Desdemona Evaluation Essay

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“The Decision a director makes in the portrayal of a character reflects their own context as much as Shakespeare’s.” Evaluate (compare and contrast) Orson Wells’ portrayal of Desdemona with regards to the above statement. You should refer to other versions of Othello that you have studied in your response. A director or playwright often produces a creative text reflective of his or her own context. Shakespeare however, also challenged his own context through his ideas in the play ‘Othello’. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Desdemona reflects and challenges the role of women in the renaissance period by including the ideas of independence, sex and infidelity. These controversial elements in Shakespeare’s character became opportunities for future composers, such as Orson Wells and Oliver Parker, to portray Desdemona as being reflective of both Shakespeare’s context and their own. Some of the character decisions in Orson Wells’ and Oliver Parker’s ‘Othello’ reflect Shakespeare’s context, and other decisions reflect their own context while opposing Shakespeare’s. Shakespeare has portrayed a typically obedient Elizabethan woman through Desdemona’s actions and her statement “I am obedient”. However, Desdemona is also depicted as aggressive and opposing to Shakespeare’s context through Othello’s story. Othello explains that Desdemona has “with a greedy ear, devour[ed] up [his] discourse.” This metaphorical characteristic of Desdemona challenges cultural assumptions about women in Shakespeare’s context. When Desdemona speaks for herself, in a very assertive and intellectual manner she states, “I did love the Moor to live with him”. This statement expands on Desdemona’s sexual nature. Shakespeare has challenged his own context in this scene, providing an opportunity for Orson Wells to also develop a controversial Desdemona – appropriate to his own context.
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