The Folger Shakespeare Library

“One that loved wisely, but not too well.”

—Othello despairs about himself for believing Iago’s false accusations of her infidelity, which leads him to smother Desdemona.

Act 5, Scene 2, line 404

Read the full play.


From the Collection

Greyscale painting of Othello and Desdemona

This greyscale painting of Othello and Desdemona was completed around 1827 by Henry Jean-Baptiste Victoire Fradelle.


Watch Painting Shakespeare curator Erin Blake discuss the purpose of Fradelle’s painting.

Playbill for Ira Aldridge’s first appearance at Covent Gardens in the role of Othello

Ira Aldridge gained fame in the mid-19th century playing Othello and Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus. This playbill shows he premiered as Othello in April 1833.

ART File A365.5 no.5

Read about Ira Aldridge’s career in Sarah Hovde’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog post.


Promptbook noting the moment when Edmund Kean collapsed onstage while playing Othello

This Othello promptbook was inscribed in 1833, noting the spot in the play where Kean “sank on the neck of his son and was carried off the stage.”

PROMPT Oth. 20

Read more about Kean’s passionate and furious acting on Folgerpedia.


Smock Alley promptbook of Othello

This copy of the Third Folio, the third collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, doubled as a promptbook for a Smock Alley production of Othello.

PROMPT 3d Oth. Smock Alley

Read more about Othello promptbooks in Ben Lauer’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog post.

Carl Van Vechten’s portrait photograph of Paul Robeson as Othello

Othello was produced by The Theatre Guild in 1943; Robeson costarred with Uta Hagen as Desdemona.

ART 251518

See the contract for the production in Sarah Hovde’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog post.

Listen to scholars Marvin MacAllister and Ayanna Thompson discuss Shakespeare and the African American experience during the Jim Crow era of segregation on the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast.

Title: Shakespeare Unlimited: Shakespeare in Black and White
Creator: Folger Shakespeare Library
Date Created: January 28, 2015
Folger Reference ID: SU-019

We will continue adding more to this page over time. Stay tuned! 


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