Sunday, 23 April 2017

Othello by William Shakespeare

Othello by William Shakespeare
Believed written and first performed in England in 1604. BBC audiobook of the Northern Broadsides production published in 2010.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download of this production from Audible via
Buy a CD audiobook via Abebooks
Buy a CD audiobook from Speedyhen
Buy a CD audiobook from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This BBC Radio production stars much-loved actor and comedian Lenny Henry, who won the Evening Standard's Best Newcomer Award for his stunning performance as the tortured Moor. First performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, it subsequently toured the country before arriving in London's West End where Henry received rave reviews.
Featuring the cast from the acclaimed West End production and with original music from Conrad Nelson, who also plays Iago, this mesmerising radio drama grips the listener from start to tragic finish.
Love, racism, jealousy and desire are at the emotional core of Shakespeare's monumental tragedy, a tender love story shattered by one man's obsessive hatred of another. Othello is noble, brave and victorious. Iago, passed over for a position in the army, fuels his diabolical revenge with hatred and snarling racism. Poignant, intense and heartbreaking, Othello mercilessly explores every inch of the human condition.

Penguin kindly offered me an advance copy of Tracy Chevalier's latest book, New Boy, recently which I am excited to read soon. You will be able to read my review of that in May, but, as New Boy is based on the plot of Othello, I thought I should revisit the original play first. I metaphorically dusted off my Audible download of the excellent Northern Broadsides production that starred Lenny Henry and am I am blogging my review today to celebrate Shakespeare Day!

Having never actually seen, heard or read any other Othellos, I can't compare this audio version to any other production. However I can say that the play is gripping throughout and, other than the very first few lines where the dialogue speed seems inordinately fast, I was easily able to keep up with the action and to differentiate voices so I generally knew who was speaking (except when minor characters suddenly appear!) Lenny Henry is convincing as Othello and my favourite character has to be the villainous Iago. He is utterly self-serving and wonderfully two-faced! I didn't think the other characters had the depth of Iago or Othello, Desdemona seeming particularly flat to me, although I did appreciate Emilia's Elizabethan-style feminist outburst.

The storyline is moral lesson in not believing everything one is told, even if the news source has been reliable in the past - so Othello is relevant for 2017! Shakespeare illustrates the racism of the early 1600s and it is depressing to think that such attitudes still prevail four centuries later. While I could see how Othello was so easily led by Iago, on reflection I did find the ending stretched believability too far for my tastes. Overall I enjoyed the play though and would certainly listen to it again - or even go to see a live performance.

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Books by William Shakespeare / Plays / Books from England


  1. I have read a few Shakespeare plays, but Othello is not one I have read before. I am looking forward to trying it out in the future. It's a nice idea to brush up on this play before reading the novel based on it!

    1. I expected I would miss out on lots of Chevalier's references otherwise!