Iago in the Flesh

The Lenoir-Rhyne University Playmakers’ recent production of William Shakespeare’s Othello demonstrates the text, while also giving insight as to what the characters are truly depicted as.  This play took the form of a tragedy in that Othello (Tylan James) is blindsided and fooled by his so-called friend Iago (Zachary Koch) to ruin the marriage of the newlyweds, simply because he (Iago) was not named lieutenant.  The play follows Othello in text very well, only omitting a few minor areas and leaving the discrete ideas in place.  The Playmakers use stage setting, music and lighting, and characterization as a main focus to convey the suspense created by Iago, leaving the audience in awe.

The stage setting of Othello gives insight as to how Cyprus is pictured in the text and helps support what the area looks like.  The stage is very dark with lighting which focuses on the actors.  There is fencing, with stairs and dark sheets, to set the scenery of the play as well.  Suspense is the main aspect of the play and sets the mood, leaving one wondering what will happen next.  After analyzing the stage set, it is obvious that it helps accompany the mood of the play and portrays the suspense that will be revealed by Iago later.  During the opening scene of the Playmakers’ production, the willow tree song is performed by Barbary (Ariona Smith) and young Desdemona (Sophia Heller-Lee), giving an eerie sense of suspense as to what might happen next.  This also helps to set the mood of the play.

Music and lighting are two key components which helped to support the transition of scenes during the play.  As a scene changes, a genre of music would play, particularly rock/heavy metal.  After a few scene transitions, it almost seems as if the music playing between them helps to support the upcoming scene.  For example, a rock song was played before a heated scene regarding Iago transpired.  The scene which was subsequent to it was Iago’s plan to split Othello and Desdemona (Abbey Hayes), fitting the genre of music perfectly.  This was also the case with lighting.  Iago has one crucial monologue, a dramatic speech spoken to the audience, as he speaks of the thoughts he has in his mind to split Othello and Desdemona.  As he does this, a red light focuses on him to symbolize the anger and rage he has.  In the monologue, Iago’s anger is depicted as he says “[a]nd nothing can or shall content my soul [t]ill I am evened with him, wife for wife, [o]r, failing so, yet that I put the Moor [a]t least into jealousy so strong [t]hat judgement cannot cure” (2.1.320-24).  There are also screen projectors present on both sides of the auditorium, showing images which complement the scene.  For example, as Othello finds out the plan Iago devises to separate him from Desdemona, he realizes that he has killed his precious wife under wrong circumstances.  The screens project images of Othello and Desdemona with their wedding rings in their palms.  As Othello spoke, the lighting turned red, symbolizing anger.  Iago’s character is prominently presented as one would portray it in the text since the music and lighting help complement the actions he takes so well.

Each actor provides a sense of the character they play, revealing their personalities very well.  The attire worn by the actors helps to describe the role and personality type that they are replicating.  Iago, mainly described as a “villain” in the text, shows his true colors through his actions (288).  Firstly, he is dressed in all black, including his hair color and eyeliner, portraying the sense of a villain perfectly.  Secondly, the actions that he takes, such as looking out into the crowd and speaking of his secret plot, while also showing a humorous attitude.  There are numerous occasions that Iago speaks to the audience in a monologue, while also tapping his finger on his chin to demonstrate suspense as to what will occur next.  For example, Iago speaks of his plan to separate Othello and Desdemona by saying “‘[t]is here, but yet confused/ [k]navery’s pain face is never seen till used” (2.2.333-34).  These actions describe his personality perfectly in the play, exactly as they do in the text.

The text of Othello is recreated very well by all of the cast, specifically Iago, offering suspense throughout and demonstrating his personality as a villain.  Suspense and the aspect of Iago being a villain play out in the conclusion as Othello discovers the plan Iago developed to win lieutenancy (288-89).  Iago’s actions in the production give clarification to some points made in the text, and give insight as to how the lines should be revealed.  The form of a tragedy is also followed during the play with a twist in the suspense.  Othello is known as a tragedy, but Iago brings an irresistible attitude to the play, making it carry suspense as to what will happen next along the journey.  The usage of stage setting, lighting and music, and characterization are highly used, complementing the aspect of suspense and Iago as a character.


Works Cited

Othello. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Joshua Yoder. Perf. Tylan James and Zach Koch. LR Playmakers, Lenoir-Rhyne U., Hickory, NC. 9 Nov. 2016.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.Folger Shakespeare Library Edition, Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Snyder, Susan. “Othello: A Modern Perspective.” Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and Schuster,  2009. pp. 287-98.

