Directing a Othello- Symbolism of Final Scene

Authors Avatar

You are directing a production of ‘Othello’, but UNFORTUNATELY, you have been injured, and you are unable to attend rehearsals. write a letter to your Assistant Director explaining how you want the final scene – (Act 5, scene 2) – to be performed. in your LETTER, you will need to explain:

  • Your ideas for setting, lighting and costume
  • How key lines/speeches should be spoken.
  • Why the scene is so important, and how it is a fitting climax to the play.
  • What you want an audience to experience.
  • How an Elizabethan audience might have reacted to the scene.

Dear Tommy

We are scheduled to start rehearsals of the final scene today. However, I am sorry to inform you that I cannot be present. I got out of bed to quickly and I threw my back. I am resting at home; doctor’s orders. Fear not! I am perfectly capable of giving you instructions regarding my image of the final scene.  

Tommy: please remember that this scene is the most critical segment. This scene climaxes one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies. Remember that this play is a tragedy. If you are to understand fully my image you have to understand what is meant by a tragedy. Shakespeare based or mimicked Greek styles of writing. Greeks invented tragedy around 500 BC. The Greeks had festivals of drama and Aristotle, a Greek Philosopher is famous for his analysis on theatre and arts. Therefore, I feel using Aristotle’s definition to be most appropriate. A tragedy shows the fall of an important person from prosperity, into misery. However, the suffering and fall results from a fatal flaw or frailty within the personality. I believe that Othello’s fatal flaw is hamartia- some error of judgement. Anagnorisis- this is the key message that we need to convey to the audience. The audience has to realize that the hero moves from ignorance to knowledge, therefore clearly understanding what causes his suffering. Othello has to realize what he has done this reinforces the definition; I will explain a few points. Othello is without a doubt the flawed hero; Othello was the General of the Venetian army. By the end of the play, Othello goes from being the most important General to being a common murderer because of his ignorance. This exactly fits Aristotle’s definition. The audience has to feel hate and resentment towards Iago. Iago reduced a distinguished man who was successful and in love to something inhuman. The audience has to grasp the hate and sympathise with Othello. The audience had to sympathise with Othello because we want them to experience Catharsis. Othello, in theory, the pays the price of his mistake- he kills his wife and gets demoted. Tommy I know it can be confusing but everything Shakespeare wrights is interlinked; there is a reason for every line. Tommy have you come to comprehend how majestic Shakespeare’s play are?

Othello is a brilliant piece of writing. I would love to plan every single moment of the last scene but it would take years. Therefore I want you to focus on three moments initiated by lines in the play.

