genuine in these images? To what extent does Othello love Desdemona? Her understanding of him comes from his stories but how well does she know him and how is this shown on stage?
    • Whether some productions are very different or if there are lots of similarities. What connects each of them and how have portrayals changed?

    Where would you choose to set a production of Othello and what choices would you make to show the relationship between Othello and Desdemona?

  • The Willow Scene

    Investigate this moment

    How has the Willow Scene been staged?

    Emilia and Desdemona have very few moments together on stage but the willow scene sees Emilia helping Desdemona to prepare for bed.

    Investigate the different ways we’ve staged the Willow Scene in past productions in this picture gallery. There is also an opportunity to investigate Act 4 Scene 3 more closely here.

    Investigate Act 4 Scene 3

    Things to consider

    As you look through the images and photographs from past productions of Othello, think about:

    • What choices the designer has made for what both characters look like and where the scene is set, and what that suggests about them and their relationship. Emilia acts as Desdemona's maid. What evidence can you see of her lower status in these images? Are there any in which the two women seem more equal? Why do you think that might be?
    • How the relationship between Desdemona and Emilia comes across in each production. Emilia offers Desdemona advice in this scene: she talks very openly about how men treat women. Do you think they have a close relationship? How and why does Emilia feel she can say these things to Desdemona?
    • Any similarities between the different interpretations.

    Where would you choose to set a production of Othello and what choices would you make to help show the mood of this scene?

  • Venice and Cyprus

    Investigate these worlds

    How have Venice and Cyprus been staged?

    Venice is the setting for the opening of the play but the action soon moves to Cyprus, a military base which is more familiar to Othello and the other soldiers.

    Take a look at the different ways we’ve staged these two settings in past productions in this picture gallery.

    Investigate Act 1 Scene 1

    Things to consider

    As you look through the images and photographs from past productions of Othello, think about:

    • What choices the designer has made for Venice and how it looks and feels different from Cyprus. Can you identify which images take place in which settings? Several of these photographs show Othello's arrival at the military base in Cyprus. What alerts you to the fact that it is a military camp?
    • The costumes and the manner of the characters as they move from the setting of Venice to Cyprus. How does the setting appear different in Venice, with the presentation of the court? In the 2004 production, for example, there are fortified gates along the back of the army base, and the lighting and background are yellow and orange, suggesting heat. What else changes?
    • The similarities and differences between the productions.

    Where would you choose to set a production of Othello and what choices would you make to help show the differences between the two worlds?

Teacher Notes

The following activity will help students to think about the differences between Venice and Cyprus and how this can be staged.

Venice and Cyprus (2015)

The activity can be found on page 5 and takes approximately 30 minutes.

You can also use the galleries on this page to encourage students to think about the important moments, relationships and settings in Othello and to create designs for these.