Theatre Program, Director’s Note. Othello. By William Shakespeare. Perf. Tylan James and Zach Koch. LR Playmakers, Lenoir-Rhyne U., Hickory, NC. 9 Nov. 2016.


A Night in the Life of Othello

Lenoir-Rhyne University playmakers presented William Shakespeare’s Othello Wednesday, November 12 in Belk Centrum.  The play was very similar to the Othello in book form.  Before I saw the play, I had many questions about particular scenes.  After seeing it, those questions were answered in a clear and concise way.

The main way that I found clarity to my questions was by the stage setting and the actors themselves.  The stage setting gave me insight as to what Venice actually looked like, and also helped tie in the mood of the play.  Likewise, the actors provided a sense of the character they played, portraying their personality very well.  The attire that the actors wore also helped to give me an insight to their personality.  For example, Iago wore all black, including black hair and eyeliner, portraying the sense of a villain.  Another aspect that I found interesting was the projectors, which showed scenes of waves, and Othello and Desdemona during particular scenes.  Accompanied by the projectors was sound effects and music, which complemented the particular scenes very well.

This play was very amusing, and even included some humorous gestures.  It really helped clarify some ideas for me after reading Othello.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a play in the sense of a tragedy.

Villains in Venice

Shakespeare’s Othello takes the form of a tragedy, which is portrayed by human suffering of the tragic hero.  The drama exemplifies having tragic characteristics in that it describes the troublesome life of Othello and Desdemona, two main characters who are secretly married before the play begins.  Susan Snyder, who wrote “Othello: A Modern Perspective”, composes a list of possible approaches which might lead us to the explanation of Othello and Desdemona’s troublesome marriage and the sudden downfall of it.  A theory that she focuses on and is prominent throughout the play is that Iago tries to generate complications for the couple in a sense of revenge, since he was not appointed lieutenant by Othello.  Snyder uses the approach of Iago’s failure to be appointed lieutenancy as a standpoint to base his questionable social status, leading him to scheme revenge on Othello.

It is evident that Iago is upset since he is not appointed lieutenant, causing him to dwell on the different possibilities as to why he was not given the title.  A prominent possibility that Iago dwells on is that he has a lot of experience on the battlefield while Cassio only occupied the title of a “bookish theoric” (1.1.25).  Othello was high in society due to his military success and being a general of the armies in Venice; whereas, Iago occupies a citizen of the lower class, being described as someone who is truthful in society.  During this time period, individuals who do not hold the term “high class” or have a worthy title do not usually flourish as well as others who do, specifically Othello.  Since Iago spends much of his time dwelling on the possible reasons he was not given lieutenancy, while becoming angrier, he comes up with a plan to strike revenge against Othello.

Iago is referred to as a “villain” after he uses his sneaky ways of casting revenge on Othello (5.2.368).  One of Snyder’s approaches explains that Iago portrays this sense towards Othello due to his appointing Cassio as a lieutenant instead of Iago.  After this action occurs, Iago lets it control his life in all aspects and decides to plot revenge against Othello.  He begins to question his social status compared to that of Cassio.  The plan that Iago comes up with is to steal “Desdemona or by shattering Othello’s marital happiness…” (289).

The actual plan that Iago uses to steal Desdemona’s heart away from her husband is just that.  Iago chooses Cassio, who is named lieutenant, to serve as a threat to Othello, as he knows that Cassio serves as a threat in his own relationship with Emilia.  Needless to say, Iago puts his plan to use and it works.  Because of this, Othello deems Desdemona unfaithful to him by saying “sweet soul, take heed, take heed of perjury/Thou art on thy deathbed” (5.2.63-4).  This conversation comes about as Othello found the handkerchief he had given Desdemona in Cassio’s company, which serves as a symbol of love.  Iago’s plot to cast revenge on Othello causes turmoil for all of the characters, specifically Othello and Desdemona.

“Othello: A Modern Perspective” offers main concepts of why things happened in the play and what leads the characters to pursue the actions they do.  Snyder uses details of Iago’s mind process to set tension in the play between Othello and him.  The analysis reveals that Othello is a tragic story which is made up of characters who are vindictive.  Snyder uses Iago’s failure as a standpoint to shape the play in a sense of plot and plan, as well as Iago’s social status.

Works Cited

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds. Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare. Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Snyder, Susan. “Othello: A Modern Perspective.” Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and Schuster, 2009. 287-98.


