What I Saw

20 Apr 2024

George Jeffery

Almost at the centre of Famagusta Bay lays the town of the same name, the Emporium of the East, as it was once known. The medieval walled city boasts its castle with a famous tower made known all over the world by Shakespeare and his play Othello. According to George Jeffery:

The story was taken from the seventh tale of the third decade in the “Hecatomithi” by Giraldo Cinthio, a Venetian novelist and disciple of Boccaccio, who wrote around 1580 "Un Capitano Moro" ("A Moorish Captain"). The story is said to derive from the life of Christoforo Moro, Luogotenente di Cipro, who returned to Venice without his wife in 1568.

Shakespeare was inspired in c.1603 by the Moor Commander of the city, who lived through his own tragic story with his beloved Desdemona. A whisper…a silk handkerchief…Iago’s shadow in the dark…created the tragedy and placed it between legend and history. During the dark winter nights, when the angry waves of stormy seas beat against the walls of the castle, the townsfolk could hear the cries of poor Desdemona, while her ghost was seen pacing Othello’s tower. It was the bats and the cries of the seagulls through the lagoons, said the scientists, but nothing could ever remove the tragic lovers from the soil of Cyprus.

Thanks to the British, who associated the citadel of Famagusta with the famous legend of Othello, pilgrims and visitors pay their respects to the lovers, walking around their abode.

Watercolour: PNT-00183, The Sea Gate (Harbour side), Famagusta, Francis Milverton Drake, 1934

© Costas and Rita Severis Foundation

The 'What I Saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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