An Intertextual Exchange between Shakespeare’s Othello and Two Theatrical Versions

Mediterranean e-journal of Communication & Media, 2013 Vol.2 No.1

‘You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and Monkeys!:’ An Intertextual Exchange between  Shakespeare’s Othello and Two Theatrical Versions by Cypriot Directors

Eleni Pilla

Visiting Lecturer, Open University of Cyprus

e-mail:    eleni.pilla@ouc.ac.cy

Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice written around 1603-1604 depicts the destruction of the marriage of a young Venetian, Desdemona, and a Moor, Othello. Although the title of this celebrated domestic tragedy implies that the tragic events occur in Venice, they unfold in Cyprus. Traditionally known as the island of Venus and love, Cyprus, becomes the site where eros is violently crushed.  In Cyprus the malignant Iago prompts Othello to murderous jealousy. Othello strangles his innocent wife on their marital bed and commits suicide when Iago’s deception is exposed. Critical studies of the play have mainly centred on the characters, gender, race, violence, and Cyprus has never received the academic scrutiny it deserves. In effect, Cyprus which is constructed as a marginal space in Shakespeare’s play also remains on the periphery of criticism.  Considering that the four acts of the play and that the tragedy is dramatized in Cyprus, Cyprus is a space whose importance should not be overlooked. Focusing on the treatment of race, space, genre, and the marital bedroom, the present paper brings Cyprus to the centre, by interpreting the intertextual exchange between Shakespeare’s text and two productions of Othello re-visioned by Cypriot directors: Nikos Charalambous and George Rodosthenous. This paper analyzes the context of these productions and how it influences the directorial approaches to Shakespeare’s play.

While discussing the connections and dialogue between these three texts, this paper values each text as an independent artwork and focuses on the interpretation of the texts. As John Frow (1990), argues:

“Intertextual analysis is distinguished from source criticism both by this stress on interpretation rather than on the establishment of particular facts, and by its rejection of a unilinear causality (the concept of ‘influence’) in favour of an account of the work performed upon intertextual material and its functional integration in the later text” (p. 46).

The intertextual exchange between Shakespeare’s text of Othello and the texts by Charalambous and Rodosthenous, also constitutes an intercultural exchange as these two directors are Cypriot. Othellos, was directed by Nikos Charalambous and was performed in Cyprus by the national theatre of Cyprus, the Cyprus Theatre Organization (Thoc).  Charalambous translated the English text of Othello into Greek and also adapted it for the stage. The translated the text, modernizes the language and includes slang. Othello’s Revenge is in the English language and it keeps only six characters from the Shakespearean original: Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Iago, Emilia and Roderigo. The director, George Rodosthenous, is Lecturer in Music Theatre at the University of Leeds.

The cultural formations and socio-historical contexts of these two productions are of paramount significance. Othello’s Revenge was a project taken on by Rodosthenous following the initiative of the Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Berlin, Jorga Solomontos, to be performed as part of the “Legends and Myths” series of the cultural events entitled “Cyprus Spring.” Othello’s Revenge was performed in 2011 whereas Othellos was staged in 2010. 2010 was a very important year for Cyprus as it was the anniversary of the 50 years of the independence of the Cyprus Republic. What is of note is that Cyprus was proclaimed as an independent Republic on 16 August 1960 after eighty two years of British rule.

Shakespeare loomed large in the UK celebrations of the Olympics in 2012, but he also stood out in national celebrations in countries other than his birthplace. Shakespeare was viewed as a harbinger of civilization by being taught in schools in British colonies, and thus registered the cultural supremacy of the British. Remarkably, a canonical text such as Othello was translated into Greek and staged in Cyprus which has been colonized many times, to celebrate the 50 years of the establishment of the Cyprus Republic and its liberation from the British. By employing  Othello which depicts the gradual disintegration of Othello and his enslavement to Iago’s poison to celebrate the independence of a nation, this particular performance realizes an intertextual complexity specific to the reality of Cyprus. This complex relationship is epitomized in the affirmation by the former director (head) of the Cyprus Theatre Organization, Varnavas Kyriazis, in the Programme of Othellos (2010b): “the density of the words, phrases, significations, scenes, positions, conflicts and of Shakespeare’s theatrical oeuvre of 1603 and the fifty years of the Cyprus republic of 2010 thrust themselves before you like a river, here, there is no need for notes/ Prologues” (no pagination). The choice of Othello to celebrate a key moment in the history of Cyprus engenders the idea that the play relates to the cultural memory of Cypriots, which is one of conflict. Since ancient times, Cyprus has been colonized many times by various peoples: Romans (30 BC-330 AD), the Byzantine Empire (330-1191), Richard the Lionheart who sold the island to the Knights Templar (1191-1192), Franks (Lusignans) (1192-1489), Venetians (1489-1571), and Ottomans (1571-1878). Since the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey 1974, the island has been divided in two and the north side is occupied by Turkey. In Othellos, “the state” in Othello’s suicide speech- [“beat a Venetian and traduced the state” (Shakespeare, Othello Act 5 Scene 2 Line no 352)]- becomes “our state,” enforcing a sense of the communal. The state is fighting off the enemy.