Historical Assassinations

     Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell, focuses on the assassinations of three of the most notable presidents in history.  Vowell uses the first chapter of the book to describe the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, while also telling the story of his assassination.  She uses subsequent chapters of the book to recount the assassinations and deaths of James A. Garfield and William McKinley.  Lincoln’s assassination is discussed more in depth throughout the book than those of either Garfield or McKinley.  Vowell’s attention to Lincoln throughout the book reveals her infatuation with his life and death as compared to that of Garfield or McKinley.  Although she discusses President Garfield and McKinley in the book, she demonstrates her infatuation with Lincoln through the use of witty humor and an obsession to visit all the historical sites related to his life and death.

Vowell discusses Lincoln’s assassination in chapter one of the book to show her infatuation with him.  She begins the chapter by explaining that she is at Ford’s Theatre watching a play about the Declaration of Independence, while also sympathizing the death of Lincoln by studying the box where he was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  She portrays this sense of sympathy towards the death of Lincoln as she “mourn[s] the loss of the second term Lincoln would never serve” (27). Afterwards, she goes to the Lincoln Memorial and studies his two most famous speeches:  The Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.  Vowell shows her favoritism and sympathy towards Lincoln by stating that “[r]eading them is a heartbreaker considering that a few weeks after Lincoln said them at the Capitol he was killed” (26).  Her tendency to favor Lincoln is shown as she visits the Lincoln Memorial a second time at the end of the book.  Vowell finds Lincoln’s assassination story so riveting when compared to that of Garfield mainly because of the attraction she had to him and the conspiracy plot and plan used to kill him.

Since Vowell does not have a driver’s license, she persuades many of her friends to go on adventurous trips with her to places of historical meaning and co-conspiracy locations related to President Lincoln and Garfield.  The majority of chapter one is spent analyzing the possible conspiracy plans Booth had to murder Lincoln.  Great detail and thought are explained in Lincoln’s murder case as it begins by saying that the “plot to murder Abraham Lincoln started out as a plot to kidnap him” (29).  Booth had Lincoln’s murder planned in great detail but also planned to “…kill the nation’s top three leaders so the federal government would dissolve into chaos” (30).  His plan to kill Lincoln covers many different places as he had many co-conspirators working with him.  Although Vowell briefly discusses the plan used to assassinate Garfield in chapter two, she focuses more on what he did while he was alive and the aspect of him trying to survive, while saying that she “sympathized with his bum luck of death” (135).  There are not many historical sites that Vowell was able to visit, which supports the fact that “…the story of Garfield’s death is more interesting than the story of his life” (125).  Vowell is fascinated with assassination stories, especially Lincoln’s, which leads to her to give a great deal of detail about what happened after the murder.

A minimal amount of time is spent in chapter two of the book discussing Garfield’s assassination.  The first sentence introducing Garfield’s assassination story is “[t]he most famous thing ever said about President James A. Garfield is about how nobody has any idea who the hell he was” (123).  Vowell summarizes Garfield’s assassination by saying that it “is an opera of arrogance, a spectacle of greed, a galling, appalling epic of egomania dramatizing the lust for pure power, shameless and raw” (125).  She purposefully uses this language to show a sense of dislike towards Garfield.  She offers great detail in the story of Lincoln that she does not in the story of Garfield, which explains why the chapter discussing Lincoln is longer than that of Garfield.  Vowell is extremely fascinated by assassinations; therefore, she finds “the story of Garfield’s death is more interesting than the story of his life” (125).

Sarah Vowell uses her captivating personality to detail interesting stories of the life and death of Presidents Lincoln and Garfield, while complementing the stories with adventurous historical trips and her entertaining humor.  She is intrigued with the assassination of Lincoln but uses the factual content of Garfield’s life to compromise a historical story.  Throughout the book, her favoritism and infatuation with Lincoln over Garfield are very obvious due to her changing personality and the amount of writing used to describe their lives and assassinations.  Vowell demonstrates favoritism towards Lincoln rather than Garfield through her humorous stories and her obsession to visit sites related to his life and death.

Work Cited

Vowell, Sarah. Assassination Vacation. Simon and Schuster. 2005.


Temptation and Redemption of Lucinda

“The Recovery,” one of the chapters in Marlon James’s novel John Crow’s Devil, offers insight as to how deeply Lucinda cares for the Apostle.  During this chapter, the Apostle is unconscious and Lucinda is the only person to care for him.  She proves to herself just how far she will take “caring” for the Apostle.  By caring for him, she also tests her limits of temptation.  She [Lucinda] “had long resolved to never again experience the misery of a man, but misery overcame her, like a plague or a great spirit” (134).  Her skills are tested of just how well she can handle the situations that are thrust upon her by the unconscious Apostle.  Marlon James’s novel exemplifies a sense of redemption, sexual obsession, and a perpetual struggle between sin and temptation.

