To be able to play the character Othello, an actor would have needed to master playing two separate characters. Through the first half of Othello, Othello is a noble, well-spoken person who shows genuine affection towards Desdemona. When he is Venice Othello’s attitude towards others is calm and he shows no signs of hatred towards anyone, even when Brabantio, Desdemona’s father who hates the “moor” tries to arrest Othello his reply is “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them”, an actor would need to show confidence and self-control even at the characters who hate him, even showing genuine respect towards others, “Tis true, most worthy signor”. This shows Othello not just to be a well-respected general but a person who has verbal strength also and is able to extinguish problems not just by using brute force.
However, From Act Scene 3, Othello changes dramatically by the works of Iago. His speech becomes confused and his actions not something Othello would do. An actor would need to show passion in loving Desdemona but a determination in wanting to kill her at the same time, because there’s a constant battle between love and hate in Othello, “O balmy breath, that dost almost persuade”, even towards the end of the play, Othello still cannot bring himself to killing Desdemona.
This battle is key to playing a successful Othello as it shows the swift transformation that Iago has activated. At the beginning of the play, Othello has to defend his love for Desdemona from Brabantio who uses racial attacks at Othello, accusing him of using magic to lure Desdemona into loving him, “stolen from me, and corrupted By spells and medicines bought of mountebacks” but even confronted by racism, Othello remarkably stays calm, “Most potent, grave, and reverend signors”.
This needs to be shown through the actor, who should show confidence in the light of danger. Also, before Act 3 Scene 3, the actor needs to show genuine affection towards Desdemona. For example, when the actor says “for she is with me”, the actor should hold Desdemona to show that he truly does love her and that they are together. When Desdemona and Othello meet, such as in Act 2 Scene 1, where Othello first meets Desdemona in Cyprus, he should show signs of his love for her, through a kiss or hug.
Othello should also be kind and courteous to people, even though a fair amount of characters hate him. When he speaks to people he should as if he has authority and in a fair slow manner, not rushing the words. When he talks about the time when he first told Desdemona about his love he the actor should show passion in his voice, for example when Othello says “and I loved her, that she did pity them” his voice should be calm, yet firm, to reassure Brabantio that he genuinely loves Desdemona.
Even though Othello doesn’t show it, he definitely has doubts, and it takes Iago to makes these doubts visible. From Act 3 Scene 3, Othello changes dramatically. At this point the actor should almost change into a different character, his speech becomes rushed and repetitive, “Blood, blood, blood! ” and later on before he has a seizure “Lie with her? Lie on her? We say on lie on her” this dramatic change should be shown through the actor’s body language and hesitant behaviour.
For example when Othello sees Desdemona in Act 4 Scene 1, instead of greeting her with a kiss and he would normally, he should act agitated around her, looking at her then turning away, turning away from the woman he once loved dearly. Also at the end of the play when he eventually kills her, the actor should show the battle he has in his mind. Whether or not he truly wants to kill her, contemplating his actions, “that dost almost persuade”, the actor should be beside her bed walking back and forth to show that he is thinking about what he is about to do.
When he finally does decide to kill her it should be on the bed, strangling her so not to “scar that whiter skin of hers”. But he should be crying while strangling her to show he is still in love with her. Which is why he constantly reassures himself that killing her is for the best otherwise she will “betray more men” It would take great skill to master a character like Othello because he portrays so many different personalities throughout the play. From a noble gentleman to an angry, paranoid man who kills his wife based on rumours.
Othello is a character who can be played in many different ways. Laurence Fishburne in the 1995 adaptation of Othello, plays Othello with passion who is also quite witty. His transformation is not visible at first and it takes some time for Othello to truly change. In another adaptation, the Othello is quite different. His transformation is much more visible and takes little time to change, turning into a brute with ape like behaviour. There isn’t one way to play Othello but showing the change is key into executing a successful Othello.