The Cool Kid's Guide To Shakespeare's Othello

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1 The Cool Kid's Guide To Shakespeare's Othello by Sue Leatherman Garden of Wisdom Publishing

2 Dear Parents and Teachers: The study of Shakespeare's classic plays is a must for high school students, yet his Elizabethan writing style can be challenging and a turn-off for teens. This study guide attempts to give your student an overview of the story to allow the student to identify and make sense of a wonderfully written plot. You could use the study guide to introduce the play saving the discussion questions and test for the end. The background knowledge will be crucial to comprehension. The vocabulary could be introduced next, or you could work on the vocabulary section as you find the words in the play. Your student will probably want to add many more words to the vocabulary section. Feel free as you go through the play to skip certain sections as indicated in the study guide. You don't want the student to lose interest by being bogged down in superfluous text. It would be a great idea to read the play in parts and to add some of your own questions for discussion as the need arises. Most teens love art projects. Encourage them to spend some creative time thinking about the handerchief, costumes, and book cover designs. These activities make the story more personal and increase their understanding of Shakespeare's time. You may even want them to attempt a modern adaptation. Finally, this story may inspire ideas and discussion questions of their own. Ask their opinions. M ost teens love to engage in ethical discussions. Their opinions will allow them to apply the principles of this timeless tale to modern life and contemporary people. Human nature is the same no matter what era, which is the main reason for Shakespeare's classic endurance.

3 The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare... Such was the original title of this play which is history's first written example of an interracial marriage and the prejudice that went with it. This is a true soap opera which uses deceit and lies at every turn. The villain is Iago (pronounced ee-ah'-go), a busy-body who spreads gossip and rumors. He tries to make trouble for everybody. Because he seems so innocent and so devoted to Othello, he gets away with lots of trickery. Let's meet the characters of this great play also known as the Dramatis Personae, which is Latin for People in the Play. Othello--our star is a distinguished Moor. The Moors were a group of people who settled Spain. He is a black man, and a brave soldier of the Venetian wars against the Turks. He became a general. Brabantio--a rich and powerful senator who often invites Othello over Desdemonia She is Brabantio's only daughter. She falls in love with Othello while listening to all his adventure stories. Of course, she is white. She sees all of Othello's good qualities and she looks beyond his skin color. In our society, these things are no big deal, but in Shakespeare's time this was huge! She and Othello get married secretly! Iago He is definitely our villain. He is passed over for a very important promotion in favor of a young soldier named Cassio. He vows vengeance on both Othello and Cassio! (What a sore loser!) His wife is Emilia who doesn't know that he is bad. Cassio the young soldier who gets the promotion. He acts as Othello's go-between to secretly court Desdemonia. Michael is his first name. Roderigo Desdemona's ex-boyfriend who rats on Othello and Desdemona by telling her dad that they eloped Bianca Cassio's current girlfriend Gratiano and Lodovico are relatives of Brabantio, the senator Clown Othello's servant Montano Othello's predecessor in Cyprus

