ASC SafeStart Season Characters & More GET SORTED INTO THEIR HOGWARTS HOUSES FOR virtual QCMM 2020
Actors must always make choices about text in performance in order to create their characters, and those choices will influence how an audience understands those characters — what they are like, how they operate, and where they might end up in a Hogwarts-style house sorting. But for those who care enough to look, an essence can often emerge from the page that remains no matter what choices an actor makes on the stage. That textual essence guides this particular sorting exercise.
Also, this is definitely serious real scientific stuff and not at all just Lia’s opinion about nerdy things she cares too much about, so strap in and read on for the true and accurate sorting of these Shakespeare characters.
Othello, in brief: Othello, general of the Venetian army, elopes with Desdemona and promotes Cassio to lieutenant instead of Iago. Iago vows revenge on Othello for several reasons: he wanted the promotion, and perhaps Desdmona, for himself. Bankrolled by the besotted Roderigo (who also wants Desdemona), Iago uses rumor and suspicion to “make the net that shall enmesh them all.”
Othello – Gryffindor
“Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter.” – Act 1, Scene 2
Bold, principled, trusting, trustworthy, and a natural leader, Othello is a decisive Gryffindor. Like many of his house, he acts as soon as it seems action may be called for — an excellent trait for a military leader. However, Othello’s decisiveness is of the distinctly Gryffindorian “do first, ask questions later (maybe)” variety, which can be a disaster in delicate situations. His love for Desdemona and desire to disbelieve Iago’s lies about her leads Othello to wait almost an entire day (several hours, at least, depending on the production) after hearing about her supposed adultery to strangle her for the same; a relatively huge amount of restraint for this resolved Gryffindor.
Desdemonda – Gryffindor
“That I did love the Moor to live with him
My downright violence and scorn of fortunes
May trumpet to the world.” – Act 1, Scene 3
When we first meet Desdemona, she has just eloped with Othello and told her father to his face (and in front of the entire Venetian court) that the obedience she once showed him is now “due to the Moor my lord” (1.3.189). If a more recklessly brave way to enter a play exists, I haven’t seen it yet. Desdemona portrays all the classic Gryffindor traits: she is bold, outspoken, well-liked, trustworthy, and a natural leader. She is also not very inclined to examine the details of her decisions for hidden devils, preferring instead to take the world (and Iago) at face value — the Gryffindorian trait that ultimately leads to her demise.
Cassio – Slytherin
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation, I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” – Act 2, Scene 3
Cassio is a social-climber obsessed with status. He may or may not actually be good at his job (we don’t exactly get many chances to see him in action) but he’s definitely excellent at doing those extra things that really make the boss take notice and grant him that coveted promotion (like, say, brokering that boss’s secret marriage?). When Cassio drunkenly brawls his way out of his job, he mourns the loss of his status above all, and bends his considerable efforts towards recovering his position. He goes about it the way he goes about everything else — cleverly — and his second suit to Desdemona would probably have paid off as well as his first were it not for the interference of that malignant motive-hunter, Iago.
Emilia – Ravenclaw
“Why, the wrong is but a wrong i’th’world; and having the world for your labor, ‘tis a wrong in your own world, and you might quickly make it right.” – Act 5, Scene 1
Emilia’s text is wide open to an actors’ interpretation, and it’s tough to derive anything specific about her essence from the inflectionless words on the page. Is she a defeated Hufflepuff trapped in a nightmare of domestic violence? A gleeful Slytherin co-conspiring her husband’s villainy? A tough-as-nails Gryffindor just doing her best to survive in a hostile and uncertain world? All strong choices, all definite possibilities, and thus every actor – and every production – gets to choose. Textually, however, I believe a strong case emerges for Emilia as a rational Ravenclaw who reasons her way into some unreasonable situations. She thinks through her actions before acting, explaining her rationale for giving Iago that fatal handkerchief while also letting us know the thought to take it did not come to her suddenly in the moment she saw the handkerchief untended. Rather, she’s been trying to get her hands on it for a while now. (She’s hardly impulsive.) Her intentions are good (or at least neutral) but the outcome is terrible. Why? Emilia miscalculates the variables: she does not know her husband — not really. Ravenclaws may be book-smart, but they are often not very people-smart. Emilia’s inability to read the murderous intentions inside Iago’s seemingly simple requests causes this rational Ravenclaw to reason her way into being his accomplice, knowingly or otherwise.
