Can performance offer answers to textual problems? Thinking about the striking differences between Q and F of Othello (printed only a year apart), “Unpinning Desdemona” uses 4.3 – the willow scene – as a test case for answering this question. The project records practical experiments conducted on the stages of Shakespeare’s (reconstructed) Globe using reconstructions of early modern dress to argue that the scene’s “meaning” resides in the undressing and to demonstrate how that undressing was done. It concludes that Q is not an actors’ text. Most significantly, it has created an on-line archive of the performance experiment. You can find a longer abstract describing this project here. As well as the video record below there is a gallery of still images documenting the first run-through of the experiment on the stage of the Globe.
This work illustrates an article by Carol Chillington Rutter, 'Unpinning Desdemona (Again) or “Who would be toll’d with Wenches in a shew?”' published in Shakespeare Bulletin 28:1, Spring 2010, pp. 111-132 responding to Denise A. Walens' 'Unpinning Desdemona', Shakespeare Quarterly, 58:4 Winter, 2007, pp. 487-508. Both articles are available online to subscribers to Project Muse.
2. The Two Texts
3. Building Desdemona
4. Rehearsing in the Red Dress
5. Rehearsing in the Black Dress, Blackfriars
6. Rehearsing in the Black Dress, Quarto, Blackfriars
7. Performing in the Black Dress, Quarto, Blackfriars
8. Performing in the Black Dress, Folio, Globe
9. Performing in the Red Dress, Folio, Globe
10. Final Thoughts
Extras - The Making of Unpinning Desdemona