Written by William Shakespeare

Thurs 28th February - Sat 2nd March & Tues 5th March - Sat 9th March 1985

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

Human emotions on a grand, poetic scale. Othello is powerful generous and naive; he loves "not wisely but too well" and in his passion falls prey to jealousy. A Shakespearian tragedy which deals not in great public issues but in human personality, and in the power of deceit and jealousy to destroy innocence.

AuthorWilliam Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

Shakespeare is considered by many to be the greatest playwright of all time and is possibly the most famous playwright in the English-speaking world.

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon he was also probably educated there however, very little is known of his early life. The next documented event in his life is his marriage in 1582 to Anne Hathaway. The couple had a daughter the following year and twins in 1585. Another gap followed (referred to by some scholars as 'the lost years') with Shakespeare only reappearing in London in 1592, when he was already working in the theatre.

Shakespeare's acting career was spent with the Lord Chamberlain's Company, which was renamed the King's Company in 1603 when James succeeded to the throne. The group acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.

Shakespeare's poetry was published before his plays, with two poems appearing in 1593 and 1594, dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Most of Shakespeare's sonnets were probably written at this time as well. Records of Shakespeare's plays begin to appear in 1594, and he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. Some of his most famous tragedies (including Macbeth) were written in the very early 1600s. The first collected edition of his works wasn't published until 1623, some 7 years after his death.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, and he was buried in the Holy Trinity Church there.


Othello, a black general in the Venetian army (although not himself a Venetian), falls in love with a senator's daughter, Desdemona. Custom will not permit their marriage so they elope. Iago, who has been passed over for promotion by Othello, and who is eaten up by jealousy, determines to destroy Othello, and anyone else he thinks has more than they deserve. Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona is having as affair with Cassio (the newly promoted Lieutenant), using Othello's colour, age and foreignness as reasons why she should be unfaithful. In a blind rage, Othello tries to have Cassio killed, and then he kills his wife. To protect himself, Iago kills his own wife Emilia, but not before she reveals the whole plot. Realising the terrible mistake he has made, and unable to live without the love he has destroyed, Othello kills himself.

Othello himself is one of Shakespeare's most likeable tragic heroes; a glamorous and courageous warrior, he is warm-hearted, hot-tempered and forgiving - and infinitely trusting of his fellow human beings. Such spirit makes him vulnerable to a villain like Iago, who is determined to prove that his own sharp wits and ruthless cunning can lord it over mere goodness, which he despises. Desdemona is a fit wife for such a hero; young but courageous, and willing to fly in the face of convention. She defends her love with directness and energy, and with only the faintest tremor prepares to go off to war on the very night of their wedding. These two are destroyed not because of their folly, but because they have no defence against the likes of Iago, who uses them as a test of his own strength.

The play is set in 16th Century Venice - a setting which for the Elizabethan imagination meant a glitteringly beautiful jewel set in a sea of corruption and vice. Venetians, it was believed, made excellent spies. The action then moves to Cyprus, which has been a colony of Venice for many years. Othello is sent to defend it from the Turks, who are determined to seize Venice's vast empire from her. In the play, the threat of war is diverted by a timely storm, but in history the island did eventually fall to the Turks in 1570, amid atrocious bloodshed. The Venetian governor, it was said, was flayed alive after prolonged public torture, and his skin was kept as a trophy. This defeat marked the beginning of the end of Venice's great power.

The Bench Production

Othello poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


OthelloSam Merry
IagoDavid Penrose
CassioAlan Eagle
RoderigoPeter Holding
Duke of VeniceJohn Scadding
BrabantioRay Osborne
GratianoJohn Bohun
LodovicoChris Hall
MontanoPete Codd
DesdemonaGina Cameron
EmiliaJude Salmon
BiancoDawn Ralphs
and Servants
John Bohun
Steve Ward
Chris Hall
Saul Hewish
Ben Payne
Stephen Evans
Janet Simpson


Director Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Bill Bickers
Assistant Stage Manager Karen Caen
Lighting Design Peter Corrigan
Lighting Operation Sue Cooremans
Sound Chris Coombs
Costume Design Jane Hart
Costume Assistant Jo German
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Brown
Fight Director Alan Eagle

Director's Notes

'Othello' is unique among Shakespeare's tragedies in that it deals not with the massive problems of the getting, losing and retrieving of crowns and their attendant woes - sentiments which we can feel for but not share - but with very real and recognisable emotions in people not unlike ourselves. It is true that the characters are senators, generals and the well born, but their tragedy derives not from their public role but from their private emotions.

Jacquie Penrose

Production Photographs