There has been some controversy about the play Othello in Edmonton lately. I am not going to wade in on the specifics of that situation, but I do want to say that I would be sorry to see this play pushed out of sight and out of mind because of controversy around the titular character. The reason is quite simple. If we lose Othello, we also lose Iago and Emilia.
Of all the plays I've been to at our local outdoor Shakespeare festival, probably the one that left the biggest impression on me was Othello. The reason was the superb performance by the actor who played Iago. He delivered his lines in a way that made me see how such a person could convince people that he was an honest man, to be trusted above others as a source of truth.
The world is afflicted right now with a plague of Iagos. The problem is not just lies. It is twisting of facts to demonize opposing viewpoints and establish oneself and one's allies as the only trusted sources of knowledge. It is the abuse of that trust to mislead people and to incite them toward destructive acts.
We need, like Emilia, to stand up and speak out when we discover this happening around us. We need to do so even, or perhaps especially, when it may seem to be against our own interests, and those at fault claim to be on our side. I am not talking about preventing anyone from speaking, but about challenging the things that they say and holding them accountable.
I would like to leave you with two quotes, both spoken by Emilia: one an accusation and one a credo.
Your Reports Have Brought this Murder On.
I Will Speak as Liberal as the North.