How can the distinctive context of Othello be accentuated for a modern audience?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Othello is one of the most underrated Shakespearean tragedies in terms of how it can appeal to a modern audience.  I am surprised that not more has been done with it in terms of modern appeal.  It possesses so many conditions that can be accentuated to hit nerves with a modern audience. There is the notion of jealousy, mixed with insecurity and doubt.  These traits can be highly appreciated, especially with the young. The use of racism as fear- mongering and Iago's careful deployment of race as a way to draw Othello out of his own sense of self are elements that can find relevance with a modern audience today.  The use of racial language as a form of division is, once again, something that young people experience and can understand.  Finally, the ultimate question in the drama is how do we know "doth protestations" are true?  Essentially, when someone you love says they love you, what is there to prevent an individual from questioning it and scrutinizing it to an unhealthy point?  Put another way, what happens when the most personal experiences become public?

These are all elements that can be accentuated to appeal to a younger audience. Outside of the film, O, there has not been much work with  the drama in terms of pushing its appeal to a younger audience.  Yet, I think that so much of the drama has applicability to a younger demographic because so much in it speaks to the conditions in which they live.  The outsider becoming an insider, the jealous "sidekick" who conspires to bring "the queen bee" down, resentment, as well as private issues becoming public are all elements that younger audiences can understand.  Race used as social division and externalization of jealousy and doubt are all components of many adolescents' experiences.  Elements of the drama could be accentuated to tie into a generation that understands high drama with elements seen in Mean Girls.  (Much could be made of Iago learning a thing or two from Regina George.) I think that being able to accentuate aspects of Othello from a young person's frame of reference would be where its distinctive context for a modern audience could connect quite effectively.