Literary Affairs invites you to read and discuss two of Shakespeare’s most evocative plays, the tragedy of Othello and the comedy of wits, Much Ado About Nothing. In this two part series, Betsy Sullivan will unpack how the plays grapple with topics that continue to baffle society today: the potential of gossip to both poison and repair and the roles that people play in the construction of fidelity… or infidelity. While we will consider the plays both structurally and thematically, we will also spend time examining key speeches and scenes in order to luxuriate in and truly understand Shakespeare’s lyrical genius. Beginning with the tragic beauty of Othello and bookending it with the jocular levity of Much Ado About Nothing, this will be a seminar that celebrates the pleasure of reading, seeing, and experiencing Shakespeare without pretense.
All of these discussions begin at 10:30am at the Hotel Bel-Air, and include a delicious continental breakfast.
Full Series: $200
Individual Ticket: $110
Thursday, September 14: Othello is a play about how the passionate marriage between the eloquent moor, Othello, and his beautiful Venetian wife, Desdemona, is dissolved by the villainous Iago. Throughout the play, we watch as Othello is poisoned by Iago’s slanderous comments about Desdemona’s fidelity—and convinces Othello that he will never be good enough for the Duke’s daughter due to the darkness of his skin. The 1995 film featuring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branaugh exquisitely captures this dangerous dance of gossip.
Thursday, October 12: Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedy, Much Ado About Nothing is the delightful story of what happens when a clique of dashing soldiers takes leave in an Italian villa where live brainy and beautiful women. A tale full of masked balls and trickery, the young couple, Hero and Claudio, conspire to make lovers out of the bitter but sweet bachelor, Benedick, and the strong willed and witty Beatrice. The star-studded 1993 film featuring Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branaugh, Kate Beckinsale and Keanu Reeves is set in Italy, and Thompson and Branaugh’s depiction of Beatrice and Benedick’s love-hate relationship is the stuff of legends. Another good rendition, the 2012 Joss Whedon film sets the scene not in Italy, but in Whedon’s own home in Santa Monica.
ABOUT BETSY SULLIVAN: Betsy Sullivan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at USC and the 2017-2019 recipient of the Mellon Digital Humanities fellowship. Her research traces the through-line of media, immediacy, and immersion from the Elizabethan period to contemporary Shakespearean adaptations; in particular, her work interrogates how these polysensorial, multimedia, and site-specific elements reflect how current culture is adapting the way we experience and respond to centuries old texts.