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Othello (1990)

A play by William Shakespeare, adapted for television, and first broadcast on 23 June 1990, 8pm (BBC2).

Running time: 3 hours and 25 minutes (including interval)


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Outwardly, Iago is an honourable, trustworthy soldier, yet he is adept at concealing his true feelings.  Jealous of his companion Othello's superiority, and embittered by the wild suggestion that the higher-ranking soldier may have seduced his wife, Emilia, he is privately eager to exact his revenge.  Ruthlessly exploiting others in his schemes, Iago determines to bring about Othello's downfall, with far-reaching, tragic consequences. 

Broadcast as part of the Theatre Night series, this programme was adapted for television from the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage production of Othello (1989) and features the same cast.


Roderigo ... Michael Grandage
Iago ... Ian McKellen
Brabantino ... Clive Swift
Othello ... Willard White
Cassio ... Sean Baker
First Senator ... Brian Lawson
Servant to the Senate ... David Hounslow
Duke of Venice ... John Burgess
Desdemona ... Imogen Stubbs
Montano ... Philip Sully
First Cyprus Soldier ... David Hounslow
Second Cyprus Soldier ... Brian Lawson
Emilia ... Zoe Wanamaker
First Othello Soldier ... David Hounslow
Second Othello Soldier ... Brian Lawson
Bianca ... Marsha Hunt
Lodovico ... John Burgess
Gratiano ... Clive Swift

Other roles played by members of the company


Director: Trevor Nunn
Producer: David Myerscough-Jones


Zo described her preparation for the role of Emilia during an interview for AS-Guru (a programme aimed at AS-Level English Literature students).  As she explained, she envisaged Emilia as 'an abused woman' and so read a great deal about relationships that had gone terribly wrong.  'I think that she [Emilia] deludes herself - or hopes - that the relationship [she has with Iago] will someday get better, and someday she'll come through it, but I think not', Zoe concluded.

As was the case with the stage production, the televised Othello included an interval.  The 15-minute break, while unusual for a TV programme, gave viewers the opporunity to collect their thoughts during this intense drama.

Another stage production featuring Zoe and adapted for television is Piaf (1982).

Press coverage

Five years after Othello was originally broadcast, it was shown again as part of the National Film Theatre's season celebrating Shakespeare on TV and film.  David Benedict, writing about the season for the Independent, recognised that Zoe had 'turned the forgotten role of Emilia into a spellbinding portrait of divided loyalties'. 

Othello's subsequent release on DVD was warmly greeted by Philip Fisher at the British Theatre Guide.


Othello Region 1 DVD

Othello Region 2 DVD

Othello by William Shakespeare

Related links

Othello guide - BFI Screenonline

Othello programme information - IMDB

Othello On Screen guide - BFI Screenonline

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