Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever

O!  Beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
~Iago

In which Shakespeare play does the villain conspire to make the good guy believe his woman has been unfaithful to him?

That’s an easy one.  Othello.

But also Much Ado About Nothing.  It’s the same plot twist in both plays.

That’s not unusual for Shakespeare.  He recycled themes often.  We’ve seen the bad guys plot to kill the king, women pretending to be men. mistaken identities, friars convincing young girls to pretend they are dead, forced marriages over and over.

The evil Don John/Iago persuades Claudio/Othello that Hero/Desdemona has been unfaithful.  In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio tells Hero at the altar that it is his intention “not to be married.  Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.”  In Othello, Othello asks Desdemona if she’s prayed tonight.  Claudio humiliates Hero by jilting her at the altar in front of her family and friends.  In Othello, he smothers Desdemona.  Thus the difference between a comedy and a tragedy.  It’s not what happens to you: it’s how you handle it.


Reduced Shakespeare Company

I love Much Ado About Nothing, mostly because of the wordsplay between Benedick and Beatrice, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Othello when it comes to jealousy.  Iago is such a wonderful villain he makes Don John seem like an apprentice.

When Claudio leaves Hero at the altar, Shakespeare writes no stage direction at all.  When Othello kills Desdemona, the stage directions is: He stifles her.  Both must terrify an inexperienced director and thrill a creative one.  Neither is as much fun as the offstage death of Antigonus in The Winter’s Tale, whose stage direction is “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

When I visited London, I did all the touristy thing: the Changing of the Guard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Library, the British Museum, the National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, rode a double decker bus, wrote my Beatles tribute on the graffiti-covered wall outside of the Abbey Road Studios, took the obligatory picture in the Abbey Road zebra crossing, watched England play in the World Cup in a pub filled with people who actually seemed to understand that sport.  But nothing thrilled me more than the Globe Theatre, where I got to see a troupe rehearsing Titus Andronicus and I bought my usual souvenir, a Globe Theatre baseball cap.


Flocabulary

Shakespeare, I love thee not too wisely, but too well.

My apologies if I spoiled either of the plays, but you’ve had 400 years to read them so it’s hardly my fault.

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