The Fall Semester 2017 English Department Theatre Outing took place on November 2. 60 Sogangers gathered in the National Theatre of Korea to watch Othello: Jealousy be my Power. The original Shakespearean tragedy—Othello—revolves around Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, whose fate is destroyed by his unfaithful ensign, Iago. Consumed by the “green-eyed monster” spawned by Iago, Othello accuses Desdemona of adultery and eventually murders her, only to realize her innocence afterwards and kill himself.
About the Production
Parandal Theater Company—winner of the grand prize by Ministry of Culture—claims to have adapted classic lines to modern Korean language structure and cadence and set the play in contemporary Korea while maintaining the original play’s elegance. This modern adaptation is advertized to have taken the backbone of Shakespeare’s Othello—jealousy and envy—to branch out into modern Koreans’ insecure state of mind and desire to climb the social ladder.
In Othello: Jealousy be my Power, Othello is the chief executive of Othello Group. He falls in love with Desdemona. Brabantio—father of Desdemona and the chief executive of Brabantio Group—worries about Othello’s old age and shadowy past, yet Othello and Desdemona marry against Brabantio’s wishes.
Iago is still Othello’s right-hand man. After failing to get promoted, he swears revenge on Othello and Michael (Cassio), who was appointed as the Future Strategies Manager. Iago gets Michael drunk enough to make a slip of tongue. Enraged, Othello puts off the appointment with Michael, and Iago sows the seeds of doubt in Othello's mind, and thus, unravels the story of jealousy and envy.
The Sogang Herald interviewed three Sogangers—Hwang In-pyo (20130271, English Literature & Linguistics); Lee Yea-rin (Graduate School of Sogang Univeristy); and Bang Min-hee (Graduate School of Sogang University)—for their personal impressions and thoughts on the play Othello: Jealousy be my Power.
Q: What do you think about the modern take on Othello?
Hwang: Othello comes from the Shakespeare’s days, so it may come across as boring and overly serious. Othello: Jealousy be my Power made the play comic and accessible, so I would say it was an interesting take.
Bang: I personally quite like modern adaptations, but on this one, I am not so sure. The storyline and the acting are far too similar to trashy morning soap opera’s. The plot could be summed up as violent passions or knotty revenge around a gang leader. The framework of the play was vague enough to wonder what the play had to do with Othello.
Lee: I thought the play was worth a watch if you are looking for something light. Othello is a serious drama, but I almost thought the adaptation was a comedy. Character’s names and settings—for example, referring to Othello as President O, a gang leader—were well adapted for the general Korean public.
Q: What about the humor?
Hwang: So-called dad humor punctuated the play. At first, I thought it broke the flow of the play, but it did make the play more entertaining. The audience—including myself—burst into laughter quite many times throughout the play.
Bang: The director gave a Korean twist to Shakespeare’s low humor, but it was too much.
Lee: It was overseasoned. At first, it was fresh and fun. But really, Momo of Twice and Fucidin?
Bang: KakaoTalk group chat was interesting, if confusing. The play begins with Othello explaining himself and his secret marriage to the audience—the shareholders of Othello Group—in a KakaoTalk group chat. Here, the stage extends and the audience comes to form part of it. Afterwards, they are separated from the stage as the play progresses. Yet at the dénouement, Iago reveals that everything was his doing, and that he thus ends his play. The positioning of the audience lacks unity. It would have been better if the KakaoTalk group chat setting had been kept throughout the play.
Lee: The ending would have been less lame had Iago ended the play by exiting the KakaoTalk group chat.
Q: What part could have been better?
Lee: Summing up a long play like Othello into 85 minutes is a hard nut to crack. The overall use of stage was rather good. When we entered the theatre, we were surprised to see how small the stage was. Because of the limitations on space, the audience was brought into the play as stockholders, but however well-intentioned, the extension of the stage was petered out. In my personal opinion, the actors’ use of stage was rather simple and of a standard pattern.
There were gender problems, too. Desdemona is the only female character of the play and the seed of strife, but she exits without a chance to vindicate herself.
Bang: The play could have done without Desdemona or replaced her with a doll. In the original play, Desdemona is a quiet character. But if you are doing a modern translation while keeping everything the same, what meaning does the adaptation have?
Lee: Bringing a classic to the modern era means keeping parts that the modern audience would understand and empathize. The scenes that may come across as violent or uncomfortable can be changed or deleted, but this play failed to do so.
※ Othello: Jealousy be my Power reruns in Daehak-ro, Star City from December 15 to 31.
※ Special thanks to Hwang In-pyo, Lee Yea-rin, and Bang Min-hee.