Comparing Oedipus and Othello

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When comparing and contrasting the character's Oedipus and Othello by means

of the different theatrical practices, one must take in account that there have been

many interpretations, and productions of each of their respected plays. The differing

presentations of each may lead someone to think differently about the play than

another would. In comparing and contrasting the dramatic representation of the

protagonists Oedipus and Othello, theatrical presentation, costume design, and

character will lead the reader, and viewer, to have a greater insight into the theatrical

practices of their times and their approaches to the issue of verisimilitude.

The theatrical presentation of both plays are very similar. The two plays would

both be presented on a thrust stage, which is a platform surrounded on three sides by

the audience. Except for the backdrop which would have some element of scenery,

the stage itself would be bare apart from a few scenic elements and props. Othello,

like most of Shakespeare's plays, had what is called an abstract setting. That is a

setting in which the locale may change rapidly, it may not be indicated by the script

that it has changed, and was most likely suggested by a few props. Abstract settings

place more emphasis on the language and the performer, which causes the spectator

to use their imagination. It also places more emphasis on costuming. This type of



setting helped set up the style of representational theater, which places high emphasis

on the realistic. The style used in classical Greece was presentational which, because

of the use of the mask, gave no illusion that this story is happening before their eyes.

The audience is reminded that they are watching a play, and not merely observing

life. Thus, the use of the thrust stage is the only similarity of the two types of

presentation. Othello is a purely illusionistic play, whereas Oedipus Rex is one that

when watched, the viewer knows that they are watching a performance.

Costumes convey information about the character and aid in setting the tone or

mood of the production. Because most acting involves impersonation, most

costumes are essential to re-create historical or to the period in which the production

takes place. Costumes like that of William Shakespeare's Othello maybe abstract,

ever-changing, like it's setting. When using the costume design of the latest film

version of Othello, he is usually seen in a toga-like uniform which may have stemmed

from his moor background. Since costume elements were formalized in classical

Greek theater, the costumes would be that of everyday dress with slight additions of

colour, designs, all of which created a larger meaning in the context of the play. The

additions on the toga also contributed to accentuating the setting , which in Oedipus'

case was Thebes. His toga could have been coloured like the sand and have an

ornament like a Sphinx tooth, signifying his bravery for killing the beast. In the case

of Othello his toga-like uniform, may have had a general's insignia on the shoulders,

and much like in the film, the scars and tattoos showing the suffering he has gone

through. On the issue of verisimilitude, actors in Oedipus Rex would be required to

wear a mask bearing an expression that would stay throughout the place, making the

character's seem flat and general. Oedipus is a round character, but because of the

mask, he has a one dimensional projection to the audience. The costumes worn in


Othello would be that of clothing of that time. This is common in both plays, but the

absence of the mask in Othello, meant that the actor provided their own expressions.

Thus, the costumes worn in both plays would be life-like to the audience, but the use

of the mask in classical Greece robbed the viewer of a three dimensional projection

and withheld the...
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