Thursday, 6 February 2014


There was a quiz about Shakespeare in my favourite newspaper a few days ago, and since I was starting to run behind on my reading schedule I thought I’d borrow some short plays from my library.

The first time I got into Shakespeare I must’ve been about 15 years old, and I’d just seen the Romeo + Juliet movie (yes, the one with Leonardo Dicaprio when he was still cute), and I was just in total awe with the words. They were so full of emotion and they even rhymed. I was blown away and even tried to copy the style in my teenage angsty poetry for a while.
Back then, I borrowed Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet from the library, and loved them very much. But then I tried Othello, in English, and I just had to give up after a couple of months, not getting far at all. The thing is that Shakespeare is quite fancy with words and sentences, and if you can’t comprehend two words out of a seven-worded sentence, and that for pretty much every sentence in the play, you’re screwed.
Which is why this time I read it in Dutch. Sue me.

I’ve always thought, and these thoughts have been reaffirmed, that reading Shakespeare is quite an experience. You can feel the steady beat of the words flowing throughout the play, which makes it hard for me to put it down once I have the time to get immersed in the story. These stories are, as far as I’ve read, very… pure, for lack of a better word. They usually centre around one emotion (jealousy for Othello) and examine all aspects of that emotion throughout the play, which sometimes feels as if you should finish the book with a new moral in your head. Don’t go after 13-year old virgins who happen to be the daughter of your family’s enemy. Hamlet was thinking too much, and Othello should’ve known who to trust, knowing that appointing a new commander was going to rub some people the wrong way.
So yes, I like Shakespeare a lot. When I got to know about the whole discussion of ‘did he really exist or was it just a bunch of people under one artist name’, I was inclined to think the latter, simply because he came from a rather poor family, and his collection of works just seems so huge. But then again, Schubert wrote more than 600 lieders and then a bunch of other things, and he died at 32. And yet, given the choice, I must say that my preference goes to Oscar Wilde. Much like Shakespeare there’s a lot of timing in his plays (people leaving just before someone important comes in, the right people finding the wrong things,…)  but he adds more humour to his plays. When I read The Importance of Being Earnest (in English without difficulty), I groaned and laughed out loud by the sheer ridiculousness of what was happening. That hasn’t happened to me whilst reading Shakespeare.

I guess I should really get to the point and tell you more about the story.
Although the title is Othello, I feel like the main character in this book is Iago, who is jealous of Cassio who was promoted by Othello, a Moor, to Lieutenant while Iago remains his ensign. Iago wants his revenge on Othello, and with help of his friend Roderigo he manages to make him believe his newlywed wife Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio, of all people. This is all cunningly done, with the right words whispered to the right people at the right time, ensnaring a lot of people who in the end are all partly to blame to Desdemona’s death by Othello’s hand.

I am probably going to read this again in English someday, because in translation some of the rhythm and wit got lost, no doubt. But! Thanks to youtube, I can listen to the play with Ewan McGregor as Iago whilst I work on my next knitting project. I really am looking forward to that.

PS: yes, Shakespeare can be funny too: 

               I am one, sir, who comes to tell you your daughter and the moor are now making the beast with two backs.
               you are a villain!
               you are a senator!

Until next time,


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