A Story told by Characters

The Lenoir Rhyne Playmakers’ production of Othello was executed with great precision and detail in order to perform an atmospheric interpretation of the tragedy. The story line followed closely to the original version of Shakespeare’s Othello. We see the story of Iago plotting to damage the marriage of Othello and Desdemona through doubt and jealousy, whilst taking Cassio’s position as Othello’s lieutenant. Stimulated by Iago’s mischievous plots, the tragedy ends with the deaths of three main characters: Desdemona, Othello and Emilia. There were slight changes made and additions in order to enhance the performance. The set was designed as a ship, and the directors made slight changes to the casting, the main one being the addition of a young Desdemona who appears at various points in the play, along with some nontraditional castings including women in the roles of Lodovico and Gratiano (Lodovica and Gratiana). The story line itself however remains the same, with just a few scenes cut to shorten the running time of the performance.

The Playmakers used characterization and selective costume designs to demonstrate the unique personalities and interpretations of characters in the play, following closely to expectations from reading Shakespeare’s original Othello. One of the main characters, Iago (Zach Koch), was presented very vividly in terms of his appearance and character; he had a very distinct look that allowed him to play on the idea of the villain. Dressed in all-black leather clothes as a reflection of his character’s personality traits, he also made his presence on the stage very meaningful and confident, as you would expect Iago to act. Whilst trying to create his plan to destroy the marriage of Othello and Desdemona and simultaneously gaining the position of Othello’s lieutenant, Iago speaks “to abuse Othello’s (ear) that he is too familiar with his wife” (1.3.438). Iago used an act of humor in this dialogue to portray how all of this trouble he was about to cause was somewhat a joke for him and if successful would result in happiness and revenge for himself whilst being a disaster for various other characters in the play.

Desdemona (Abbey Hayes) was also presented in what seemed an accurate representation of her character in the play. She was dressed totally opposite to Iago in a white, flowing dress and held herself as a very graceful character, as if to suggest her entire innocence from beginning to end. The addition of young Desdemona (Sophie Heller-Lee) also assisted in the characterization of Desdemona’s innocence. The young girl appeared at crucial moments in the play, including a meaningful additional scene at the very beginning. Barbary (Ariona Smith), the maid of Desdemona’s mother who is mentioned by Desdemona in the original Othello but never actually seen, is seen to brush young Desdemona’s hair and sing to her the song of a willow. Later in the play, Desdemona explains “it expressed her fortune, and she died singing it. That song tonight will not go from my mind” (4.3.31). The addition of this scene foreshadows the death of Desdemona without revealing this to the audience, because we do not hear the story of the maid’s death until later when Desdemona tells Emilia.

The characterization in this performance made a significant change to the original story line. As mentioned previously, the main characters like Iago and Desdemona were successfully depicted in a way to help the audience visualize their character and personality. However, the gender change of Lodovico and Gratiano gave the play a totally different tilt at the end. Throughout the play, male characters control situations and at times talk down to the females. The production’s gender swap leaves Lodovica and Gratiana as two of the only surviving characters, placing the fate of Iago and Venice in woman’s hands. They effectively gained the power and shifted the idea of male power to female dominance, giving the play its own intriguing twist solely using nontraditional casting.

Works Cited

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds. Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare. Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Othello. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Joshua Yoder. Perf. Abbey Hayes, Zach Koch, Sophie Heller-Lee and Ariona Smith. LR Playmakers, Lenoir-Rhyne U., Hickory, NC. 10 Nov. 2016

Iago: The Instigator Behind the Mayhem

In “Othello: A Modern Perspective” Susan Snyder discusses the various approaches that could have led to the disaster of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage. She takes us through the options, starting with villain of the play, Iago, who plans repetitively throughout the play to cause trouble and disruption. After this we hear Snyder suggest how because of the shared status of outsiders, it can draw Othello to worry of Cassio, his chosen lieutenant, and begin to rely on other sources like Iago. Finally Snyder suggests that Desdemona herself played a main role in the way the marriage went wrong because of her persistent attitude to want to live their married life together in Cyprus.

