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Othello on Trial (Or: The Tragedy of Desdemona, the Wife)

5 November 2015

Time: 1:00am
Venue: The Octagon, Queens' Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

Boy meets girl, falls in love, kills her. It’s a story at least as old as Shakespeare’s Othello and with two women in the UK killed each week by their male partners — it couldn’t be more disturbingly topical. This new play tackles possessive jealousy and its fatal consequences. Othello stands trial at the Old Bailey for killing his ‘unfaithful’ wife. Murder or manslaughter? Should his time-honoured resort to a victimblaming defence trump her right to life?

Othello on Trial, the first play in a new youth theatre project, was piloted as a rehearsed reading in London in November 2014 and performed in Melbourne, Australia in March 2015. Emphasising the critical importance of primary prevention and attitudinal change, the project aims to stimulate debate about continuing high levels of violence against women focusing on men’s culturally-embedded excuses for killing their women partners — she was unfaithful, she disobeyed her husband, she left him.

Othello on Trial takes a novel approach to promoting discussion. It weaves scenes from Othello, Shakespeare’s play featuring an ‘infidelity’-inspired wife killing, with excerpts from historic and contemporary trials of English wife killers.

Act 1 addresses the pivotal race question in Shakespeare’s Othello. Showcasing provocation by infidelity as a deeply ingrained cultural excuse sanctioned by law for English wife-killers, Act 2 substitutes a white for a black Othello and puts him on trial for murder at the Old Bailey. A judge and the defendant enact a courtroom drama with a prosecutor and defence lawyer (played by black Othello from Act 1) who take their arguments verbatim from trial records. The audience take the role of jurors. Their deliberations become Act 3 of the play which doubles as an open forum to discuss whether loss of control due to extreme jealousy or possessiveness should mitigate murder today.

Writer and Project Designer

Dr Adrian Howe, Adjunct Research Fellow, Socio-Legal Studies Centre, Griffith University, Australia and Visiting Fellow, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London.

Director

Jessica Beck

Directions

For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.

How to book

This event is free but prior booking is required. Register online via Eventbrite.

Contact

For more information on this event, please email lawevents@qmul.ac.uk.


Photography, video and audio recording

School of Law events may be photographed or video and audio recorded. These materials will be used for internal and external promotional purposes only by Queen Mary University of London. If you object to appearing in the photographs, please let our photographer know on the day. Alternatively you can email lawevents@qmul.ac.uk in advance of the event that you are attending.

 

 


Photography, video and audio recording

Please note that Department of Law events may be photographed or video and audio recorded. These materials will be used for internal and external promotional purposes only by Queen Mary University of London. If you object to appearing in the photographs, please let our photographer know on the day. Alternatively you can email lawevents@qmul.ac.uk in advance of the event that you are attending.

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