Othello’s Revenge also intermeshes with the historical moment. The play enacts the conflict between East and West which resonates in Shakespeare’s play, as the dramaturg Duska Radosavljevic (2011) suggests in the Programme of Othello’s Revenge. This conflict is rooted in the differing perceptions to revenge held by East and West: “The current Western attitude seems to be that blood revenge is barbaric and should be replaced by legal means of obtaining moral justice. However, what is it that makes it just for the West to decide how conflicts should be settled in the East?” (no pagination).  The conflict between East and West is also applicable to Cyprus. UN forces separate the Cypriot side from the occupied area and the British military base area in Akrotiri reveals that there are still remnants of British colonialism on the island. The presence of international forces in Cyprus, as Radosavljevic (2011) indicates in the Programme, demonstrates that problems are muted and concealed:

“We live in an age where we have witnessed numerous attempts of the West to impose a certain moral order in the East often under the guise of conflict resolution: Cyprus in the 1970s, the Balkans in the 1990s, and more recently Iraq, Afghanistan and increasingly the rest of the Middle East. In most cases the international forces are still there showing that the problems were not resolved but simply suppressed” (no pagination.)

Both productions inscribe the notion that a perceived injustice can unleash murderous events.   Othello’s Revenge gives serious consideration to the idea that we can never know how important a person’s job is to them, as George Rodosthenous (2011b) stated in his interview. Iago’s disgruntlement is highlighted from the outset when Othello gives Cassio the promotion but looks first at Iago when making the announcement.  Thoc’s production also encodes the notion of injustice and displacement visually at the beginning of the play when actors move around sitting on different chairs registering a Cypriot concept regarding careers: everyone has their position and it is possible to usurp another person’s position. The actors repeatedly displace each other from their seats signaling that an injustice has taken over which will fuel the subsequent events. Many critics, such as Michael Neill (1984) in “Changing Places in ‘Othello’” and Mark Gauntlett (1991) in “Playing on the Margins: Theatrical Space in Othello” view Othello as a tragedy of displacement which brings issues of place to the foreground. Neill rightly points out that Iago, and the play at large, is obsessed with official, public, domestic, sexual, and geographical displacement. This sequence which communicates displacement visually in Othellos, functions as a framing device, an Induction, to the play. The director appears to insert theatrical devices in Othellos similar to those found in The Taming of the Shrew. 

Shakespeare’s Othello is famously a domestic tragedy. Othello’s Revenge re-conceives Shakespeare’s play as having generic affinities with a revenge tragedy. The dramaturg of Othello’s Revenge, Radosavljevic (2011), remarks in the Programme of the play: “Revenge is a theme of Shakespeare’s play, but by putting it into the title, we oblige ourselves to deal with it or say something different” (no pagination). What differentiates this particular production from other stage and screen portrayals of Othello is that unexpectedly a sense of revenge and punishment is enacted by Cassio who cuts out Iago’s tongue. Although mutilation occurs very briefly in Othello’s Revenge, nevertheless it establishes correspondences with Senecan tragedy and other Shakespearean tragedies, such as Titus Andronicus, where mutilation features very prominently.

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Othello’s Revenge. Programme of the Theatrical Production. (Photo Georges Bacoust).

In Thoc’s production, the title of the play is Othellos: that is, the name of the character Othello, not The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Shakespeare’s tragedy and Othello’s Tower in Famagusta are well-known in Cyprus and the play, in translation, was taught in state schools. The title reflects the general tendency in Cyprus to identify the entire tragedy with the character Othello. He is the hero. It is his tragedy. Cypriot spectators came with these assumptions to watch the performance. As Simon Shepherd and Mick Wallis (2004) indicate, “an audience brings with it attitudes, preconceptions, knowledges which establish a cognitive framework within which they ‘read’ the performance” (p.238).

