Fifty years ago, in February of 1968, actor James Earl Jones sat down with Studs to talk about his role as Othello in an upcoming Goodman Theatre production.  Jones was playing the role at the height of the Civil Rights movement; he and Studs never reference it explicitly but they talk a great deal about race in our nation.  What can this conversation about Othello bring to the age of Black Lives Matter?

We’ll be breaking their intense and insightful conversation into three parts.  Today, we’re exploring the character of Iago, the villain of Othello and the man who orchestrates Othello’s downfall.

The conversation begins when Studs asks James about growing up in Mississippi, and leads to James making the comparison between Iago and poor whites in America. They discuss Iago’s sense of being inexplicably passed by, and that he “resents everything he feels is oppressing him.”  Speaking of both Iago and poor racist white people in America, Studs remarks, “to survive the day, since his life is bleak and empty, he must subscribe to the myth that there is someone less than he.”  This is a fascinating comparison, considering the impact that rust and coal belt voters had on the recent presidential election.

For the next post, we’ll be looking at how Othello and Desdemona’s interracial marriage was viewed in the play.

You can hear the entire conversation here.