On this day in 1604, William Shakespeare’s famous play, Othello, was performed on stage for the first time. The play features themes of love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, repentance, and racism. Literary historians believe that the play was based on the 1565 story, Un Capitano Moro, written by Cinthio.
About the author
William Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616, and in that time, he wrote numerous plays and poems, many of which are taught and studied in classrooms as part of a standard English curriculum. Many of his plays were initially performed at the Globe Theatre, in London.
Othello, however, was not performed at the Globe Theatre, but rather at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Though the date of the first production is typically listed as 1604, some historians argue that it might have been as early as 1601.
A brief synopsis
The story of Othello is a tragedy surrounding the ill-fated love between a Moorish soldier, Othello, and his wife, Desdemona. Struggles are evident from the start as Othello is taken to court over having supposedly wooed Desdemona with witchcraft, but he claims he did not and is then allowed to marry her. The two travel together, and through a series of conspiracies involving other characters, Othello becomes convinced that his wife was unfaithful, and he smothers her in her sleep.
Once Desdemona is killed, the conspirators come forth and admit to having staged the entire “affair,” and Othello grieves. Using his own sword, Othello commits suicide, and the play closes with a speech from one of the other characters and orders are given to have the man killed who plotted the ruse against Othello.
History in the theater
The play was performed many times between its debut in the early 1600s and the turn of the last century in 1900. One of the most interesting elements of Othello‘s history is that it was one of the few Shakespearean plays that were not rewritten or adapted during the English Reformation era and 1700s.
After the turn of the century, Othello continued being performed for stage and screen. Today, the tragedy is still performed, but the influence has spread across the globe with performances taking place in Singapore and Morocco.