Loose lips sink ships. A careless word...another cross. Someone talked. Careless talk costs lives. The famous and infamous propaganda posters of World War II.

Or as Shakespeare put it, "Words, words, words." Their power is unparalleled by the worst weapons of this or any other century: they can ennoble us, enlighten us, ensnare us, bind us, destroy us. One of the unnerving universalities of the Second World War was the paranoia that surrounded that power, represented by the boldly colored and highly idealized propaganda posters cranked out en masse by both Axis and Allied nations. At no point in history was there a stronger or more bitter awareness of the power of words to wreak havoc and destruction.

Words are the pivotal hinge of the passionate relationship between Othello and Desdemona, at once its foundation and its destruction. He won her with his words, his fiercely romantic stories of battle and adventure in distant and exotic lands. He has no fear of her father's retribution, in part because of his ability to spellbind with words; Othello is a poet unrivaled even by Hamlet within the canon of Shakespeare, an oratory enchanter of Prospero's power. Othello is the embodiment of the creative and ennobling force of words, and the adventurous Desdemona is swept away on that irresistible tide.

Othello's foil, counterpoint and secret nemesis is Iago, whose own considerable power with words runs entirely to their destructive aspect. What Othello builds, Iago destroys with a carefully spun web of lies; Cassio and Desdemona, cultivated and raised by Othello, are cast down by nothing more substantial than the power of words. Iago's words. Their own, used against them with demonic malice and exquisite expertise. And when Iago's swath of destruction is completed, he is finally and completely done with words: "Demand me nothing," he defies Othello with his final speech. "What you know, you know; from this time forth I never will speak word." Words, having availed him to the utmost, are finally discarded like broken toys. The painted horror of the World War II propaganda posters has been met and exceeded.

Welcome to our mix of Shakespeare and Sinatra, an Othello re-imagined in April 1945, one month before the fall of Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Salo Republic. An Othello with a twist of the feminist, where the male characters are strongly defined by how they relate to women. By that standard, Lodovico, Montano and the Duke shine with nobility, Desdemona's father has deeply unsettling elements of incest to his paternal caring, and Iago has complicating moments of insight into the plight of women that occasionally render him a less than complete villain. And Othello and Cassio, who both use and abuse women and have an undeniable common streak of misogyny, are tarnished and imperfect heroes. As for the women themselves, strong, savvy and spirited as they are, they can't escape the fate of Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Miss Julie or most of the great, society-defying women of world literature. The universal answer for women who attempt to free themselves seems to be destruction and violent death.