The gender politics of Shakespeare’s Othello are destabilized and acquire new complexities in Thoc’s production where the role of Iago is given to a very popular actress in Cyprus, Stella Firogeni.  This was a ‘male’ Iago with a blonde ponytail, but nevertheless a very successful one. Cunningness is gendered female. This convention of having a female actress impersonate Iago establishes a dialogue with the genre of Shakespearean comedy where women dress up as men and are momentarily released from the constraints of gender.

One conspicuous characteristic of Shakespeare’s Othello is that the “world” and the “imaginative environment of the play” (p.502) as Maynard Mack (1952) terms them are largely created by the configuration of the central spaces in it, Venice and Cyprus. Venice and Cyprus constitute the symbolic geography of Othello. Venice symbolizes order and civility and sends protection to Cyprus which is threatened by the “Turk.” Cyprus is evocative of an “other” world.  It is a contested space, vied for by the Venetians and the Turks and it represents lawlessness. Shakespeare’s source Giraldi Cinthio’s Gli Hecattomithi presents the events during peacetime but in Othello, Cyprus is a “warlike isle”(Shakespeare, Othello Act 2 Scene 5 Line no  43), “wild” (Shakespeare, Othello Act 2 Scene 3 Line no 210) and “the people’s hearts [are] brimful of fear” (Shakespeare, Othello Act 2 Scene 3 Line no 210).  For Iago, Cyprus is where his inhumanity and insensitivity can reign supreme unimpeded, thus he can “drown cats and blind puppies” (Shakespeare, Othello Act 1 Scene 3 Line no 336-337). James A. McPherson (1997) draws a distinction between Venice and Cyprus: “Venice and its Senate embody order, reason, justice and concord-binding forces that hold the city together. Cyprus, on the other hand is associated with chaos and violent storms, the Turk, the Ottoman, and the unharnessed forces of nature—the ‘Other’” (p.56).

Othello’s Revenge concentrates entirely on Cyprus and omits Venice altogether. This is also the case in Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello which commences with the storm in the harbour of Cyprus.  Striking a decidedly pessimistic and claustrophobic tone, Othello’s Revenge begins and ends with death. The play opens with the four dead bodies of Othello, Desdemona, Emilia and Roderigo shrouded in white with the cloth that composed the curtains of Othello and Desdemona’s bed.

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Corpses. Othello’s Revenge. (Photo Georges Bacoust).

 

Othello’s Revenge is intensely concerned with the idea that Cyprus has an impact on the characters’ psychological condition. Even the heat of Cyprus can lead the characters to extreme acts. Cyprus is exoticized and sensualised. The red lighting, Desdemona being clad in red with a big red hat, and the characters being first presented to us in bathing suits, all crystallize the notion that this is a libidinal Cyprus. Order and patriarchal prohibition are excised from the play by omitting the character of Desdemona’s father. Cyprus might not be at war and no literal tempests break out but the characters’ passions are ready to cause havoc. By beginning and ending in Cyprus, the play takes the form of a narrative of confession, a form of “verbal diarrhoea,” as Rodosthenous (2011b) called it in the interview.  This narrative of confession is hampered because Iago does not provide a rationale for his actions to Cassio.

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       A Libidinal Cyprus. Othello’s Revenge. (Photo Georges Bacoust).

Thoc’s Othello retains these two central spaces in Shakespeare’s play. Although presented on stage in Cyprus, the production omits a very important line: “You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys!” (Shakespeare, Othello  Act 4 Scene 1 Line no 263). In Shakespeare Studies there is general consensus that these words are a reference to Cassio’s supposed sexual act with Desdemona, but contextualizing Shakespeare’s Othello sheds an entirely different light on these words. The lion of St. Mark can be seen on many remnants of Venetian military architecture in Famagusta (now in the occupied part of Cyprus) and it appears on the entrance gate of the Citadel of Famagusta, known as Othello’s Tower. The winged lion is also on many maps of the time. Othello exclaims this mocking salutation “You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys!” (Shakespeare, Othello  Act 4 Scene 1 Line no 263) to Ludovico and the other Venetian senators when they arrive in Cyprus to inform him that he is no longer the general of Cyprus. They provide him with a mandate instructing him back to Venice deputing the Italian Cassio in his place. Othello mocks the symbol of the lion because he equates sir, a rank of nobility with goats and monkeys.  Othello, who can stand for the lion because he is the representative of Venetian military power in Cyprus, subverts the wisdom and the cultural supremacy of the Venetians. Hence, Othello undermines the sixteenth century conception of Venice as the epitome of civilization, freedom, justice and wisdom. His words establish a dialogue with Brabantio’s bold affirmation in Venice: “This is Venice:/ My house is not a grange (Shakespeare, Othello Act1 Scene 1 Line no 103-104) when Iago incites racial anger in Brabantio against Othello by employing images of monstrosity, such as that of the black ram tupping the white ewe, to depict interracial sex. Othello in Cyprus, at a distance from Venice, launches a critique of the metropolis suggesting that it is a farmhouse.

