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Desdemona: a play about a handkerchief

by Paula Vogel

Is it a surprise that I like this play?

Vogel has given us an entirely new vision of these three immortal women, much like Stoppard does in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead ... outside of the world of Shakespeare's play, they have a whole different life - the main plot points of Othello are all still there, but we get a "behind-the-scenes" feel of what the women might be discussing behind closed doors. And boy do we get a bawdy Desdemona. In Vogel's play she is every bit the harlot that Othello suspects, though she has slept with nearly everyone but the one guy he thinks - Cassio. At the top, she feels no shame for her adultery and has every confidence in her marriage. She says to Emilia:
I'm the sort that will die in bed.

A difference between this play and R&G is that we hear much of the other characters but we never see them onstage. They play a vital role, albeit in the wings. I love Desdemona's description of Iago and Emilia to Bianca. She says:
You know the one then - the greasy little man. He's been spilling his vinegar into her for fourteen years of marriage until he's corroded her womb from the inside out - and every day she becomes more and more hallowed out, just - just a vessel of vinegar herself.
Ouch. Great imagery, but terrible too.

What I love about this play is that it breathes new life into these characters - and while I, personally, don't think this Desdemona would necessarily work in Shakespeare's world (though that would certainly be an interesting production), I was thoroughly entertained by Vogel's creation.

Wednesday Play-a-day: Moon Over Buffalo by Ken Ludwig

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