Roderigo – Gryffindor
“I’ll sell all my land!” – Act 1, Scene 3
Roderigo may not be the bravest in the bunch, but he’s willing to rise to any occasion for a worthy cause — and what cause is more worthy than love? Besotted with Desdemona, Roderigo throws away everything to follow Iago’s promise of the mere chance to be in her company, including: his lands, his money, his dignity, and eventually his life. You’d think he would catch on to Iago’s villainy at some point (how stupid can one lovesick fool be, after all?) but Gryffindors are not prized for their ability to reason through the nuances of a difficult topic or wrestle with the complexities of their affections. They are prized for doing something about it all. Say what you will about Roderigo being a gullible fool who lets Iago manipulate his broken heart into poverty, villainy, and murder — at least he’s doing something!
*BONUS Iago – Squib
Iago was not admitted to Hogwarts or any other Wizarding academy. He’s pretty bitter about it.
Twelfth Night, in brief: Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, and disguises herself as a boy in order to serve the Count Orsino as the page boy “Cesario.” Orsino is in love with Olivia, and sends Viola to woo the Countess on his behalf — but Olivia falls in love with “Cesario” instead. Meanwhile, Feste the Fool and Sir Toby (Olivia’s drunken uncle) play a prank on Malvolio (Olivia’s power-hungry steward).
Orsino – Hufflepuff
“For such as I am, all true lovers are
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else,
Save in the constant image of the creature
That is belov’d.” – Act 2, Scene 4
“Away before me to sweet beds of flowers
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.” – Act 1, Scene 1
Orsino is a simple man with simple tastes. He loves music, flowers, and Olivia. His world would be wonderful if he could have those three things, but Olivia remains obstinate in not loving him back. Where a Gryffindor might do much (make a willow cabin at her gate and call upon her soul within the house, perhaps?), a Ravenclaw might change tactics (wrestle with affection until falling in love with someone even less suitable, perhaps?), and a Slytherin might move on (get drunk and marry the chamber maid, perhaps?), this tortured Hufflepuff can do little more than lie around and luxuriate in the excess of the remaining two items on his list. Lovesick fool just wants a wife who will cuddle in the flowers and listen to music with him, apparently.
Viola – Gryffindor
“I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth
And that no woman has, nor never none
Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.” – Act 3, Scene 1
Shipwrecked in a not-very-strange land where you could easily seek asylum of the local government, the head of which has a pre-existing diplomatic relationship with your late father and would likely be happy to help you heal and get back home? Better dress up like a boy and infiltrate that head of government’s household instead, said every Gryffindor ever.
Olivia – Ravenclaw
“Do not extort thy reasons from this clause
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause;
But rather reason thus with reason fetter
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.” – Act 3, Scene 1
It’s not often that Ravenclaws catch feelings so intense that they lose all sense of propriety and fling themselves at the object of their obsession — but when they do, they sound like Olivia. Mired in mourning for her father and her brother and sick of the constant letters and tokens from the pining Orsino, Olivia has little use for love games — until she meets Cesario. Suddenly, even she is surprised by the severity (and swiftness) of her own romantic about-face, cautioning herself to slow down before immediately throwing that caution to the wind and sending a love token of her own after the object of her new obsession. Ravenclaw reason shines through even her most besotted moments, however, like this rhyming declaration of love laden with lawyer-like logic. Olivia’s dignity may desert her when she climbs aboard the love train, but her wits never wander too far, and she can always command her words.
Feste – Slytherin
“But do you remember, ‘Madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal, an you smile not, he’s gagged’? And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” -Act 5, Scene 1
Feste may be a Fool, but he’s no fool. The observant jester runs the longest con of the entire deceit-filled play, using his cunning to annihilate Malvolio after the surly steward insults him in Act 1. By the time we get to Act 5, Malvolio has been tricked, imprisoned, and thoroughly humiliated — and even he doesn’t suspect the clown in the corner could have had anything to do with it until Feste himself confesses his part in the plot. Slytherins do love to be recognized for their cleverness, after all, but only once they’ve been assured they won’t be punished for the same.
