Finding New Life In 'Othello'

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400 years after Shakespeare, we celebrate the bard with a new look at Othello. And how it speaks to us today on race and gender. Plus, we'll look at Beyoncé's stunning visual album- "Lemonade".

GQ, left, Jackson Doran, center, and JQ from Chicago hip-hop sensation Q Brothers perform their "Othello: the Remix" rap during a rehearsal for Sydney Festival in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
GQ, left, Jackson Doran, center, and JQ from Chicago hip-hop sensation Q Brothers perform their "Othello: the Remix" rap during a rehearsal for Sydney Festival in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Can a play written in feather quill pen in 1603 for a stage in London light up our worlds of race and gender, love and power today? Yes, it can.  Saturday marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. We still want to grab his insights on human nature, human foibles, heroics, failures. This hour, On Point:  We look again at race and gender and the power of Shakespeare’s Othello. And we will dip into the music of the powerful new “visual album” from Beyonce.


Ayanna Thompson, professor of English at George Washington University, specializing in Renaissance drama and issues of race and performance. Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America.

John Douglas Thompson, Obie Award-winning actor. He's appeared in Othello, Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra.

From Tom's Reading List

400 Years After Shakespeare’s Death, He’s Still Required Reading (Even For Econ Majors) — "Curious about how popular Shakespeare remains in academia, I looked at the catalog of more than 1.1 million syllabi available on the Open Syllabus Explorer to see which Shakespeare plays are most often assigned to college students (and which ones tend to turn up outside English courses).2Shakespeare’s plays and poems were assigned to U.S. students more than 10,000 times within the syllabi in the collection.3(FiveThirtyEight)

Troupe keeps Shakespeare "alive" 400 years after death — "He is held in the highest regard in England. The greatest storyteller of all time helped shaped its culture and language forever, and may be its most successful export - which was the simple aim of "Globe to Globe." But the challenge of taking "Hamlet" on a two-year tour to every country in the world — well, there's the rub. They traveled 193,000 miles, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Cuba to Cameroon and Tehran to Thailand — 197 countries in all. It was an idea Globe Creative Director Dominic Dromgoole stumbled on after a few pints at the pub." (CBS News)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare — Compiled by MIT. Knock yourself out.

Beyoncé's "Lemonade"

Dee Lockett, associate editor at Vulture. (@Dee_Lockett)

Everything You Need to Know About Beyoncé’s New Visual Album, Lemonade — Beyoncé's Lemonade HBO special turned out to also be the premiere of her entire new visual album, which then dropped exclusively on Tidal — though it is now available on iTunes — during the broadcast. Twelve more polarizing songs, 12 more ambitious videos to feast your eyes and ears on. Like every Beyoncé event this decade, it's a smorgasbord of surprise cameos (Serena Williams!), inspiration (Warsan Shire!), and quotables (sorry Beckys of the world). As such, there's sure to be a lot of questions about the whole shebang. Below, we have a track-by-track breakdown of everything you need to know about Beyoncé's latest world-stopping digital drop. Carry on.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the Undeniable Power of a Black Woman’s Vulnerability — I asked who this album is for and not to, because I think if we read too much into the subject of certain songs, we’d come up short. Beyoncé is an expert at vague honesty and indirect revelations. You think she’s removing layers by making ultimatums like “if you try this shit again, you gon lose your wife” and throwing the Beckys of the world under the bus — making us all think her surprise drop would come with divorce papers — only to reconcile with the man she says killed her a few songs later and put the album on the service he owns. We learn so much only to know nothing at all. (Vulture)

Beyoncé Unearths Pain and Lets It Flow in ‘Lemonade’ — “Lemonade” is less a dramatization than a daydream, infused with black magic, embracing — if only notionally — African tribalism, science fiction, menstruation and witchcraft. The music’s emotional odyssey is conjugal. (The song chapters are presented as stages — “intuition,” “denial,” “forgiveness,” “hope,” etc.) Most of the corresponding images commune with the psyche and with history. The Deep South — New Orleans, mostly — occupies the landscape. Throughout, black women are standing, sitting, phalanxed on the porches of what feel like plantations and antiquated houses, rich with pain. The cameras get in close on beautiful faces that lack pigment, that bear scars, burns and sorrow.

This program aired on April 25, 2016.


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