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Rosa 'Othello' in the Volksgarten

In addition to its appearance in the theatre, the character of Othello from the tragic play by William Shakespeare has appeared in many examples in art and culture since being authored by Shakespeare in the early 16th century.

In the visual arts

The literary character of Othello and the plot of the play by Shakespeare has been a recurrent theme in painting for several centuries. Selected examples include The Plot depicting Othello and Iago, which was painted in oil by Solomon Alexander Hart in 1855. He also painted a watercolour version, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Othello was a series of 60 paintings executed in 1985 by Nabil Kanso. It was published in 1996 by NEV Editions.

In 2018, the African American conceptual artist Fred Wilson created the work I saw Othello's visage in his mind in Murano glass and wood, inspired by a line of Desdemona's in Act One of the tragedy.[1]

In opera

Maria Malibran as Rossini's Desdemona by François Bouchot, 1834

Otello, a four-act opera with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsa and music by Gioachino Rossini was first performed at the Teatro del Fondo, Naples, on 4 December 1816. In contrast to Shakespeare's version, di Salsa provided an alternative happy ending to the work, a common practice with drama and opera at one time.

Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito wrote Otello. Verdi and his librettist dispensed with the first act of the play. Franco Zeffirelli's 1986 film version of Verdi's opera starring Plácido Domingo as Othello was nominated for the BAFTA for foreign language film.[2] However, it did not win the award. According to the Kennedy Center's biographical note on Domingo, Laurence Olivier saw Domingo in Otello and, in a mock-furious voice, told Franco Zeffirelli: "You realise that Domingo plays Othello as well as I do, and he has that voice!"[3]

In ballet

Mexican choreographer José Limón created a 20-minute, four character ballet called The Moor's Pavane to the music of Henry Purcell in 1949. It is a standard in dance companies around the world and notable interpreters of the Moor include Rudolf Nureyev.

The ballet Othello was choreographed by John Neumeier to music by Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Naná Vasconcelos et al. and was premiered by the Hamburg Ballet in Hamburg on 27 January 1985, with Gamal Gouda as Othello, Gigi Hyatt as Desdemona, and Max Midinet as Iago. The work remains in the repertoire of the Hamburg Ballet, seeing its 100th performance in 2008.

Another Othello ballet, by Iranian Armenian composer Loris Tjeknavorian, was commissioned by the Northern Ballet company and was shown in London in 1985. The musical score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, was recorded by EMI.

In 2002, modern dance choreographer Lar Lubovitch created a full-length ballet in three acts based on the Shakespeare play and Cinthio's tale with a score by Elliot Goldenthal. The work has been staged by the San Francisco Ballet with Desmond Richardson, Yuan Yuan Tan, and Parrish Maynard in the principal roles. The ballet was broadcast on PBS's Great Performances: Dance in America and the program was nominated for an Emmy Award. The ballet is recorded on Kultur video. Othello was first performed in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera House, 23 May 1997, by American Ballet Theatre.[4]

In film

See also Shakespeare on screen (Othello).

Between 1948 and 1952, Orson Welles directed The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952), produced as a black-and-white film noir.[5] Rather than focusing on racial disparity, the film plays on a difference between Desdemona and Othello in age, size and personal attractiveness. The film noir colouring of the picture minimised any commentary on Othello's blackness, to the point that the critic F. R. Leavis wrote that the film made no reference to Othello's colour.[5]

Unlike Welles's film, Stuart Burge's Othello (1965), based on John Dexter's National Theatre Company's production, starring Laurence Olivier, brings issues of race to the fore.

Trevor Nunn's 1989 version, filmed at Stratford, cast black opera singer Willard White in the leading role, opposite Ian McKellen's Iago.[5]

The first major screen production casting a black actor as Othello would not come until 1995 with Laurence Fishburne opposite Kenneth Branagh's Iago. It was made during the O. J. Simpson trial and commentators such as Cartmell draw parallels between the two whodunit murder stories, and wondered if the film's release was not a little to do with the publicity surrounding Simpson's drama.[5] A modernised, loose retelling, O, completed in 1999 and released in 2001, featured African-American actor Mekhi Phifer in the lead role, which was renamed from "Othello" to "Odin James" or "O. J.", with the story set in an American high school and revolving around sports rather than warfare.

Malayalam film Kaliyattam is an adapted version of Othello against the backdrop of the Hindu Theyyam performance. In 1998, Suresh Gopi received the National Film Award for Best Actor, and Jayaraj the award for Best Director for their work on the film.

