Othello Rewritten: The Obama Version
Writer Roger Freed imagines how The Bard might’ve written this piece in 2012… Extra credit: Compare to the original here!
(Begging Our Pardons from Shakespeare) Dramatis Personae
IAGO: Advisor to Othello – Played by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
CASSIO: Lieutenant to Othello, husband of Iago – Played by Bill Clinton
OTHELLO: A noble Moor leader – Played by President Barack Obama
DESDEMONA: Wife to Othello – Played by Michelle Obama
SERVANT: Played by Joe Biden
ACT III, SCENE III:
The Garden of the White House
CASSIO- Bounteous madam, what’s gonna become o’ me?
I was always Othello’s true servant,
but I surelyeth screwed up.
DESDEMONA- I know’t. You do love my lord.
But you should never have fiddled with the scullery maid.
CASSIO- In truth my hand willed it not,
but other organs bemoaned the abstinence.
DESDEMONA- T’would be better to pluck the offending organ
from thyself than to share it with every harlot
that eye doth take hold of.
I will take thy cause as t’were my own
and plead forgiveness for transgressions
we hope will ne’er pass this way again!
(She eyes him severely)
CASSIO- (He takes her hand and kneels) Would that I never look again
upon beauty that only serves to tempt me
Would that I remain chaste and pure as thee.
DESDEMONA- That would take some doing!
But, hark, my lord does come!
CASSIO- Madam, I will get me hence
through the yard and o’er the fence!
Enter OTHELLO and IAGO
IAGO- (had seen Cassio kneeling) I don’t like the looks of that!
OTHELLO- Was that not Cassio, thy husband, with my wife?
IAGO- (being sly) Cassio? Hmm… I don’t know sir! What reason would he have for sneaking away so guilty-like?
OTHELLO- I do believe it was him!
DESDEMONA- How now, my lord!
I have been talking with a man in your employ.
He languishes greatly in your displeasure.
OTHELLO- Who is it you mean?
DESDEMONA- Why, your lieutenant, Cassio!
OTHELLO- He who had scuttled the scullery maid?
DESDEMONA- Aye, sir, he.
If I have any grace or power to move you,
I employ it now to get your forgiveness for his transgression.
OTHELLO- (finding it distasteful) Humph! Is he worthy of it?
DESDEMONA- Oh, sir, he truly loves you
is loyal and true to your cause.
And he has a wit about him,
unfortunately it is not always in his head,
but (this distastes her) rather somewhere below instead.
OTHELLO- Prithee, no more: let him come when he will;
I will deny thee nothing.
DESDEMONA- Oh, thank you lord! (kisses him)
The Fates smile on those who show grace!
OTHELLO- Excellent woman! How I do love her!
IAGO- My noble lord…
OTHELLO- What dost thou say, Iago?
IAGO- Did Cassio, when you wooed Desdemona, know of thy love for her?
OTHELLO- He did, from first to last: why do you ask?
IAGO- (looking askance slyly) Oh, perchance nothing!
I judged him seemly to have been holding her hand.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean
that any PASSION lay between them.
(she stops to let this sink in)
I have seen him hold many a hand…many of them female.
(she stops to let this sink in)
Who knows wence other places those hands have been!
(she looks slyly heavenward, satisfied with herself)
OTHELLO- (eyes bulging) What means you?
(to himself) By Heaven! As if there were some monster in her thought
too hideous to be shown!
(out loud) If thou dost respect me,
show me thy thought!
IAGO- My lord, you know I respect you
and have great love too for my husband Cassio….
OTHELLO- I think thou dost; for I know thou art full of love and honesty.
I pray thee, speak to me as to thy thinkings
and give me the worst of thy thoughts.
IAGO- O, beware, my lord, of jealously;
it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
the meat it feeds upon.
Of course, it would be damning too,
should he of thee a fool, a cuckold, be making!
OTHELLO- (his anger rising) A fool! A cuckold!
