OTHELLO by Emil Ludwig
Kirkus Star


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I confess that I approached this with a conviction that I'd not find it interesting -- and I was pleasantly disappointed. It is a gripping and magnificent story, bearing only slight relationship to the version used by Shakespeare, and going back to the same contemporary sources. Where Shakespeare has built his tragedy on interplay of character, rather than patterns of the times, Ludwig has recreated for us the whole rich tapestry of Venice of the 13th century, with the patricians struggling to held back the floodwaters of democracy, fighting the appointment of a black man to the post of High Admiral of the Fleet, seizing on rumor and calumny, deliberately engineered by German spies, to destroy him, once the appointment was made. Chief among the patrician detractors was the brother of Desdemona, resentful of her ""betrayal"" of the family and the traditions, resentful too of her happiness in her love match. Venice was a colorful panorama in that period; there is Aretino, the poet, who by his opigrams could make or break a man; there was the old Master, Titian, friend of Othello; there was Tintoretto, of rising popularity, but willing to pay tribute to the Master; there was the sculptor Sansovino, the musician Monteverdi, beloved of the people; both siding with the ill-starred romance of the couple. The idyll in Cyprus, when Othello risked his standing to avoid rather than precipitate war; then the return to the sinkhole of Venice and its rumors- and finally, Othello, victim of his passion, his sensitivity to the prejudices against his color, his jealousy of his beloved Desdemona, belives the charges made- kills her and himself. Ludwig has recreated the period, and the story -- and while the translation limps at times, and modernisms creep in, he has done, in some ways, a better job than Maugham in Then and Now or Aldington in The Romance of Casanova, books keyed to a like market.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1947
Publisher: Putnam