Shakespeare inspired him to write Othello after being booed off stage

Shakespeare inspired him to write Othello after being booed off stage

Shakespeare inspired him to write Othello after being booed off stage

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<p><figcaption class=Photography: Tristram Kenton / The Guardian

It was the year 1603 and a brave band of actors appeared on the stage of the Globe Theater to perform the work of Ben Jonson, Seiano, a tragedy about a Roman soldier. The performance was such a flop that the cast was booed and disturbed offstage. One member of that cast was William Shakespeare – and now an academic is arguing that this humiliating experience has continued to influence the writing of one of the bard’s greatest plays, Othello.

Dr John-Mark Philo, an academic from the University of East Anglia (UEA), told al Observer that there is a reluctance to think of Shakespeare as “anything other than perfection” and that although the whistled incident is known, its meaning has been overlooked.

He analyzed archival evidence, audience member accounts and the plays themselves: “No fewer than four contemporary witnesses, including Jonson himself, have attested to the noise and hissing with which the cast was greeted by their first audience. at the Globe “.

Portrait of William Shakespeare, dated 1609, engraved by Droeshout for the First Folio edition of 1623.

Portrait of William Shakespeare, dated 1609, engraved by Droeshout for the First Folio edition of 1623. Photograph: Print Collector / Getty Images

A contemporary wrote that he is among those who “hiss Seiano off the stage “.

Philo said: “Despite the fact that the cast lists were known and we know it Seiano it was a flop, we have yet to acknowledge the fact that this means that Shakespeare himself was disturbed and hissed and that Shakespeare himself was a victim of early modern audiences. We don’t tend to think of Shakespeare in terms of failure or things that go wrong.

“I wonder if we’ve been reluctant to connect the dots because we’re so used to thinking of Shakespeare in relation to success.”

Noting that both Seiano And Othello were written in 1603 and performed by the same theater company, the King’s Men – with Richard Burbage, the most famous actor of the time, in the lead roles – Philo argues that success and failure were part of the creative process: “Sometimes it works , sometimes it goes terribly wrong. Shakespeare is involved in that process and is learning about it. The whole company is experimenting with new ideas. “

He added: “There is much more in common between Shakespeare’s tragic love story and Jonson’s Imperial Rome than meets the eye before: plot gimmicks, characterization, similar audience interaction opportunities, and what’s more. convincing for me, shared phrasing that appears nowhere else in Shakespeare’s work ”.

He pinpointed a few turns of phrase that Shakespeare only uses in Othello which also appear in Seiano, and “verbal parallels”, noting for example that “the only appearance of the word ‘poppy’ in the works of Shakespeare is in Othello“:” Look where it comes from. / Not poppy or mandrake / Nor all the sleepy syrups in the world / Will never cure you for that sweet sleep / That you possessed yesterday. “

It is also used, however, in “a strikingly similar context” in Seiano: “Poppy and mandrake juice. Sleep, / voluptuous Caesar, and security / Seize your stupid powers and leave them dead / To public care.

Philo said that “poppy” is used as “something that can rob or persuade the victim to fall asleep”: “The villain in Seiano he uses it in that sense and the bad in Othello also in this sense “.

He will present his findings in a future article, that of Ben Jonson Seiano and that of Shakespeare Othello: Two plays performed by the King’s Men in 1603 – to be published this month in Cambridge University Press magazine Shakespeare survey.

Filone writes: “There are some compelling thematic parallels between Seiano And Othello. In both cases, a manipulative servant provides the main driving force of the respective plots, and the action carried out on stage is motivated by the interventions of Seiano and Iago. In both plays, the most important plot device is the deception of a social superior, that is, of Othello and Tiberius. The comedies share the same emphasis on exploiting the victim’s fears and cultivating a prolonged sense of alarm or anxiety. “

Said that Seiano today it is rarely represented: “But then Jonson is always Shakespeare’s second violin”.

Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University and editor of Shakespeare survey, said: “I think we weren’t willing to think of Shakespeare as an actor. We assumed that he learned about plays like many of us by reading them. This is a fabulous research ”.

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