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Shakespeares Play Othello Vs Nelsons Film O English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1405 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The strength that Shakespeare plays have is coming from his ability to understand and explore universal truths and emotions. This is one of the main reasons why his plays are so unforgettable. The Theme, jealousy, is what he uses the most throughout all the play that he wrote. Shakespeare express the theme, jealousy, though many different character’s viewpoints. However, Iago’s viewpoint is the major focus in this play. Jealousy has eventually driven Iago to become an extreme racist person. He uses many racist terms, such as Moor, thick-lips, sooty-bosom, and an old black ram…etc, to describe Othello or to get his attention. His bigotry also driven him to think that he shouldn’t be outranked by Othello in the military and that Othello and Desdemona shouldn’t be together. During the time period where the play took place, it is uncommon and highly discourages upon to see a color person marring a white person as well as a color person held a higher position then the white person. Similarly in Tim Nelson’s film, “O,” the theme jealously and racism are a big part of the problem during the time where the film took place at. Although many setting have been changed in Tim Nelson’s film, the issues regarding jealousy and racism that Nelson and Shakespeare based upon on remain the same.

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The film “O” consist of many similar elements from the original play, Othello. However, they were transferred into different situations and setting. Many characters in “O” have a counterpart to Othello. Odin to Othello, Desi to Desdemona, Hugo to Iago, Emily to Emilia, Roger to Roderigo, and Michel to Cassio. Some of the name in the film also contain a kind of special meaning. The character name Odin James, the modern counterpart of Othello, is signaling us to think of him as Othello. His first name Odin is draw from the Roman’s god of war. Similarly, Othello is the go to person for the war that is happening in the play. The Initial, O.J, from Odin James is possibly referring to O.J Simpson who murdered his wife, a white woman, from jealousy. The setting of the story has also been changed from a city in Venice to an elite prep school in the south. The war component in the play has been changed to basketball competition. Iago jealousy of Othello being promoted to be higher rank then him is not changed to Odin getting the M.V.P award.

Jealousy drives Iago to plot against Othello and Hugo to plot against Odin. In Othello, Iago jealousy and urge for revenge comes from the disbelieve that a color person, Othello, is actually having a higher rank in the society then him and the fact that Othello promote Cassio over himself as a high-ranking lieutenant. “I follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly follow’d.” (Othello, I,i,42) Iago clearly expressing his jealousy feeling toward Othello and Cassio and admit that the only reason he is still continues to serve under Othello is that he wants to plan a plot to have Othello and Cassio suffer in this speech he made to Rodrigo. Throughout the play, Iago is constantly feeding jealousy thought to different characters to have them works for him. He feed the idea that Desdemona could be his if Rodrigo join him on his plot. “Lie with her? lie on her? We say “lie on her” when they belie her! Lie with her-that’s fulsome… Is ‘t possible? Confess!-Handkerchief!-Oh, devil!-” (Othello, IV,I,26) In this scene, Iago is trying to make Othello jealous and rage by feeding him thought that Desdemona was in bed with Cassio which uprooting the jealous thought within him and eventually lead to his downfall. Similarly In the film, “O,” Odin was the only color person within that social group. Odin is characterized as popular and skillful in basketball during the beginning basketball competition. Hugo jealous thought starts when everyone gives Odin all the attention after they win the basketball game at the beginning. His jealous thoughts got intensify when the coach, Hugo’s father, award the MVP award to Odin instead of him and say he “love him like his own son.” (O) In Hugo’s mind, he thinks he is better suited to the MVP award than Odin as he can play any position well and is the main reason why the team is able to win all the game. Like Iago in Othello, Hugo also feed on jealous though into other people mind to have them works for him. He plant the seed of jealousy by warning Odin about Micheal and Desi are getting very intimate with each other. Like Othello in Othello, jealousy also corrupts Odin as showed through the sex scene between himself and Desi. When Othello looks in the mirror, he saw Mike is staring back from the mirror as if laughing at him and all the scene where Mike and Desi alone together flashes back to Odin. This further enrages Odin eventually resulting in him violating Desi during their sacred sex scene. Odin’s jealous thought also eventually lead to his downfall.

Racism is a major issue that exists in both our modern day society and in the Elizabethan society where the play took place. However, Shakespeare and Nelson choose to use different techniques to explore this issue. Shakespeare uses poetic and dramatic techniques as the English literature was the main sole enjoyment during the Elizabethan time period. Whereas Nelson’s uses cinematic techniques as the majority of his audiences are teenagers and movie are the most popular enjoyment in modern day. In Othello, Othello is being label as “the Moor,” which according to Emily C. Bartels “the term ‘Moor’ referred to dark-skinned people in general, used interchangeably with similarly ambiguous terms as ‘African’, ‘Ethiopian’, ‘Negro’, and even ‘Indian’ to designate a figure from Africa.” (Emily 434) Similarly in O, Nelson uses many different symbolisms to explore racial tension between the white and the black. One of which is to have a black character to play the “drug dealer” to reinforces the racial stereotype of most drug dealers are black. Another reason why he chooses to have a black character to play that is maybe simply because of how we interpret color. The color black often gives us a feeling that it’s dirty and impure and illegal drugs gives us the same kind of image. Another one is contrasting a black hawk with white pigeons. The hawks can be described as dark, strong and proud during the game when it takes flight. However, the image of a black person does not fits into the white society when the hawk, black person, is caged up and separated from the white pigeon, white person.

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In conclusion, it has been many years since the Elizabeth era where many Shakespeare’s plays took place. But issues such as jealousy and racial tensions are still deeply rooted into our society. Different people use different artistic approach to explore the theme of jealousy and racism. Shakespeare chose to uses English literature, poetically and dramatically, the most popular tool that is wildly employed for entertainment or enjoyment use. Similarly, Nelson uses, movie, the most popular tool that people in the modern day uses for entertainment. Within each different technique, popular terms and images that are widely used at that time were employed to points out the issue. Many of us think that our society has been greatly improved throughout time. However, we might just be walk around in circle as issues, such as racism, keep recurring in our history. In Othello, Shakespeare uses the term Moor and jealousy to shows that it is uncommon and should not be happened for a colored person to hold a higher rank status then a white person in a white dominated society. In the film, “O,” Nelson uses a black person to act out the drug dealer role to mirror the image of what people think about black people or maybe just simply because we proceed the color black as impure and dirty which matched to our views of illegal drugs. Nelson also contrasted the black hawk with the white pigeons as a black person within a white society. Signaling even if the black person has the skill and popularity within the white society, it still doesn’t fit into it.


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