By omitting this line, the play downplays the conflict between Venice and Cyprus and what they symbolize. Intriguingly, the omitted line is extremely well-known in Cyprus and Greece. It is one of the most famous lines in Greek literature as it was employed by the Nobel Prize Winner (1963), George Seferis (1900-1971) in his poem “Saint Neophytos the Recluse Speaks” (1953).  If a Cypriot or a Greek is asked where the line comes from they will not attribute it to Shakespeare, although it comes from Othello, but to Seferis. The title of his poem indicates that Saint Neophytos the Recluse of the 12th century can still ‘speak’ to Cypriots in the 1950s because the cultural and political reality of the two periods is very similar.  The poem refers to former conquerors and ends with this line from Othello translated into Greek, to show contempt and resistance to the conquerors of Cyprus, who should be approached with indifference, irony and sarcasm as the poem indicates. The absence of this line in Othellos removes all these tensions and complications.  It is plausible that it was removed to coincide with the celebratory context of the production.  Othellos also exhibits a preoccupation with Cyprus as a site of love, making constant references to Cyprus as “the island of eros.” The theme of eros and thanatos deeply permeates the play, as also evoked by the red and black leather costumes of the actors. There is a concentrated focus on the concept of erotic extremes and Greek mythology, as evoked in the Programme with a reference to the vengeful Hera who punished the mistresses of Zeus with savagery (no pagination). “Shakespeare painted the darkest face of erotic passion in Othello” (no pagination) as accentuated by the literary criticism included in the Programme.

The spatial dynamics of the two productions also serve to communicate different themes. Charalambous employs the “locus”/“platea” distinction in his staging of Othello by having Iago and characters such as Bianca use the spatially low, large auditorium, in certain instances, whereas the stage was clearly demarcated from the auditorium due to its height.  According to Robert Weimann (1978), the downstage area of the Elizabethan public playhouse—the platea—was usually used by peasants, commoners, vices and devils. The performers on this stage space were not only physically lower but also socially lower than the performers on the locus. The locus is the upstage and often specifically localized space in front of the playhouse (pp.73-85).  Iago is first presented to us by entering the auditorium space, and coming from the back of the audience when he encourages Roderigo to rouse Brabantio, whose reactions are shown on a screen which is above the stage, thus creating three levels: auditorium, stage and screen. One has to turn their back to see Iago, hence metaphorically enforcing the idea that one has to watch their back when he is around. His low position in contrast to the high stage also evokes his low status now that he has been passed over for promotion. Bianca also argues with Cassio about the handkerchief below the stage while Othello eavesdrops from above. His reactions are shown on screens. The screens also allude to the disintegration and division of his inner self.

The distinction of high and low is not visible in Rodosthenous’ production of the play which evokes horizontal, shared space. While Desdemona changes clothes, Roderigo’s body is on the floor on the side of the stage. Death and life seem to co-habit. When Cassio pleads to Desdemona about being reinstated, Roderigo sits on chair on the side of the stage. Private space is continuously penetrated by the eye of the other. Voyeurism is pronounced because  the audience sit very near, around the entire stage. The eye of the other obtrudes. While the  nearness of the violent events creates an unease in the audience, the characters are “comfortable in their violence” as Rodosthenous (2011b) remarked in the interview.