When reading Snyder’s analysis of Othello it becomes obvious to me as a reader through depth of evidence that Iago is responsible for the sheer destruction of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage. In the last part of the play all is revealed to the characters on stage, for which Snyder comments “It is Iago whom everyone onstage condemns at the play’s conclusion” (288). Although certain characters had suspicions that the entire story was being fed into Othello’s mind by an individual, there was not one who knew the full rendition of scheming and plotting that Iago was undergoing. The irony of this idea is that we as readers watch Iago talk through his evil plan right from the very start. The first speech we see of him alone, entails of his idea to make Cassio lose his position whilst hurting Othello at the same time. He proclaims “Let me see now: To get his place and to plump up my will In double knavery” (1.3.435). As of now Othello thinks highly of Cassio and so ultimately, if Iago had never decided to play the two characters against each other, Othello would never have began to imagine Cassio with his wife Desdemona.

Iago is also seen as the obvious cause to the crash of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage because he himself has reasons to dislike Othello and want to get revenge. First, there are suspicions in Iago’s mind that his wife Emilia and Othello have slept together behind his back in the past. If this wasn’t enough to anger Iago, he is unhappy with the Moor’s decision to make Cassio his lieutenant, when he believes he himself is more worthy of this second in command position. The plan Iago makes in the play sets out to get revenge on both Othello for the reasons stated above, but also on Cassio. Iago is jealous of Cassio and his position, and so this plan gives him chance to see Cassio suffer, whilst losing the respect from Othello and therefore his position. The initial plan for outcome was that Iago would then become second in command, although this did not quite work out as originally hoped.

When looking at Iago and his importance in the entire play, we see that he uses a persuasive yet modest act with enough characters that almost every character in the play falls into the trap of this lie. The male characters in the play are easily encouraged and do not appear to feel strongly with their own opinions. Othello proves this, when after one conversation with Iago about Desdemona’s unfaithfulness with Cassio, he claims “She’s gone, I am abused, and my relief Must be to loathe her” (3.3.308). The ease of this persuasion makes it very simple for Iago to lure Othello and others in to his plan full of manipulation and scheming.

Works Cited

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds. Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare. Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Snyder, Susan. “Othello: A Modern Perspective.” Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. Simon and Schuster, 2009. 287-98.

Lincoln Vs Garfield: Life and Death

Sarah Vowell uses varying techniques in chapters one and two of Assassination Vacation. Chapter one consists of the explanation of Lincoln’s assassination, followed by the details of Vowell visiting various locations relating to the event. Vowell travels along the escape route of assassin John Wilkes Booth, visits the Lincoln Memorial and takes a day trip to Fort Jefferson where the conspirators were imprisoned. In the second chapter, Vowell unwraps the details of the Garfield assassination, giving us background information particularly relating to assassin Charles Guiteau. Alongside this we hear the story of Garfield and the way he was voted into presidency.

Vowell presents the Lincoln assassination to be of bigger important than Garfield’s through the depth of explanation and exploration of locations relating to the assassinations themselves. The primary way Vowell suggests the importance of chapter one is simply by the length of it, and the length of the chapter can only have one clear explanation: there is more to talk about that will be of interest to the reader. Vowell seems to paint the picture of Lincoln as one that people appreciate. Even if they don’t agree with everything Lincoln achieved whilst serving as President, they respect that he was an important figure in American History. The opening line of chapter 2 states that “The most famous thing ever said about President James A. Garfield is about how nobody has any idea who the hell he was” (123). From the very start of the chapter, Vowell gives the impression that not many people are inspired to learn the life of Garfield; a similar story with his death also. On the basis that Vowell knows people are less interested in Garfield, it could explain the fact that Lincoln’s chapter is more extensive and almost more significant.

Vowell visits an extended list of locations relating to Lincoln’s death, but does not seem to do so with Garfield. In chapter one she follows the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, seeks out the Ford Theatre where Lincoln was shot, visits several memorials in place to commemorate Lincoln, and takes a day trip to Fort Jefferson where the conspirators of Lincoln’s assassination were imprisoned. In chapter two, Vowell visits the Oneida community household, the site where Guiteau shot Garfield and takes a trip to New Jersey, the place Garfield died. The depth of her travels when visiting Lincoln sites is intriguing. When talking about Garfield, Vowell states that “the story of Garfield’s death is more interesting than the story of his life” (125). This again suggests that Garfield’s personality, lifestyle and position as President was nothing particularly important to the extent that it was barely included in the book. The most part of chapter two is spent talking about assassin Charles Guiteau, his life before the assassination and the plot in which he killed Garfield. The fact that Vowell spends just as much time in this chapter talking about Guiteau can be used to support the conclusion that Vowell did not value Garfield in any highness, other than the story of his assassination and evaluating how it came about.

