We Can Be Heroes…Sort Of

I went on a quest this morning to discover famous actors who have played in Othello. By doing so, I noticed an interesting quirk that may be characteristic of our age.

ASIDE: reading the Shakespeare canon in one year is a bit like traveling around the world. It may seem like ample time to explore, but once you get out there and start the adventure, you realize you could spend a year in each country and still not do everything you might have wished.

For me this means having to make difficult choices. Even though I’ve allowed myself two weeks for Othello, there simply isn’t time enough to read every commentary, watch every movie or listen to every dramatized version.

So when it comes to a tremendous play like Othello, what is a person to do?

Now for my discovery: something must have changed in dramatic circles and psyches, whether only in America or around the world I cannot say. Because Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, two of the greatest actors of all time, chose to play Othello, the ostensible hero  – or at least the tragedic centerpiece.

However, when it comes to modern versions, the preference among actors seems to be to play Iago! And why not…doesn’t he have the juicier part?

I’m currently listening to two versions available at Audible.com (I’m not compensated, just a member): one on Naxos with a British cast HERE and another terrific (though WARNING: line-edited) version with Ewan McGregor as a particularly delicious Iago HERE.

As for film, I noticed that Kenneth Branaugh chose to play Iago in the 1994 movie version as well.

Maybe you can see my problem. I want to spend all week rereading the play and absorbing commentary by leading scholars, including Harold Bloom, whose What a Piece of Work Is Man I bought some years ago and finally loaded onto my computer.

I want to listen to, and watch, every Othello ever made, including the Verdi opera with the great Placido Domingo available on Netflix.

But I can’t actually do all this, can I? I mean, I could…but then I’d burn out on the blog after just the second week, right as I’m scheduled to start Titus Andronicus!

To riff David Bowie, I could be a hero…but at the expense of the whole project – and I can’t let that happen.

Yes…this post is all over the place. One of my diary entries. This time just to vent my frustration that there is so much I’d love to do…and so little time.

But these are the choices that must be made in order to travel the Shakespearean world in only one year.


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