Race has a different function in the two productions. Racism and Othello’s blackness are heightened in  Othellos. The terms associated with colour and racial origins in Thoc’s production are culture specific without any adequate translations into English. The majority of these terms are entirely negative and explicitly ascribe aggressiveness, animality, and violence to Othello. In the script of Othellos, Othello is called:  “His blackness” [Αυτού Μαυρίλας (1)], “four legged negro” [νέγρικο τετράποδο (1)], “the African” [Αφρικανός (23)], “black butcher” [Μαυριδερό χασάπη (23)], “the black” [Ο Μαύρος (24)], “your black leader” [του Μαύρου αρχηγού σου (31)], “our  negro” [o νέγρος μας (32)], “of the black pirate” [Μαύρου πειρατή (46)], evil Arab slanderer [Παλιάνθρωπο Αράπη συκοφάντη (94)], lousy Mauretanian [Ανόητε Μαυριτανέ (97)], and black nightmare  [Μαύρε εφιάλτη (99)]. Negative connotations are also related to race when Iago affirms that Bianca has fallen in love with Cassio, whereas the lieutenant is inconsiderate towards her emotions [“The black fate of a whore,” Η μαύρη μοίρα της πουτάνας (61)]. The publicity notes for Othellos also attribute a different form of violence to Othello and specify his racial origins. The publicity notes in Your Theatre 2010/2011 [Cyprus Theatre Organization Newsletter] read: “The tragic story of the jealous Mauretanian who paints his hands with the blood of his beloved Desdemona” (no pagination), as opposed to Shakespeare’s Othello who is determined not to “scar that whiter skin of hers than snow/ And smooth as monumental alabaster” (5.2.4-5). Contradictorily, in the staging of Othellos, Othello did not shed Desdemona’s blood.

The overarching emphasis on Othello’s “blackness” may have arisen from the need to affirm the colour of Othello’s skin through linguistic means as the well-known Cypriot actor who impersonated Othello, was not blackened up sufficiently. By having a white, dark skinned actor playing Othello and not blackening him, the play in a sense rejects the early modern stage practice of a white actor in visible blackface. There was no controversy about Othello’s colour in the reviews because it was taken as a given that he was black or at least different from the other characters. This Othello also establishes links with Laurence Olivier’s Othello in that the character is first introduced to us holding a rose. Unlike Olivier’s Othello, this Othello was not in blackface. The blackening up of white actors in order to play the role of Othello is prominent in Laurence Olivier’s (1986) description of his make up:

“On the first night, I was in the theatre several hours before, creating the image which now looked back at me from the mirror. Black all over my body, Max Factor 2880, then a lighter brown, then Negro Number 2, a stronger brow. Brown on black to give a rich mahogany. Then the great trick: that glorious half yard of chiffon with which I polished myself all over until I shone […] The lips blueberry, the tight curled wig, the white of the eyes, whiter than ever, and the black, black sheen that covered my flesh and bones, glistening in the dressing-room lights” (pp.108-9).

The production also alters the racial dimension of Shakespeare’s play in another way in the dialogue. In Shakespeare’s text Iago makes the audience and the characters privy to the racist images he conjures up of the interracial couple having sex. These images appear even more far-fetched than they do in English, when translated into Greek. Thus, the audience responds to them, not by devouring Iago’s racism, but by associating a repellent quality to Iago for his ability to overpower the other characters with his racism.

The discourse of race also receives a different treatment in Othello’s Revenge than that in the Shakespearean play. Although the role of Othello is given to a black actor, the word “black” is not mentioned even once. Thus, the racial and pornographic epithets Iago employs in Shakespeare’s text are conspicuously absent. Iago’s vengeance is prompted by the fact that Cassio has been chosen in his stead as Othello’s lieutenant. This view of Iago’s motivation coincides with many famous portrayals of Iago such as that of Kenneth Branagh. Branagh, who played Iago in Oliver Parker’s 1995 screen version of the play, implies that the ensign is driven to revenge by his hurt feelings at not being promoted. Branagh does not name or clearly identify Iago’s motive. However, his suggestion that Iago “feels he deserves” better and is “truly hurt,” implies that Iago’s overriding motivation is resentful shame. In the Othello Production Notes produced by Castle Rock International (1995), Branagh explains :

“I interpret [Iago’s] journey as the turning of an honest man―he’s described as ‘honest Iago’ forty times in the play―who feels truly hurt at being passed over […] He loves Othello, he hero-worships him as a great courageous warrior, who has lead him into battle for a decade. Iago feels he deserves to be Othello’s right-hand man, and instead Othello chooses Cassio, a man with the right social background and the right social graces, rather than the solid, dependable, feet-on-the-ground Iago” (p.25).

