1. GENERAL HEADING: Video and Film Analysis
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Comparing Film To Play Narratives: Otello And Othello"
3. GOALS: To examine difference between the nature of Othello's love for Desdemona in Shakespeare's script (as shown in Othello's narrative set-speech 1.3. ) compared to that suggested by the Verdi/Zeffirelli operatic version.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Class of any size.
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: Video version of Franco Zeffirelli's film of Verdi's Otello, cued up to the Act I love duet, "Gia nella notte densa," and video version of Janet Suzman''s Othello with John Kani, cued up to the start of Othello's narrative 1.3. 128-170. "Her father lov'd me, oft invited me."
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes.
7. STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS: Play each version, beginning with Zeffirelli's version of the love duet, in which the librettist Arrigo Boito quotes from Shakespeare's 1.3. Othello narrative. (Zeffirelli fills out the description with scenes from Othello's capture by slave traders, the death of his mother, scenes in Brabantio's house with Desdemona listening, and views of the wedding bed. Contrasting this visual elaboration of the past is the extended narrative in Shakespeare's script, which makes the audience imagine such scenes for themselves.) Give students five minutes after each scene to jot down their responses. Then discuss their discoveries.
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION AND DISCUSSION: In what ways does Zeffirelli manipulate the audience's responses to the love of Othello and Desdemona through his visual images? What, by contrast, does Shakespeare's Othello speech emphasize? What effect is achieved by having Othello speak privately to Desdemona (in Verdi), or publicly to the Venetian senate (in Shakespeare)? What difference does the music make?
9. REFERENCE: Clare-Marie Wall
10. ADDITIONAL READING: Look at Boito's libretto for Verdi's opera.
11. VARIATIONS: You might also compare the temptation scenes of the two works. Also, playing Iago's "Credo" from the opera makes an interesting comparison to the many Iago soliloquies from the playtext. Contrasing the last scene of the opera to that of the play also provokes an interesting discussion about the differences in dramatic theme and effect.
Using Olivier's Othello is another option, as it is more operatic in production and acting style.
You might use audiotape instead of video, allowing students to follow
the written texts as they listen.