Othello BM Journals by Nia Hammond

Prep #1:

(Act 2 scene 1)

She that was ever fair and never proud,
Had tongue at will and yet was never loud,
Never lacked gold and yet went never gay,
Fled from her wish and yet said “Now I may,”
She that being angered, her revenge being nigh,
Bade her wrong stay and her displeasure fly,
She that in wisdom never was so frail
To change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail,
She that could think and ne'er disclose her mind,
See suitors following and not look behind,
She was a wight, if ever such wights were—


In the first line, Iago should be looking at Desdemona as he speaks, because she just asked Iago a question in conversation. At "ever" and "never", he should raise his voice a bit to appeal to Desdemona (and be on her good side) by stressing the complimenting words. Since it becomes apparent that Iago is using opposites to describe this woman, he should stress the opposite words and phrases throughout the rest of the soliloquy (i.e. yet never, at will, etc.). When he switches to speaking to the audience, he should face them but still kind of hint with his body language that he's speaking of/to Desdemona. If he were speaking to someone like Othello, his words would sound humbled and slowed, because he knows Othello trusts Iago and values what he has to say. In the middle, he should be more flowing with his words to a point where he's almost rushing, but not completely. As he nears the end of the soliloquy, Iago's body should slowly turn back to addressing Desdemona and finish energetically.

Prep #2:

I am talking about Cassio. 

The important scenes Cassio appears in include the scene where he is being convinced by Iago to have drinks (Act 2, scene 3), where he is trying to get his job back through Desdemona (Act 3, scene 3), and when he is speaking to Bianca (Act 3, scene 4), his Cyprus woman. In Act 2 scene 3, Cassio sees that Iago is trying to be hospitable by inviting him for drinks at a part in honor of Othello. He knows enough to refuse the drinks at first because of his actions while drunk. He's told by others (Iago) that one drink won't hurt him that much, and in turn is convinced enough to have some to drink. In the next scene, after losing his job, Cassio is giving Desdemona putting his best forward because he wants his job back so badly. In that, he is ensured that he will get his job back after Desdemona clears it with Othello. Finally, when displaying affection to Bianca, Cassio sees nothing of it, but the audience sees Iago's master plan loosening up a bit. By these few scenes, the only things that seems to matter to Cassio are Bianca and surviving on his job. By focusing only on his scenes, we don't really see much of Iago's plan in the bigger spectrum. Seeing only the scenes they are in creates a nice filter for a deeper understanding of the play. 

Prep #3:

Before the period the play was set in, Othello lived in Africa, with his mother and father, and before he left to find different paths outside of his own home continent, Othello's mother went on to give him a very valuable and magical handkerchief. He was to give it to his only love. Somewhere along the way to becoming general of the army in Venice. Before making his way up, Othello was enslaved by people who took him for granted. As many slaves were treated, Othello was treated quite harshly, and because of how badly he was treated before meeting Desdemona and becoming a general, he learned to never put people through what he went through. Only in some instances would he lose his temper and went against his promise to himself. As a person, he learned how to be gentle and love. As a general, Othello learned how to take out all of the anger (on his enemies) and frustration that he once had as a slave. That is why Othello is the way he is in the play. 

Prep #4:

As Othello, I move quickly and since I just killed Desdemona in the play, I'm also a little frantic and in fight or flight mode. With that, my speech is quicker and I act suspicious of something in front of Emilia. My emotions are a wreck. My character is going to have a dagger, because in the lines, there is talk of a sword being pulled out and Emilia's boldness against it. Our presentation stands out because, although it is a little short, it is filled with lots of detail. To me, that detail contains a coming down from the climax of the play, the climax being Desdemona's death. It stands out because of the rapid back and forth responses between Othello and Emilia, and then Othello's realization in his mistake. There is also a bit of physical blocking, which, for some people, makes it more interesting.

Final entry:

The line from my scene, originally in Act 5, scene 2, has Othello say:

“Ay, ’twas he that told me [on her] first.

An honest man he is, and hates the slime

That sticks on filthy deeds.”

This, coming from Othello, is a line explaining to Emilia part of the reason why he killed Desdemona. He’s telling her that her husband, “honest Iago,” told him that Desdemona was cheating and ultimately that lead to her own death. At this, Emilia became upset, which led to the little scuffle on stage as the lies Iago told unfolded. The alliteration in “slime that sticks” was delivered with emphasis on the “s” to make it sound like Desdemona’s “crime” was the worst possible she could have done. 

I believe that my group’s performance did well. It was good that both of the people in our scene had the power to be able to not break character and be loud enough to stress the tensity of the situation that was happening at that very moment. Besides the lack of a better dagger/sword prop, I think that everything went smoothly for our scene. Now that it’s over, I’m glad that we could spend a lot of time rehearsing to get even better than the last time we ran through the scene. What I mean is that every time we rehearsed the scene there was a higher amount of energy going into it, and so gradually we got better. So, our best performance was the one in front of the class because of that. The only thing that we could have done differently that our Shakespeare mentor suggested was going completely crazy in the scene. If we were off script completely, there could have been more action. Being that we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, though, it is understandable why we didn’t get that far.

Performing plays, especially those by Shakespeare, always make things more clear than just reading them. There is an altogether different interpretation of the characters, and when you study/act as one character you begin to feel how they felt in the play. It gives a higher comprehension because when you act out all the movement, blocking, and emotions of the characters it’s better seen than read. That is, because when you see someone crying in real life, sometimes you begin to feel sorry or at least concerned for them. In a book, you know why they are crying, and it doesn’t really move or impact you as much. Now, I know more of Othello’s feelings, background, and reactions to different situations. You kind of create an understanding of your character’s actions and why things played out the way they did when performing.