Thursday, August 9, 2007


Work has been overwhelming lately, but yesterday I took an afternoon off and went to the Stratford Festival with three friends to see Othello. I'd studied Othello in Grade 11 but had never seen a stage production. Let me state the obvious: reading the text of a play is a poor substitute for seeing it performed by top-notch actors. Everyone in our group is enthusiastic about Shakespeare, but Othello is actually a terrific play for people not terribly fond of Shakespeare. It is tense and exciting and has a bit of everything: jealousy, racism, madness, anguish and a decent body count.

We all enjoyed the performance, though not nearly as much as the young women ("younger women", I should say) sitting behind us, who had truly cathartic experiences. The sobbing, which continued intermittently for over half the performance, was a little distracting at times, but it was gratifying to see customers really get their money's worth. Philip Akin's performance as Othello got mixed reviews but all agreed that Jonathan Goad was superb as Iago.

Going to see Shakespeare with English majors makes for thought-provoking discussion and we had lively debates during the car ride home. I erroneously claimed that Shakespeare wrote four true tragedies, i.e., ones that featured the classical tragic flaw in the protagonist. It turns out I was wrong. First, the four tragedies I had in mind (Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet) are called his "major tragedies" and they are not distinguished from the others by the tragic flaw characteristic. I guess I should have paid more attention in Grade 11. Makes me wonder what makes Romeo and Juliet a "minor" tragedy ....

If you want to introduce your kids to Shakespeare, Usborne Books publishes two terrific books: Stories from Shakespeare and World of Shakespeare. My kids like reading these, but it'll be a few years before I attempt to take them to a Stratford production of Shakespeare. In the meantime, I'm having fun going with my literary and literate friends!

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