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othello

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duration 2:45, incl. 1 pauze
premiere 01 Feb 2003


TA's critically acclaimed Othello, directed by Ivo van Hove, premiered on 1 February 2003 at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. To accentuate Othello’s Arabic roots, translator Hafid Bouazza added Arabic poetry to the monologues.

In his masterpiece of revenge, Shakespeare unflinchingly contrasts the malicious villain Iago with the honest and principled hero of the play’s title, and in the process delivers some of the most electrifying and exquisite language in the canon. Othello’s consuming passion for his wife Desdemona descends into paranoia as Iago uses language as a weapon for intimate destruction, sowing the insidious seeds for the tragic hero’s fall.


Military pride and ambition define the world of Moorish warlord Othello. But you can’t mention Othello without remembering Iago. And you can’t think of Iago without bringing to mind the shattering power of jealousy. When Othello is promoted in ranks ahead of him, Iago begins to plot for a cold and lethal reckoning. Iago mercilessly manipulates the happy marriage of Othello and Desdemona. With false rumours he encourages latent feelings of racism and discrimination. Othello’s life degenerates into complete chaos. Slowly but surely, the once successful military man loses control over his feelings and thoughts, with irreversible consequences. In Othello, Shakespeare sheds a light on the darkest side of mankind through Iago’s extreme behaviour. Iago spins a plot in which he himself plays the lead role. Judgment, prejudice and fear of the unknown form a perfect basis for this tragic conniver to thrive on.

William Shakespeare wrote Othello between 1601 en 1604, after a visit from the Moorish ambassador of North Africa to England. Shakespeare’s theatre company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, performed for the olive-coloured North Africans. Shakespeare places modern constitutional Venice opposite the chaos that is occupied Cyprus. In his day, the Turks and Venetians were at war over the Mediterranean. Since strategically located Cyprus constantly shifted rulers, there was hardly any notion of set state order. Venice was the more familiar country to Shakespeare, as it maintained close bonds in trade with London. In Venice, it was customary for the highborn people to achieve the more prestigious functions. Not Iago, but Cassio gets promoted to lieutenant. Rules are bent to serve needs, forcing Brabantio to relinquish his daughter Desdemona to Othello.

Director Ivo van Hove asked Hafid Bouazza (1970) for a new translation of the play. Van Hove chose the Dutch-Moroccan writer because of the missing element of xenophobia in existing translations. Bouazza translated the dialogues prose style but used a more lyric tone for the monologues. To accentuate Othello’s Arabic roots he added Arabic poetry to the monologues. ‘His Arabian roots are plenty alluded to in the original writings. He speaks of the moon, which is an Arabian symbol for a woman of beauty, Desdemona in this case. Another important theme is that of lover versus fighter, a common element of Arabian literature. The handkerchief that Othello presents to Desdemona, too, stems from Arabian practise. It represents honour, which explains Othello’s anger when his wife loses it. However, Western culture, too, is a source of trouble for the Moor. As an outsider, he cannot comprehend all the goings-on. This uncertainty is eagerly abused by Iago.’


‘Van Hove is back with a blood curdling Othello. […] Direction, stage design, actors – the trinity works to optimum effect here and is supported by a brilliant new translation by Hafid Bouazza’. - de Volkskrant

‘Classical Shakespeare in full glory’ - De Telegraaf

‘Crystal clear direction, lovely settings, a perfectly cast Othello’ - Het Parool

‘Remarkably rich theatre language’ - Het Financieele Dagblad

'I found this renewed introduction both exciting and unsettling,' wrote critic Loek Zonneveld in 2012 when this production of Othello was revived after an absence of ten years. 'With his bronze bass-baritone voice, Hans Kesting sweeps effortlessly between the inferiority complex of the Moor and the anger prompted by the deceit to which he is subjected. He cannot appreciate the artificiality of that deceit, partly because he views the world from above (as a general) but also experiences it from below: that is the essence of his tragedy. Roeland Fernhout has matured particularly well in the role of Iago. Whatever the motivation of the character – career-driven bitterness, jealousy in love or barely concealed lust – the crooked path he weaves finishes in the straight line of evil, rooted in pure malice and hence both incomprehensible and ultimately destructive. Fernhout has imbued this motiveless malefactor with a certain greatness. Janni Goslinga is equally marvellous as Emilia, Iago’s wife who sees all but fails to put the pieces together.'

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