4 The Background The original story for this play came from the novel Il Moro de Venezia (The Death in Venice) by Giraldo Cinthio, published in Shakespeare was familiar with the French translation of the 1584 edition. Cinthio may have stolen the original idea from an Oriental story called The Three Apples in the Thousand and One Nights. Back then it was perfectly permissible to take other's ideas. There were no copyright laws and few writers' ethics. Shakespeare did make up his own names for the characters except for Desdemona. He added Roderigo, gave more importance to Emilia's character, and changed Iago's character from a criminal to a trusted employee of Othello. Shakespeare also changed Othello to be more intelligent and civilized. He probably wrote it in 1604, and it was performed in August of that year for Queen Elizabeth. The Plot Watch out for the handkerchief! In this play it is the most important stage prop! The handkerchief was a special present from Othello to Desdemona, but Iago later uses it to plant the evidence that she is having an affair. Remember Othello is a brave, black soldier who visits Brabantio and Desdemona regularly. He and Desdemona fall in love and are secretly married. Cassio gets an important promotion instead of the old and faithful Iago, so Iago is out to get revenge. Roderigo is Desdemona's ex-boyfriend so he also has an ax to grind and so becomes Iago's accomplice. Roderigo tells Desdemona's father about the marriage and her dad goes ballistic! He accuses Othello of using witchcraft to lure Desdemona away from her home. This powerful senator had Othello taken before a council and charged with a capital crime. The council listens respectfully, but they feel that they can use General Othello's talents on the island of Cyprus which Venice is trying to keep from falling into the hands of the Turks. So Othello is sent to Cyprus and Desdemona follows him in the care of Iago and his wife, Emilia. Emilia is Desdemona's best friend and her faithful servant. She has no idea that Iago is scheming against Othello and Desdemona. When a storm takes out the Turkish fleet, Othello holds a great celebration in honor of his marriage but he puts Cassio in charge to make sure nobody gets drunk and offends the people of Cyprus. This gives Iago his first opportunity! He makes sure he gets Cassio drunk and has Roderigo start a brawl with Cassio! Othello is furious! Hefires Cassio on the spot. Iago then encourages Cassio to get his job back by asking Desdemona to beg Othello to take him back. She goes to Othello and pleads Cassio's case, but in the meantime, Iago keeps dropping little hints and inuendos that maybe something's going on between Cassio and Desdemona. Are you totally confused by this soap opera before you even start the play! You haven't forgotten about the most important prop have you? Let's get back to this important handkerchief. This was allegedly a magical web, embroidered by a sibyl,(sort of a fairy creature) which gives the possessor the power to hold her husband's love. The people of Shakespeare's time were totally superstitious and believed in such things as magic potions and charms. It would have been a really good part of the plot to keep his audience' attention. It was the little details like this in his plots which made Shakespeare's work so popular. This handkerchief had once belonged to Othello's mother and while she was dying, she gave it to him for his future wife. Othello had warned Desdemona to take good care of it because it was an invaluable family heirloom (as well as being magic).

5 What would you expect to happen next? You'd be right if you expected Desdemona to lose it. One day it falls out of her pocket and Emilia finds it and gives it to Iago to return to Othello.--Big mistake! Iago plants it in Cassio's bedroom. He then uses it as evidence to convince Othello that Desdemona is cheating. Desdemona knows that she's lost the handkerchief so when Othello asks her about it she makes up some evasive reply. Now Iago makes his final thrust. When he is sure Othello is nearby, Iago starts talking to Cassio about his girlfriend. We know it's Bianca, but Othello thinks they're talking about Desdemona. What kinds of problems would you expect to arise from this deception? Now there's an even bigger complication to all of this mess! Meanwhile, Cassio has found this cool magic hanky in his room and thinks it would be a great gift for Bianca. Bianca knows it belongs to another woman, and gets offended by the gift and throws it back at Cassio while Othello is watching. Blind with rage, Othello orders Iago to kill Cassio. Iago wants Roderigo out of the way, so he kills him instead, but he wounds Cassio. Othello heads straight for Desdemona! Remember she's totally innocent and has no idea what's going on. Othello smothers her then and there. Emilia arrives in time to witness the murder and to hear Desdemona's dying words. Emilia has found some evidence which shows her that her husband is a rat, so Iago kills her for revealing all this, and gets wounded by Othello. Othello is overcome with remorse, so he falls on his own sword and dies. Cassio recovers and gets to be the new governor of Cyprus and orders Iago's execution. And that, kids, is why this is called a tragedy! Relationships and violence were the stuff of Shakespeare's tragedies. His audiences loved it. Design a book cover or poster to advertise this play. How would you design a movie poster?

6 Scene Synopses This is a great play to read certain scenes in parts. Now that you know the story, you will better understand each act and scene as you read or act. Act I --Scene 1--Iago and Roderigo plot to tell Desdemona's father about the wedding. Be sure to notice how their conversation sets the time, the place, and the situation. Scene 2 --Othello is taken before the council Scene 3 --Start reading where the Duke asks, What's the matter? Act II--Scene1 --Arrival at Cyprus Scene 2 --Celebration! Scene 3 --Cassio drinks too much! You could skip Act III, Scene 1 The musicians are just talking. Act II--Scene1 --The Letters Scene 2 --The Handkerchief this is known as the temptation scene Scene 4--Desdemona tries to get Cassio's job back Act IV Scene 1-- Iago spreads the lie Scene 2 --The Murder Plot This is a crucial scene! But you can skip scene 3 Act V Scene 1-- The Fight Scene 2 --The murder and the climax another crucial scene! The End 1. sibyl-- In English, Please...Let's Do Vocabulary! 2. bombast-- 3. counter-caster-- 4. Zounds! perdurable--

7 6. birdlime from frize-- 7.quillets ( Prithee, keep up thy quillets.)-- 8.wight-- Find some words of your own from the play. Define them below.

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