Malvolio – Hufflepuff, with a twist
“‘Tis but fortune; all is fortune. Maria once told me she did affect me: and I have heard herself come thus near, that, should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion. Besides, she uses me with a more exalted respect than any one else that follows her. What should I think on’t?” – Act 2, Scene 5
I have a theory. I think Malvolio was accidentally sorted into Slytherin, and probably spent a year or two there before somebody figured out the mistake and transferred him to his rightful Hufflepuff home. But the damage was done. Malvolio’s time amongst the ambitious Slytherins fundamentally shaped (and warped) his worldview, and he never again felt content or comfortable simply being himself. His desperation for Olivia’s favor morphs from the Hufflepuffian hunger for professional praise into a Slytherin-tinged aspiration to marry her — not for love, but so he might become “Count Malvolio.” Perhaps he really does love Olivia for more than her status, but it’s his obsession with social-climbing that leaves him wide open to the machinations of those who would seek to use his ill-formed ambition against him.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Midsummer, in brief: Hermia and Lysander love each other; Demetrius loves Hermia, too — but he used to love Helena, who still loves him. The four lovers run away and end up lost in the woods, where Oberon and Titania (king and queen of the Fairies) are having a marital spat. Oberon and his servant, the mischievous sprite Puck, have a magical flower that can charm the eyes of any sleeping person to fall madly in love with the first thing they see upon waking, which they use to wreak havoc on everyone: Titania, the lovers, and the innocent “rude mechanicals” who have gathered in the woods to rehearse a play. Mistaken identities, interrupted rehearsals, and eventual happy endings for all ensue.
Bottom – Gyrffindor
“I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me, to fright me, if they could. But I will not stir from this place, do what they can; I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid.” – Act 3, Scene 1
Bottom is a textbook Gryffindor: he leads, loudly, in all that he does, and with very few questions asked. Even though he could play any part in any play, there’s never any question about which part he will play in Quince’s rendition of Pyramus & Thisbe: the lead. He may not be the sharpest pencil in the box, but his lack of common sense works in his favor when he finds himself alone in the woods in the middle of the night. Where a wiser person may recognize the danger and beat a hasty retreat, bully Bottom does the opposite in order to, well, do the opposite: he sings (loudly) to display his courage. When his song awakens the amorous Titania and the Fairy Queen declares not only her existence but her sudden and passionate love for him, Bottom rolls with it. In true Gryffindor style, he allows the adventure to run its course — without asking too many questions.
Hermia – Hufflepuff
“What, can you do me greater harm than hate?” – Act 3, Scene 2
Hermia loves Lysander and wants to marry him, plain and simple. But this Hufflepuff has to run a gauntlet to claim her prize, and arguably has her own good nature to blame. While Hufflepuffs are not usually plotters, Hermia and Lysander have to hatch one together in order to avoid the displeasure of Hermia’s father Egeus. Their (not very complex) plan involves running away, and they may have done so without incident if Hermia hadn’t felt the need to share the details with her best friend Helena, who spills the beans further. That’s a Hufflepuff for you: so concerned with staying loyal to those they love that they don’t always do what’s in their best interest.
Puck – Slytherin
“Then will two at once woo one:
That must needs be sport alone;
And those things do best please me
That befall preposterously.” – Act 3, Scene 2
Puck is introduced as “that shrewd and knavish sprite” who loves to play (mostly) harmless tricks on the local citizens; a sort of merry prankster. Both the pranks themselves (usually quite clever) and the desire to pull them (usually for personal enjoyment) govern Puck’s sorting into Slytherin, where the sprite is most likely to meet others with a similar desire to make mischief and a similarly… relaxed relationship to morals.
Quince – Ravenclaw
“If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.” – Act 5, Scene 1
We know from stage directions that Peter Quince’s day job is carpentry, but we really only see him in his role as amateur playwright. Quince and the other “mechanicals” who participate in the play-within-a-play of Pyramus & Thisbe may have “never labor’d in their minds till now,” as Philostrate says in Act 5, but the fact that they are laboring now is what matters. Whether Quince’s play is good or bad is beside the point. He steps outside of his intellectual comfort zone to write it (a Slytherin would never take that chance), seeks to improve it by asking for input from his collaborators — and then actually uses that input (a Gyrffindor wouldn’t bother with either), and seeks to advance the work by submitting it for inclusion in the Duke’s wedding celebration (a Hufflepuff wouldn’t have the nerve). Playwright Peter Quince may not be your typically wise and witty Ravenclaw, but the most important feature for a Ravenclaw sorting is a deep and abiding love of learning — which our friend Quince certainly has.
Titania – Hufflepuff
“His mother was a votaress of my order…
And for her sake do I rear up her boy
And for her sake I will not part with him.” – Act 2, Scene 1
Titania is one tough Hufflepuff. The Queen of the Fairies may be willing to give up much to keep the peace in the kingdom (and relationship) she shares with Oberon, but she draws the line at the “little changeling boy” he demands she hand over to his care. “Not for thy fairy kingdom,” Titania says, before leaving Oberon high and dry (and desperate) enough to plot her comeuppance. We never see the boy, but we hear enough about him to know that Titania’s love and loyalty to his late mother leave her deaf to Oberon’s commands. Yes, the King of the Fairies gets the boy eventually — but he has to drug Titania to do it. This Hufflepuff would never, ever, ever part with her adopted son willingly.