THIS is a jealousy like no other, one that spreads ever wider in the manner of a loathsome stain, contaminating all who are touched by it.

Othello has everything. He is held in high regard by the rulers of Venice, the most powerful city in the Mediterranean, adored by his soldiers, and is married to the most desirable woman in the kingdom.

However, he is a Moor… and therefore an outsider in a world where petty resentments can smoulder before eventually bursting into conflagrations capable of consuming victim and perpetrator alike.

But his particular flame burns with an unrivalled brilliance and so there is no shortage of plotters now seeking to quench it. And the man who sets out to bring Othello down is none other than his ensign Iago, who – like the Judas of old – swears his loyalty while at the same time plotting his captain’s ruination.

The rank of ensign is traditionally awarded to the bravest and most loyal of soldiers. Iago is therefore the last man that Othello would suspect… The stage at Stratford is completely dominated by the two protagonists in this Royal Shakespeare Company production, Hugh Quarshie cutting a fine figure as our doomed warrior hero, and Lucian Msamati as his brooding nemesis.

This is the age-old story of our most destructive emotion, one that defies both time and place, and one that can be observed today in any boardroom, office or factory. It is therefore depressingly familiar to us all.

Slowly and relentlessly, employing all the skills of the consummate schemer, Iago weaves a wickedly intricate web that will snare both the innocent and the guilty, with scant regard for the inevitable outcome.

Consequently, Desdemona (Joanna Vanderham) realises too late that she may have flitted her mayfly progress around the lofty halls of polite Venetian society once too often and become caught in the tangle that the duplicitous Iago has created.

Meanwhile, Cassio (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) may be very much the young pretender to the throne, but the red mist that has descended over Othello’s eyes have blinded him to the fact that he could never, ever have been cuckolded by such a man.

Brian Protheroe’s spirited portrayal of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, was particularly powerful. Like countless fathers down the ages, he stubbornly refuses to accept the man his daughter has chosen.

Brilliant general he may be, but at the end of the day Othello is a Moor, a black man, and this is a hurdle that the racially prejudiced Venetian establishment cannot surmount, regardless of his many other attributes.

Elsewhere we find the pathetic Roderigo (James Corrigan) hovering like some squirming insect larva in the margins of the pond, a would-be suitor of Desdemona’s, but basically a man who has quite obviously taken the art of self-delusion to stratospheric new heights.

Iqbal Khan’s knife-edge style of direction depicts a large amount of shockingly convincing violence and Guantanamo Bay-style torture, featuring power drills, blow torches and the infamous water-boarding interrogation technique.

Regardless of some of the scenes’ questionable relevance to the plot, Kevin McCurdy’s grimly superb talent for fight arranging brought gasps of surprise and perhaps even horror from the audience.

Nevertheless, it is precisely this brutal and confrontational technique which serves to remind us that one of the central themes of William Shakespeare’s great tragedy is how the forces of evil will indeed spread like a cancer if allowed to continue unchallenged and unchecked.

And it is this sobering reflection that may well be uppermost in the mind of the observer long after the curtain has fallen on what is a truly dark and cautionary tale.

Othello runs until August 28.