IAGO- (playing him) Oh, but sire, perhaps they are but fantasies
that will fade in the light of day.
Quiet, sir, quiet!
As in all games of high stakes
lay the cards softly!
OTHELLO- Oh, misery! (he hears something) But soft, Desdemona returns…
DESDEMONA- How now, my dear husband!
Your dinner and your subjects await thee!
OTHELLO- Oh, but…but… I have a headache.
DESDEMONA- Oh, but let me bind it with this handkerchief ( she attempts to put it on him)
OTHELLO- (he snatches it off and drops it to the floor) It is too small. Oh, I’ll go say my greetings to to them and depart!
Exeunt OTHELLO and DESDEMONA
IAGO- (picks up the handkerchief) I will this handkerchief in Cassio’s bed drop.
Trifles like this can seem as much proof as the Bible.
The Moor has already begun to sample my poison
when it reacts upon his blood
it will burn within like mines of sulfur.
Here he comes!
Exeunt IAGO. Re-enter OTHELLO.
OTHELLO- Why did I ever marry?
That we can call these womanly creatures ours
and not know their dark, secret appetites.
This honest Iago doubtless sees and knows
more, much more than she unfolds.
Good Iago, for all you have said
I would need proof of her ill deed.
Give me a living reason she’s disloyal!
IAGO- (pretends to think) My lord, were evidence enough to break hearts,
then this were then a baseball bat:
Does Desdemona not possess
a handkerchief spotted with strawberries?
OTHELLO- Aye, I gave her one; ’twas my first gift to her.
IAGO- Upon Cassio’s bed I did perceive such a cloth as this!
OTHELLO- Oh monstrous! Monstrous!
IAGO- And it had her shade of lipstick upon it!
OTHELLO- Oh, blood, blood, blood!
IAGO- Pray, lord. Have thy servant seek for it!
OTHELLO- (intrigued by this) Biden! Biden! Come thee hence!
SERVANT- (enters hurriedly, bows ridiculously and formally deep) Yes, squire!
OTHELLO- (Offended) That’s sire, not squire! Go to Cassio’s chambers and see if a handkerchief lies alone and forlorn upon his mattress.
SERVANT- Yes, sire.
IAGO- (half to herself as she watches him leave) That’s the least I’ve ever heard him say!
SERVANT- (returns with handkerchief in hand) Here Milady! It’s a nice one. With strawberries on it!
OTHELLO- (snatches it from him somewhat irritated) That’s my lord, not milady!
SERVANT- (curtsies) Oh….sorry!
OTHELLO- (angrily roles handkerchief in hand, glowering) Damn her, lewd minx! Oh damn her!
IAGO- (going for the full effect)
I did not want to get into this,
but since I am in so deep already,
this I will say- I lay with Cassio recently, I could not sleep.
There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
that in their sleeps will mutter their affairs:
one of this kind is Cassio.
(aside, to herself, “I could write a book about it!”)
In sleep I heard him say “Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves;”
And then, sir, would he grip and wring my hand,
cry “Oh sweet creature!” and then kiss me hard,
then laid his leg over my thigh, and sighed, and kissed;
and then cried “Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!”
OTHELLO- (totally enraged) Death and damnation! O!
I will avenge of this, even though it might
bring me to prison, or even to death.
Cassio, I will quarter thee!
IAGO- (smiles broadly and gives thumbs up to the audience.) Ha! I am rid of BOTH of these usurping men! This is what you call killing two birds with one stone! (she stops and thinks) Hmmm….Oh, Biden! Come thee hence, please!
SERVANT- (comes out on stage) What do you wish, mistress?
IAGO- Could you go and find Othello? I believe that Desdemona had another handkerchief to give you as a present. Ask him for it!
SERVANT- Oh, a present! I like that. ( He shuffles away)
IAGO- Make that three birds! Presidency, here I come! (She claps with glee and runs after them)