Omkara is a version in Hindi set in Uttar Pradesh, starring Ajay Devgan as Omkara (Othello), Saif Ali Khan as Langda Tyagi (Iago), Kareena Kapoor as Dolly (Desdemona), Vivek Oberoi as Kesu (Cassio), Bipasha Basu as Billo (Bianca) and Konkona Sen Sharma as Indu (Emilia). The film was directed by Vishal Bhardwaj who earlier adapted Shakespeare's Macbeth as Maqbool. All characters in the film share the same letter or sound in their first name as in the original Shakespeare classic. It is one of the few mainstream Indian movies to contain uncensored profanity.

In other film adaptations

On television

In music

Graphic novels

Othello, an adaptation by Oscar Zárate, Oval Projects Ltd (1985). It was reprinted in 2005 by Can of Worms Press and includes the complete text of the play.

In January 2009, a manga adaptation was published in the United Kingdom, with art by Ryuta Osada. It is part of the Manga Shakespeare series by Richard Appignanesi, and is set in Venice in carnival season.[33]


Christopher Moore combines Othello and The Merchant of Venice in his 2014 comic novel The Serpent of Venice, in which he makes Portia (from The Merchant of Venice) and Desdemona (from Othello) sisters. All of the characters come from those two plays with the exception of Pocket, the Fool, who comes from Moore's earlier novel based on King Lear.

The supporting character Iago in Disney franchise Aladdin is named after the antagonist of the play, Iago. I, Iago by Nicole Galland depicts Iago, as the protagonist and explores his potential motivations and history.

The plot of the Portuguese language novel Dom Casmurro by the Brazilian author Machado de Assis, a translator of Othello into Portuguese, is based upon the play. It is generally considered one of the great novels of Brazilian literature.

In 2017, Hogarth (a division of Penguin Random House company) published, as part of the Shakespeare Project, a novel by Tracy Chevalier, New Boy. The characters from Othello are transposed in a Washington D.C. school where eleven-year-old boys and girls re-enact the shakespearian tragedy but in the 1970s.

Mustafa Said, the Sudanese central figure of Tayeb Salih's Arabic language novel Season of Migration to the North (1966) refers to himself as Othello and kills his English wife with Jean Morris with a knife out of jealousy.



  1. ^ "I Saw Othello's Visage in His Mind | Smithsonian American Art Museum".
  2. ^ Otello (1986)
  3. ^ "Biographical information for Placido Domingo". Kennedy Center. Archived from the original on 14 August 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Great Performances . Dance in America: Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" from San Francisco Ballet". PBS. Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e Cartmell, Deborah (2000) Interpreting Shakespeare on screen Palgrave MacMillan pp72-77 ISBN 978-0-312-23393-8
  6. ^ a b c Buchanan, Shakespeare on Silent Film (2009)
  7. ^ Othello (1922) IMDb
  8. ^ "Othello (1951) - IMDb". IMDb.
  9. ^ Brigitte Tast, Hans-Jürgen Tast: Orson Welles – Othello – Mogador. Aufenthalte in Essaouira, Kulleraugen Vis.Komm. Nr. 42, Schellerten 2013, ISBN 978-3-88842-042-9
  10. ^ See Отелло at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  11. ^ All Night Long (1962)
  12. ^ Othello (1965)
  13. ^ Animating Out of Spite. Animation Obsessive. 2021-10-24.
  14. ^ "Othello-67" on Youtube
  15. ^ "Catch My Soul (1974)". IMDb.
  16. ^ IMDb Othello, the Black Commando
  17. ^ Othello (1995) IMDB
  18. ^ Kaliyattam (1997)
  19. ^ Burt, Richard (30 April 2016). Unspeakable ShaXXXspeares, Revised Edition: Queer Theory and American Kiddie Culture. Springer. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-137-07867-4. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  20. ^ O (2001) IMDb
  21. ^ Omkara (2006)
  22. ^ "Jarum Halus official website". Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Wyver, John (3 March 2012). "Othello (BBC, 1955) | SCREEN PLAYS". Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  25. ^ Othello (1981) (TV)
  26. ^ Othello (2001) (TV) IMDb
  27. ^ "Othello". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  28. ^ "Dwight's Books In Tulsa King Secretly Reveal 5 Details About Him". ScreenRant.
  29. ^ "Come Desdemona, Othello and tragedies / Shakespearean sorrows".
  30. ^ "You must be on that white like Othello".
  31. ^ @bastille (17 December 2015). "@alexandra_hurts indeed! It's Othello meets The Exorcist" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Mench, Chris (2 May 2017). "Harry Styles References Shakespeare's 'Othello' On New Single "Sweet Creature"". Genius. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Othellokage". La Glace (in Danish). Conditori La Glace. Retrieved 10 October 2018.