Othello’s request in the last hour of his life

 

Ira Aldridge as Othello, oil on canvas, 1826

James Northcote, 1746-1831, British.  Manchester Art Gallery, UK, from whose website this photo

 

 

Ira Aldridge, 1807-1867, was the first African-American – in 1825 – to establish himself professionally abroad (at London’s Royal Coburg Theater). 

 

In 1826 he played Othello.

 

The actor used his considerable fame to speak out against slavery.

 

 

*****************

 

 

Othello, act 5, scene 2, of William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, English

 

 

 

Othello, thinking that Desdemona has been unfaitfhul to him, kills her.

 

A little later, made aware of his error in regarding Desdemona as unfaithful, he stabs himself, falling dead on the bed beside her. 

 

These are almost Othello’s last words:

                                                                                            

                         …. I pray you in your letters,

 

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,

 

 

 

DSC00259

Othello, marble and bronze, modeled c. 1868, executed 1873. 

Pietro Calvi, 1833-1884, Italian. Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

 

The sculpture is thought to have been modeled on photographs and prints of the African-American actor, Ira Aldridge.

 

 

Speak of me as I am.  Nothing extenuate,

 

Nor set down aught in malice.

 

 

 

DSC00260

 

 

                                   Then must you speak

 

Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;

 

 

DSC00253

 

 

Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,

 

Perplexed in the extreme,

 

 

DSC00257

                                          

                                           

                                        of one whose hand,

 

Like the base Indian**, threw a pearl away

 

Richer than all his tribe;

 

 

 

DSC00255

 

                of one whose subdued eyes 

       

 

DSC00258

 

Albeit unused to the melting mood,

 

 

 

DSC00263

 

Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees

 

Their medicinable gum.**

 

 

 

DSC00265

 

 

                                               Set you down this……

 

 

*changed from ‘Judaean’ in some versions on the assumption that anti-semitism is more offensive than maligning Indians…

 

**frankincense and myrrh, resins of trees in the torchwood family; imported to Europe from the Arabian littoral from time immemorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Othello’s request in the last hour of his life

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.