Today I was out to lunch with some of the Jiu Jitsu girls after training and one of them started to complain that she wanted to see the Melbourne Ballet company perform Romeo and Juliet at our local arts centre tonight – but no one would go with her.
I told her I had been thinking about seeing it – because I do enjoy me some Shakespeare, but I’m not a huge fan of Ballet… I too had not come up with a date… So we decided to go together.
While we sat in our seats during intermission we discussed our mutual love of Shakespeare and I started telling her about when I was in High School and we had a Shakespeare Day at school… An annual event that had classes competing against each other via The Bard’s plays as interpreted on our auditorium stage.
Our class had decided to do a Death compilation – four or five death scenes, culminating in Othello as the finale since that had the most deaths in a short span of time.
Our class met to discuss, and the girl that had been put in charge of casting decisions was handing out scripts to the actors she had chosen along with our English teacher.
She handed me a script and said that I had been chosen to be Desdemona – commenting that I was “made for” that role. Incredulously, I asked her what she meant by that. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a compliment to my acting skills or as a bruise to my ego.
She answered something to the effect of she just thought I could pull it off better than anyone else.
Ummm… Ok. Still not sure if I should feel insulted or not.
For those of you that aren’t well versed in Shakespeare, I’ll explain. Desdemona is a character that is married to a man named Othello. By all accounts a good man, but who was easily swayed to believe that his wife had cheated on him when his frenemy set her up simply to get at Othello for some reason.
Othello accuses her and makes it quite plain that he will kill her for this. Though she protests at first, claiming her innocence, she then submits to her husband and allows him to kill her. She begs a bit for her life, asking for mercy, and asks to be killed the next day instead… but otherwise not so much as a scream and no real struggle to be had.
So that’s how my classmates saw me.
My Othello was the tough guy in our class. Our Desdemona was the girl that allowed boys liberty with her person. The girl who didn’t fight back when her boyfriends assaulted her.
But how the fuck did they know that? How the fuck did anyone pick up on that side of my personality? The boys I dated at that school never struck me. So how then did my school comrades pick up on my Desdemonaesque qualities?
I thought I was a good actor. I thought I hid my insecurities well, and the intimidation I felt around guys was well hidden as well I believed. I chose to assume she picked me because I was one of the better actors in the class.
But years later my Othello said to me he could tell I had been hurt/disappointed by men. How he picked up on it, I don’t know. How anyone picked up on it, I don’t know.
How subsequent men picked up on it and used it to their advantage, I don’t know. I now firmly believe that some events may not have happened if they hadn’t have seen my vulnerability and grabbed the opportunity when they had it.
I’ve been working hard the past couple years to push back my inner Desdemona. I’ve been working hard to not let myself be vulnerable like that ever again.
Othello, babe, I love you to death and you’ll always be Othello to me 😉 – but I can no longer be a Desdemona. I need to leave her in the past.
I need to be strong and I need to be tough; I need to never let it all happen to me again. If I ever get taken down, I need to go down fighting.
Let me be considered a Beatrice or a Kate… Though I intend to not be put in my place by the end of the play. I intend to not have my spirit broken nor myself be conquered by a man. I intend to stay feisty and independent till the curtain closes.