Othello: Slideshow – The challenges of staging the play

Lesson rationale

These activities encourage young people to join the debate about how to stage and cast Othello. Students will consider the sensitive question of who should play the central roles – black or white actors, men or women. Using controversial paintings, playbills and production photos, they will explore how changing social contexts have shaped the way Othello has been staged over the course of four centuries. They will debate the pros and cons of different productions, and plan how they would stage the play if they could do so themselves.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What challenges are faced by actors and directors when staging Othello?
  • How have attitudes to casting men or women, and black or white actors changed over the course of four centuries?
  • Which of the play’s central themes – jealousy, love, sexual and military conflict, political ambition, racial prejudice – are highlighted by different productions?