2 August 2007 | bkoganbing
I've always felt Othello to be more Iago's play than Othello's. Iago is the guy whose subtle machinations keep the whole thing going. In fact William Shakespeare probably should have entitled the play Iago instead.
Othello gets the title because the emphasis is on his reactions to Iago's hints of infidelity in regard to Othello's new wife Desdemona. The proud Moor is destroyed by the 'green eyed monster' who when he gets a hold doesn't let go.
Why's all this happening? Because Othello, a Moorish soldier of fortune in the pay of the Duke of Venice passes Iago over for a promotion and gives it to another favorite named Cassio. All that sucking up gone for naught, Iago plans subtle revenge.
But in order to make this work, it's more than Othello he has to maneuver. He drops lies and suspicions to Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, and even his own wife Emilia, to another suitor for Desdemona named Rodrigo, in short to just about the rest of the cast. It's why I think Iago's character is central.
Nevertheless Othello earned for Laurence Olivier another nomination for Best Actor and for Maggie Smith as Desdemona, Best Actress. Frank Finlay as the subtle and clever Iago and Joyce Redman as his wife Emilia got nominations in the Supporting Actor categories. None of them came up a winner though.
In one of his earliest screen performances you'll find Derek Jacobi as the loyal, brave, but slightly dense Cassio. And as Rodrigo who Iago plays like a piccolo is Robert Lang, both of whom are cast perfectly.
Unlike Olivier's other Shakespearean work, this is essentially a photographed stage play. But the sets are just fine and since it's a story about palace intrigue, the palace sets are more than appropriate.
I'd be hard pressed to say whether this or the Orson Welles version is better, judge for yourself.