Monday, 11 June 2012

A Point Of View Lesson From Shakespeare

There's a simple rule for choosing Point of View:  which character is the most interesting stuff happening to?  Interesting stuff could be internal eg a moment of realisation or external eg a car chase.  However, the chances are in any one scene more than one character has interesting stuff going on and sometimes however it's not so clear about who to chose.

Take Othello.  There are three main characters: Othello, Iago and Desdemona. 

Othello is a brave and honourable man with a weakness -  jealousy. He's going to be influenced by Iago into believing his faithful wife Desdemona is actually unfaithful.  In a fit of jealousy he murders her.  When Desdemona is vindicated, in remorse he kills himself.

Iago is a clever man who has been overlooked for promotion and therefore wants revenge on Othello.  He persuades Othello that his wife has been unfaithful, driving Othello to murder.  Afterwards, his own wife spills the beans that it was all a plot by Iago, and Iago is arrested and sentenced to death.

Desdemona is Othello's faithful wife.  Accused of adultery she protests her innocence but still gets murdered by the jealous Othello.

So they all die in the end. (Hope that wasn't a plot spoiler for anyone...)

But who has the most going on?  It's fairly obvious that Desdemona has very little to play with.  Iago has a lot of interesting elements to play with - thwarted ambition, deviousness, manipulation, but as a baddie he's a bit one note.  Othello on the other hand has a great character arc full of change from honour to jealousy to murder to remorse.

Which might explain why it's called Othello, rather than Iago.  Shakespeare shows that the interesting stuff - internal or external - is all about the character who has the most change.


Liz Harris said...

But I'd choose to play Iago any day (if I were a man), rather than Othello, and in King Lear, I'd go for Edmund every time.

An attractive villain is magnetic.

Liz X

Kate Hardy said...

I agree re Edmund, Liz. But he also has to be played by someone with presence. (After seeing Jonathan Slinger both as Macbeth and Prospero - oh, I'd love to see him as Edmund. And Richard III. He's very, very good. Looks all mild and sweet and unassuming, but he commanded the stage on Saturday night.)

Sarah Duncan said...

Liz - more fun to play for the actor, but what works for the actor doesn't necessarily work for the audience. I'll blog about this some more I think.

Kate - I'm so out of touch, I don't know him. Off to Google methinks.

Charlotte Sannazzaro said...

That's a great example to learn from Sarah. As I'm writing a romance with dual POV, at the moment I am struggling with more which character to choose in a scene where they are equally involved. I tend to break up scenes sometimes so I can tell both sides of the story... hopefully it works!

Penny said...

Very useful point of view lesson, Sarah.
btw I saw the Olivier film of Othello twice - once in the UK, and once in Canada. The differences in audience response were noticeable... the Canadians [gulp] *laughed* a few times... it felt very odd!

Sarah Duncan said...

Charlotte - It's tricky. If it's shifting between A then B, the alternative is to stick with B, but give them something to do before A makes their revelation.

Penny - Othello as comedy? Hmm. (Didn't Olivier look very glistening though? Like he was spray polished.)