Nelson’s 2000 movie production of “O” shows differences as well as similarities to the original. The themes of jealousy, racial bias, and deceit function as structure for both. In both versions, the Michael Cassio character is goaded into a drunken state, and a brawl ensues which damages his reputation. The scarf came from Othello’s mother, and serves to bait the jealousy of O. The scarf is taken from Desi who is unaware of the fact until Othello/Oden wants her to show the scarf to him. In both narratives, the scarf passes from a female friend of Desdemona to her lover in a bedroom scene. In both stories, Iago/Hugo has no particular respect for women in general. Bianca is a courtesan; Brandi is a slut. Other name similarities include Brandon for Brabant, in both cases the father of Desdemona/Desi. Another includes Oden for Othello. The coach in “O” is called by his nickname Duke, with the Duke in Shakespeare’s version being the character who must bestow the judgment of laws and the appointment of the commander his campaign, be it the military or the basketball court. Redheaded Roger looks out-of-place among the brunette boy preppies in attendance at the Twentieth Century School, and is ridiculed by his peers. Rodrigo’s character, in Shakespeare’s version, is an overdramatic simple-minded sort, who dearly loves Desdemona, as if only he could be her puppy. Though Rodrigo’s affections seem adolescent, Shakespeare’s version includes a jealousy that Nelson’s version does not allow. The movie’s character Roger is chided as a “faggot” while Shakespeare’s Rodrigo acts like an adolescent in love, speaking of suicide at the loss of the Desdemona he never had the chance to love. The similarities between the movie “O” and Shakespeare’s “Othello” leave no question as to the heritage of this updated production.
The main difference in the two narratives of “O” and “Othello” is Nelson’s choice of setting, in time and geographic location--a modern-era...
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