English KS2: Shakespeare Retold - Ol'Fella
Ol'Fella - a Paul Stewart story inspired by Othello. Read by David Gyasi
This story is based on Othello, Shakespeare’s intense tragedy of love and jealousy. In this modern day re-telling, the story is relocated to a high school. The theme of racial prejudice against Othello is removed but the jealousy and purely evil motivations of Iago (renamed Ian Jagger or ‘Jags’) remain intact. Othello becomes the popular and kind Olly, nicknamed ‘Ol’ Fella’ on account of his ‘big, beefy’ build. Olly’s surname is ‘Moore’ - an echo of Othello ‘The Moor’ in the original play. The plot begins with Jags feeling jealous that Olly has given Caspar (who takes the Cassius role) a place in the football team. The handkerchief becomes a baseball cap which Olly gave to Mona as a gift. Jags uses social media to provide evidence of the fake relationship he creates between Caspar and Mona. The story does not end with any deaths, but with the discovery of Jags’ treachery and the humiliation of Olly, who loses both the girl and his previously spotless reputation.
Ideas for use in the classroom
The characters in the story all use the (fictional) social media site KoolsKool. Jags takes incriminating photos on his mobile phone and he anonymously uploads the photos, using a bogus username to create a fake ‘relationship’ story which results in Mona losing followers on KoolsKool. The repercussions are massive for all concerned – the cyberbully Jags is discovered and punished, Mona and Caspar lose ‘followers’ and ultimately Olly loses his reputation and exposes himself as a ‘LOSER’ on KoolsKool.
Ask questions such as:
1. What methods of online communication do children know of? (Texting, emailing, snapchat, social media, etc.)
2. What would you do if you were in Mona’s shoes and saw an online post or message that upset you? (Show the message to a trusted adult/ block the sender etc.)
3. Do we always know who we are speaking with or interacting with online? (Remember that Jags created a fake account to post on KoolsKool).
4. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face then don’t say it online. Discuss.
Children could create a ‘KoolsKool’ e-safety poster giving users of the fictional site some rules and tips about how to stay safe online.
This retelling is quite different from the original in some ways but the themes are very similar. After the children have listened to the story once give them the following ten point summary of the original Shakespeare play. Read through it together.
- Othello is a general in the Venetian army and his closest advisor is Iago, who secretly hates Othello but pretends to be a loyal servant.
- Othello returns from war and secretly marries Desdemona.
- Othello is sent to Cyprus to fight the Turkish army, joined by Iago and Othello’s new young lieutenant Cassio.
- Iago is jealous that Othello has promoted Cassio and encourages Cassio to get into a fight with another soldier.
- Othello is furious with Cassio and takes his promotion away from him.
- Iago gets hold of Desdemona’s handkerchief (a gift given to her by Othello) and gives it to Cassio.
- Iago persuades Desdemona to ask Othello to give Cassio his job back.
- Othello sees Cassio with the handkerchief and becomes obsessed with the idea that Desdemona and Cassio are together.
- Othello murders Desdemona in jealousy.
- Iago’s evil plot is discovered just as Desdemona dies. Iago is arrested, but it is too late for Othello, who kills himself, full of shame and grief at what he has done.
Ask children to listen to the story a second time. Can they match the Shakespeare character to the Ol’ Fella character? Can they identify the similarities and differences in plot and theme between the two stories? (eg Caspar doesn’t get into a fight, but Jags prevents him from getting to training on time and Olly sacks him from the team) etc.
Iago/ Jags is a truly evil and manipulative character with absolutely no redeeming features. How did he get this way? Children could create a backstory or ‘prequel’ to ‘Ol’ Fella’ telling the story of how Jags became so jealous. Or they could write a diary entry for Jags telling the development of his evil plot throughout the story.
A Simple Iago/ Jags’ Mock Trial
Children could put the character of Jags on trial. First, agree what the charge should be as a whole class. Introduce the concept of ‘prosecution’ and ‘defence’. Mind-map what arguments/ questions the prosecution and defence might raise.
The teacher in role plays the part of Jags.
Divide the class into 3 groups.
One group is the prosecution.
Another group of children play the defence.
The third group is the jury.
The prosecution and defence take it in turns to ask the teacher questions in role based on the mind mapped arguments and questions in support of their case.
When all questions and representations have been made the jury will decide on a guilty or not guilty verdict.