Othello Transformations Essay (Geoffrey Sax's 2001 Film Adaptation of Othello)

Essay by crookseyHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2007

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Othello Transformations Essay

Othello is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies and consequently a pillar of what most critics take to be the pinnacle of Shakespeare's dramatic art. In recent years, filmmakers have re-contextualized his works, into a number of more modern settings, in an attempt to make his work more understandable to contemporary audiences. One such adaptation is Geoffrey Sax's 'Othello'. Set in London, it details an English-born black police officer, John Othello, a rising star in London's police department, known for his integrity, moral principles and competence on the job. After a case of false arrest and death of a black man in custody, he finds himself promoted to the position of commissioner of the division, in order to please the public because he is seen as a strong link between the poor and rebellious parts of the community, who are sick of all the police brutality and racism, and the police department.

Evidently, the first change is the setting, which is radically different from the play. The setting of Sax's Othello is the London police department, which embodies the military force in the play. The river by Othello and Desi's apartment symbolizes the Venice setting present in the original text. In addition, John Othello is the head of the police department, which like the text illustrates his power over the rest of the force. Sax's decision to make Othello's character an officer further illustrates his power and strength and creates a direct connection to Othello's character in the play. Sax took ideas to create a modern outlook on an ordered and disordered society where military/lawful power maintains control of the environment.

Each version is of a different media showing the ever-changing advances in society. Shakespeare's Othello was performed on open-air stages with minimal props and scenery. Sax's...