        Othello enters the chamber and quenching the candles; he says “put out the light”. The actual line (5.2.7) when Othello says “Put out the light, and then put out the light…” is an interesting one. Shakespeare chooses to fill his iambic pentameter repeating the same four words. This could be interpreted in many ways. Othello repeats himself because he is insane and has is illiterate or maybe because he is mentally checking that he fully understand what he wants to do- kill his wife. This play is full of light and darkness: Othello and Desdemona are black and white. Many important scenes are also in the dark: when Iago and Roderigo warns Brabantio that Othello is planning to marry Desdemona- “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe…”- the scene is in the dark and Iago is unseen. Another dark scene is when Iago kills Roderigo- “Kill men I’th’ dark…”- on page 300. Shakespeare chooses to have such contrasts, light and dark, for many reasons. Firstly they convey the emotional state of Othello. Othello’s flaw is complex- he sees things in extremes: best friend or devil. Light and dark are symbols of his emotions. When Othello is happy, light, he is in a good mood making decisions carefully and with great wisdom. If you remember, Othello shows wisdom on page 132, 1.2.60. Brabantio’s soldiers draw their swords to attack; Othello’s soldiers do likewise. Othello aware of the situation brings the tension down-“Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them…”- by telling his soldiers to put away the weapons. However, as soon as he is in a bad mood, dark, he is so hasty. E.g. when Cassio is drunk- Othello is drawn away from his wedding bed and he fires Cassio. Othello should enter the room as Desdemona is sleeping. Tommy, to convey Shakespeare image which, is how a man can be brought down to dirt, follow the following points: low use of stage lights. I want the opening scene mainly lit by real candles. (I understand there has to be stage lights but use it to a minimum) The bed should be central with candles symmetrically around in a semi-circle. There should be at least twenty candles. The effect is the chamber has a lot of resemblance to a church making Othello look like the un-holy creature trespassing. The chamber should be white, the sheets, the bed, pillows etc. the objects in the room represent Desdemona. Desdemona is the light, “former light restore”, Othello refers to her as the light. Not only is Desdemona the light she is also white- “and smooth as monumental alabaster”- her skin is white. Everything about Desdemona is white; she is so pure, innocent and sacred- like a church that is my image. The importance of this image is to make Othello seem, to the audience, even lower. Iago has brought him so low, he enters his wife’s room planning to murder her. This makes Othello look like a beast which we want. The image of the beast follows the proceeding scene, the dark scene where Iago kills Roderigo. I want the darkness from the previous scene as well as the dark thoughts and images, death, to be carried out in this scene through Othello- making him a beast. The imagery of a beast- this shows what a man can be reduced to. Othello’s flawed characteristics with Iago’s deceiving information makes Othello want to kill his wife. In this scene I want Othello to looks to match his emotions- dark. Othello enters the room with intent to kill that is dark thoughts. Tommy in this scene I want everything to be total opposites this can be a symbol of Othello’s mind- totally opposite. Othello when mad is dark just like the room and when good he is light like Desdemona. The irony is that Othello is going to destroy the Desdemona the light which is all of his own goodness. Othello should be dressed in black robes while Desdemona in white, again I am using opposites commenting on dark and light and Othello’s emotions. Othello’s speech is crucial, he should be walking around the bed patronising Desdemona. This build tensions as the audience are aware and expecting the death of Desdemona. Othello as he says his speech should go to the candles and douse them, individually. Tommy make sure there are pauses between each douse as this also creates tension- the slow process. The slow speed brings doubt in the audiences mind weather Othello will kill Desdemona. The line,” put out the light”, triggers the extinguishing of the candles. Dousing the candles symbolises the overcoming of light by darkness. As Othello’s speech continues he should also be continuously dousing the candles. “Once more” is when Othello breaks away from the slow extinguishing of the candles and kneels by the bed. Ideally the last few lines of his speech should be said in very dim conditions where Othello is barely seen. The idea that Othello is not visible comes from Shakespeare message. Othello is so low; when he comes near Desdemona he is so lost in his lost cause that he is not open to his own reasoning. The dousing of the candles leads up to this part: Othello leaning over the bed and kissing Desdemona. The effect is Othello’s physical shadow covers Desdemona. Now Tommy I think you may be wondering the significance of the candles. The candles represent Desdemona’s life; light represents life. Tommy please understand this next scene, I believe it is a great image. After Othello kisses Desdemona she wakes. The scene at this point is still dark as Othello has doused half of the candles leaving an eerie atmosphere. This atmosphere, the audience has to realize, is the total opposite of what it was a few days ago. Tommy remember that Othello is a newly wed, if you have forgotten that I am sure the audience will. A subtle prop to reiterate my point: a rack with a wedding gown hung on. This reminds the audience that the wedding was so close to the horrible events. Desdemona is still treasuring her gown. The dressing gown is also a time prop- the audience has to understand that the feelings that Othello has for Desdemona changes so dramatically because of Iago. This also helps to show Shakespeare point, not only can a man fall from great power but the fall can be quick- a result of the man’s own flaw. This help to build even more resentment towards Iago. As Desdemona wakes I want the house lights to slowly brighten. The effect that I am trying to achieve is the close connection between life and light. Desdemona wakes therefore in theory so does her sprit; her sprit is symbolised by the use of the stage lights.        

Join now!

When Othello reveals his intentions to Desdemona “Then heaven, Have mercy on me…” is what Desdemona replies (5.2.33). Othello has just revealed that he wants to kill her. Desdemona had no clue why her lover wants to kill her. At this point Desdemona is confused. In the previous scene Othello has publicly shouted and beaten her for no known reason, now he mentions killing. The audience has to grasp Desdemona’s confusion. To show her confusion, Tommy, Shakespeare uses language. Shakespeare breaks his iambic pentameter between Desdemona and Othello. The affect – Othello and Desdemona are actually talking. Both of ...

This is a preview of the whole essay