Redemption is the act of being saved from sin or evil, which is portrayed by Lucinda throughout this novel.  Lucinda has various mental struggles dominating her mind and thinks of herself as Day Lucinda and Night Lucinda.  Both of these aspects demonstrate how she acts and carries herself during a particular situation.  Day Lucinda is a normal person that only wants to care for others and serve the Lord but once Night Lucinda enters her mind, she completely changes her outlook.  Night Lucinda refers to herself as a “beast,” terrorizing her mind with vulgar thoughts (134).  An aspect of sin and evil that controls much of her life is the Apostle.  He controls Lucinda by frolicking with her mind and tempting her to do certain acts, but then abruptly pushes her away and scorns her.  The Apostle once told Lucinda “but, praise God, better to have a sick body than a sick mind, eh” (76).  As this quote demonstrates, the Apostle likes to make Lucinda feel that she is sick in the mind and he, whom he sometimes refers to as God, is the only way to cure her sickness.  Lucinda is too far gone in her mental beliefs and sickness that she cannot be saved from evil.  Redemption is an act that describes Lucinda’s life with the Apostle.

Being sexually obsessed means that a person is fixated with someone or something.  Lucinda fits this criteria perfectly.  Lucinda is mentally and sexually obsessed with the Apostle throughout the novel.  The main way that she demonstrates this concept is by her saying that she “looked through the keyhole and saw black” (75).  During this scene of the novel, the Apostle is changing in his office and Lucinda looks through the keyhole and “she knew what she wanted to see, yet told herself that she had no such desire” (75).  Lucinda is sexually obsessed with the Apostle because every time that she sees him, Night Lucinda takes over her mind with vulgar thoughts.  Sexual obsession lingers on Lucinda’s mind every time that she is presented in a situation with the Apostle.

This novel is filled with sin and temptation and it never ends or changes during the course of the novel.  Lucinda is the main person being tempted in the novel and she is tempted to commit sin by the Apostle.  An example of the temptation she feels is after Hector Bligh and the Apostle were both found unconscious in the church, Lucinda cared for the Apostle and was tempted by him even while he was asleep.  At one point, Lucinda had to leave the room saying to herself “God will punish you for your wickedness, said Day Lucinda…touch where life comes from, said Night Lucinda” (135).  She always had a perpetual struggle of sin and temptation spiraling in her mind, contemplating between Day and Night Lucinda.  At some points, Lucinda felt that “far below grief was lust, and like any other sin, it came with opportunity” (135).  She felt that the opportunity of lust was to commit sin with the Apostle.  Lucinda anticipates temptation throughout this novel.

Marlon James uses scenery throughout his novel to represent the traits that best describe Lucinda and dominate her life.  She is dictated by the Apostle’s actions and cannot lead herself away from him.  The Apostle’s actions lure Lucinda closer to him and only make the temptation of sin more apparent.  John Crow’s Devil is a novel that vividly illustrates a sense of redemption, sexual obsession, and a perpetual struggle between sin and temptation.


Work cited

James, Marlon. John Crow’s Devil. Akashic. 2005

Living in a Small Town

     Hi, my name is Courtney Williams and I am a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University.  Since this is my first ever blog post (which is really exciting), I am going to introduce myself by telling you some things I enjoy.  I am from Morganton, North Carolina and it is a very small town.  Although there are not many things to do here, there are some beautiful sights to see.  One of my favorite things to do involves being outdoors.  I especially love to go to the lake and hike in various locations. 

     Since my family has a boat, we frequently visit Lake James in Morganton, just a thirty minute drive from Hickory.  We do a variety of things while we are on the lake, such as tubing, water skiing, fishing, cooking out on a beach or visiting friends.  Lake James also has a state park, which is very fun if you are looking to chill on a beach with a lake view. 

     One thing about the Morganton area is that there are many beautiful places to hike and sight see.  My personal favorite is Table Rock Mountain.  If you look at the mountain from a distance it literally looks like a table.  It is my favorite spot to hike, as you can see many other views such as Hawksbill Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain and Sitting Bear.  Another great feature I love about Table Rock Mountain is the different distances of walking trails.  The trails range in distance based on how far you feel that you can walk.  Hiking is definitely a fun adventure if you have never experienced it before. 

This image was taken on July 4th at Lake James. The Lake James community purchases fireworks and puts on a show anually. This is another fun thing about Lake James.
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This is Table Rock Mountain. As I mentioned in my post, Table Rock looks like a table.


This is an evening my family and I spent on Lake James this past summer. The sun was setting and I thought that it would capture an image of the beauty Lake James holds.