The bed and by extension the bedroom where interracial sex takes place functions repeatedly as an imaginary locus in Shakespeare’s Othello.  It was also an important imaginary locus in eighteenth and nineteenth century productions of Othello, as Michael Neill (1989) argues in “Unproper Beds: Race, Adultery and the Hideous in Othello.” According to Neill, the bed was hidden until the final scene in eighteenth and nineteenth century productions because it was “intensely identified with the anxieties about race and sex stirred up by the play” (p.390): the bed is the site where interracial sex is imagined to take place. In a literal sense, the bed is marginal and kept offstage. But, according to Neill, there was “terrible curiosity about the absent scene” (p.390) and “the real imaginative focus of the action is always the hidden marriage-bed, an inalienably private location, shielded, until the very last scene, from every gaze” (p.396). Neill further hypothesizes, that the absent bed allows Iago to control the audience’s and the characters’ imagination, “[t]his disquietingly absent presence creates the margin within which Iago can operate as a uniquely deceitful version of the nuntius, whose vivid imaginary descriptions taint the vision of the audience even as they colonize the minds of Brabantio and Othello” (p.396).

These two adaptations of Othello inscribe and enact different versions of the complex dynamics of the bed and the relationship of the characters to it. Rodosthenous omits Brabantio from the play, thus the bed is not used by Iago to control the imagination of Desdemona’s father. However, Iago’s relation to the bed acquires new significance: he literally constructs the marital bed but also destroys it metaphorically. Rodosthenous draws attention to Iago as the constructor of the bed because Iago brings four metal poles which he screws to make a square frame. His role in literally creating the bed and metaphorically destroying it by harming the union it represents, is crystallized by his affirmation that “love is a con. A construction. And I am an engineer.” The square frame deserves particular notice because it later constitutes the “deathbed.” While arranging the frame, Iago declares his plan to destroy the marital love of Othello and Desdemona.  Hence, the frame is weighted with ideas related to Iago’s sinister power. Once he assembles the frame, he goes inside it, lifts it up and declares his success: “I have them framed.” The imbrication of power and death is also intensified when Iago celebrates around the frame by doing swirls and lying on the floor mimicking the still position of the corpses. While Cassio’s boots are inside the frame he points his knife at the frame, revealing his intention to harm what the frame means to him, namely, Othello and Desdemona’s union. Roderigo is puzzled when he finds Iago doing this and smiling, he asks, “What’s all this about?” Other characters are also shown as having a relationship with the bed/frame. Iago and Emilia bring the frame on to the stage before the death scene evoking that they are complicit as a couple in the fate of Othello and Desdemona. Cassio has a more honorable function, as he removes the four curtains of the bed to cover the four corpses, including Roderigo’s.

Desdemona does not struggle when Othello murders her in Thoc’s production and  facial expressions are barely visible due to the position of the bed. The quickness with which Desdemona’s murder takes place gives emphasis to Othello and his reactions to the erroneous actions he has made. Savage passion is dissociated from Othello as the murder is not prolonged.

By employing a text such as Othello which presents the nexus of love, death, race, family and revenge, and imbuing these themes with new meanings, the two productions demonstrate Julie Sanders’ affirmation regarding the effects of adaptation and appropriation on myth. Sanders (2006) remarks:

“Myth as archetype undoubtedly concerns itself with themes that endure across cultural and historical boundaries: love, death, family, revenge. These themes might in some contexts be deemed ‘universal’, and yet the essence of adaptation and appropriation renders the mythical archetype specific, localized, and particular to the moment of the creation” (p.71).

In conclusion, these reworkings of Shakespeare’s Othello are accompanied by a different set of assumptions and they engage in dialogue with established ideas regarding theatrical performances of Othello. Both plays complicate the notion of race: one by omitting it linguistically, and the other by rejecting overt blackface. Thoc’s production goes a step further by challenging the notion that Iago is male, by giving the role of Iago to a well-known female actress. A complex intertextuality is also established between the two plays. Watching Othellos in Cyprus, there was a prevalent unease in the audience that Iago got way with doing an injustice to Othello. Othello’s Revenge in Germany irresistibly appears to ease those feelings of bitterness as Cassio cuts out Iago’s tongue. Interestingly, the production in Cyprus keeps the two spaces: Venice and Cyprus, whereas the performance staged in Germany omits Venice, thus underlining the significance of Cyprus in the play. Both re-visionings of Othello constitute bold statements by Cypriot directors and illustrate how the work of Shakespeare has been used for local purposes.

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