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Show and Tell: Othello (2001)
Introduction English Citizenship (1) Citizenship (2) Performing Arts  
image from Othello (1961)
AuthorPoppy Simpson
Themesliterary adaptations

Why not use these clips as the basis a cross-media comparison once students are familiar with the play? You might begin by asking your students to think about their attitude towards 'adaptations' in general. Do they think that adaptations of plays and books for television and film have a responsibility to the original text? How much of a responsibility? There are, of course, different types of adaptations - can students think of the different ways in which film and television draw on literary texts - ie. exact adaptations of classic novels, adaptations that update language and setting, films and programmes that are 'loosely based' or 'inspired by' a particular text.

In the Othello (2001) being discussed here, the story has been re-imagined in a contemporary setting. Ask students to read through the synopsis of the programme (available by following the link on the right). Do they notice any major differences in terms of the plot? What do they think about the way in which the story has been interpreted - do they recognise the themes and characters? Do students think that the 'updated' story holds more relevance for a contemporary audience?

Why not probe a little deeper? Ask students to read through Act III Scene III, focusing on how Iago uses language to sow the seed of suspicion in Othello's mind. Follow this by watching the second extract, Jealousy. How do students view the relationship between the text and this extract? Do they think that the scriptwriter and director have successfully adapted the scene for a modern setting? What do they notice about the language and setting in this scene from Othello (2001)? How has the director used light, sound, camera angles and shot composition to create a particular mood?

Building on this exercise, why not ask students to adapt a short scene from the play for a contemporary audience. Ask them to work in pairs, or small groups, to produce a short 'script' that they can either read out or act out to the rest of the group. In essence, this is a simple 'translation' exercise. How useful do students find the process of updating the language and setting of a particular scene? In what ways does it add to their understanding of the original text?

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