Transcendence Through Duality: A Cinematic Comparison of Othello's Final Scene

As Othello, Laurence Olivier entreats the Venetian nobles to relate the true account of his actions and motivations. Olivier's words seem almost imploring, suggesting that he is an outsider seeking approval from those with foreign sympathies. At the beginning of his address, little in his demeanor resembles that of Laurence Fishburne's Othello, whose quiet yet confident dignity courteously yet firmly dictates the judgment to be passed upon himself. Speaking with emphatic tones, Fishburne's delivery establishes Othello as one who views himself as an equal, if not a peer. The juxtaposition of these two portrayals yields contrasting possibilities for the interpretation of Shakespeare's final scene in Othello; along with the text, it suggests an ultimate duality in the protagonist's perception of his relationship to different others.

Othello's murder of Desdemona can, in one sense, be traced to his insecurities about being different in a society of courtly Venetian whites. Tragically, it is only too late that Othello realizes his difference had no diminishing effect on Desdemona's love for him and should have had no bearing on his love for her. Upon coming to this realization, Othello appeals to the...

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