The way Vowell seems to portray her opinion of the two Presidents could imply the general idea of how people felt about the two of them whilst they were alive. Her opinions must have come from work of others or experiences she has had in order to arrive at a personal conclusion on two Presidents who were assassinated long before she was born. Has Vowell simply taken an overall view of these two men and ran with it? Or did she develop her opinion through travel, experience and evidence of the work both Lincoln and Garfield achieved whilst serving as President of the United States?

Work Cited

Vowell, Sarah. Assassination Vacation. Simon and Schuster. 2005

The Widow’s Charge of Attempts to help Hopeless Bligh

In the chapter ‘Wilderness’ of John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James, The Widow Greenfield tries to save Pastor Bligh from his hallucinations. She holds a drink of rum to his lips before he spits it out, claiming that the Widow is trying to kill him. He then almost begs Mrs Greenfield to lock the door with the key she has, which she does, after claiming he is “mad as shad” (59) and trying to suggest he needs someone constantly looking after him. Upon the locking of the door, the Pastor begins to hallucinate again, seeing his brother’s wife at the end of the bed. He sees her naked and closes his eyes as he imagines her to be straddling him, however when he reopens them he sees nothing but a “skull and a few teeth” (60).

In this short passage, Marlon James uses foreshadowing to anticipate the constant efforts of the Widow to save Pastor Bligh. This is a constant theme throughout the novel, as every time Bligh tries to return to the church or even leave the house, the Widow ends up bringing him back and welcoming him back into her home. This is seen again at the end of chapter “777” when Bligh has been physically attached again outside of the church. Near the end of the scene Mrs Fracas catches in the corner of her eye “Widow Greenfield grab Hector Bligh by him two hand and drag him away” (96). No matter what happens to the Pastor, the Widow repeatedly takes him in as if she has the purpose to save him. This idea continues until the very end of the novel, when Jesus is brought back to the town. The doves act as a symbol of this return when Pastor Bligh is killed. By the end of the novel, the dove almost becomes a replacement for the John Crows, suggesting that the town was eventually saved by the Widow. The doves are a symbol of replacement in various situations. For example when Pastor Bligh is about to die and the people of Gibbeah who once relied upon him are throwing rocks at him, the doves “dove into the crowd, screeching and ripping hair and flesh” (197). This emphasizes the point that the doves appear when the Pastor has finally been saved to punish all the people of Gibbeah who followed the Apostle into the hatred against Hector Bligh.

The hallucinations that Pastor Bligh has in this passage echo the earlier details given of when the Pastor sleeps with his brother’s wife. His past plays a big role in portraying his character and the decisions he makes throughout the book. For example, he has the hallucination of his brother’s wife but “when he opened them he saw that she had no face, only a skull and a few teeth” (60). This idea of opening his eyes to see the skull and teeth could be coordinating with the time after he sinned with his brother’s wife. In this situation, the horror and consequence of the situation is the loss of his brother, falling off the balcony. These two points could be linked with the brother’s wife and the aftermath Pastor Bligh faced.

In conclusion, the idea that Marlon James uses foreshadowing to anticipate the repetitive acts between Pastor Bligh and the Widow Greenfield creates a theme that is very important in relation to the novel itself. It shows how the patience and work of the widow eventually paid off in regaining the purity of the town. Pastor Bligh made many efforts to take down the Apostle that were somewhat unsuccessful, and this portrays the significance of the Widow and the light she was able to restore to Gibbeah.

Work Cited

James, Marlon . John Crow’s Devil . Akashic . 2005

My Love of Golf

As an International student, I have travelled to North Carolina to study a college degree and develop my skills as a golfer at the same time. I started playing golf as a young child around the age of 9. I have always had a passion for the sport, and have travelled around


the U.K competing in National events. My best result to date was placing 16th in the English Girls Open Amateur Championship. My favorite part of playing golf is the concentration it requires for a long period of time, whilst being enjoyable, relaxing and sociable at the same time. I have met most of my closest friends through playing golf, as it unlocks so many opportunities to communicate with others both on and off the course. Altogether, golf has given me endless opportunities including the chance to study at Lenoir Rhyne University whilst playing college golf to the best standard I can.