‘Othello is one of the brilliant plays written by William Shakespeare. It is the story of man named Othello and how his mind was twisted and manipulated by a man named Iago and how Iago made Othello think that his wife Desdemona was cheating on him with his lieutenant Michael Cassio, which results in many deaths. Tim Blake Nelson has creatively restructured ‘Othello’ into a film to appeal to a teenage audience. It still contains the same central ideas which are racism, jealousy and deception which will be analysed on how they are portrayed in ‘Othello’ and are creatively reshaped in ‘O’.
Jealously is one of the main central ideas and is shown through many character but mainly Iago and Hugo and Othello and O. In act 4, scene 5 Othello goes into an eplileplsy fit after hearing the news that Cassio slept with Othello’s wife Desdemona and Othello has lost nearly all control of himself to his jealousy in the play. Nelson has recreated this scene into a Slam Dunk competition where Odin is high on cocaine and Hugo (Iago) has given him the misinformation that Desi (Desdemona) and Michael (Cassio) have been sleeping together. In the novel ‘Othello’, Othello strikes Desdemona in the company of Lodovico, a Venetian nobleman.
This very action implies that Othello is so engrossed in his emotion that he simply does not care that other people can see his anger and subsequent violence towards his wife. In “O,” this concept has been magnified where Odin’s violent actions do not occur in front of one person, but instead in front of an entire crowd of people. Also when Lodovico’s see’s this he is surprised and Othello has to fix his actions “My lord, this would not be believed in Venice, / Though I should swear I saw’t. `Tis very much; / Make her amends – she weeps” (4. 1. 36) During “O,” when Odin destroys the backboard and pushes the ball boy down, the crowd simply boos at him.
Both responses are appropriate to the contexts they take place in, but both express displeasure at Othello’s actions. To further prove the point that Othello holds no regard for anyone else’s opinion at this point, he ignores the responses in both contexts and continues harboring his jealously. In Shakespeare’s script, Othello continues to rant about how evil he believes Desdemona is: “If that the earth could teem with woman’s tears, / Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile” (IV. 1. 39-240), whereas in “O,” Odin remains silent and simply struts around the basketball court with his arms outstretched while the crowd boos him.
Both actions hint at the more selfish aspect of Othello’s emotions; by ignoring his surroundings and clinging to his beliefs, he proves that he is thinking more about himself at this point than anything else. In ‘O’ when Odin shatters the backboard it is a visual metaphor for destroying Desi as basketball is something that defines Odin so therefore basketball could be interpreted as a symbol for the things Odin loves and enjoys in his life such asDesi.
By having Odin destroy the backboard of the basketball hoop, Nelson illustrates the path that Odin and Othello decided to take, a path that will destroy everything they love, and ultimately themselves. Therefore the image foreshadows their death. Racism is also largely seen in both texts, Shakespeare makes it clear that Othello’s colour has a lot to do with Iago’s problems with him. “The term ‘Moor’ used to describe Othello at various points in the play. The term ‘Moor’ was widely used as a synonym for ‘Negro’ When Shakespeare describes the elopement of Desdemona and Othello, he makes it appear to be unnatural.
He goes so far as to relate their elopement to bestiality. There can be no doubt that Othello’s blackness is a significant part of the play. In ‘Othello’ Desdemona call him the ‘Moor’ and she is his loving and faithful wife whereas when Iago says it, it is offensive. In the film ‘O’ there is a lot of racism, Odin and Desi jokingly discuss their different races. When she disapproves of his use of “nigga,” he tells her that he is allowed to say it but she cannot even think it. Despite his apparently shallow answer, Odin is “haunted…by a profound self-consciousness about his own blackness”.
When Hugo tells Odin that Desi and Mike called him “the nigga,” This is extremely offensive to and he begins to act out his rage and self-loathing. In ‘Othello the word ‘Moor’ has been replaced by with a the word ‘nigga’ to appeal to younger audiences. Deception can also be seen throughout both texts and especially when Iago sets Cassio up to make Othello hear the Cassio has been sleeping with Desdemona. In ‘Othello’ this scene is set in a jail area whereas in ‘O’ it is set in Iago’s bedroom and Othello is hiding outside the room listening in on the conversation.
Nelson has creatively reshaped this scene from early times to the 20th century. During this scene in ‘O’ Cassio talks about Desi as a floosy and talks badly of Odin calling the name Nigga, this in use of language from Michael is the language that teenagers use which is another way Nelson has creatively reshaped Othello. Overall, Nelson has creatively reshaped the central ideas jealousy, racism and deception into the modern film but still keeping the story line. In ‘O’ he has successfully done this by setting it in a high school and making Odin the star basketball player.