One reason for the overwhelming popularity of the play throughout the ages is that it focuses on two people who defied society in order to follow their own hearts. Shakespeare scholar Walter Cohen cites the popularity of Othello during times of great rebellion and upheaval; the play was most popular during the European wars of the mid-19th century, the fall of Czarist Russia, and also during World War II in America. These productions tended to emphasize the nobility and love of Othello and Desdemona, and made their fall seem more tragic and ill-deserved.
There are four official levels of competition: local/scrimmage, regional, state, and national (Rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively). With the exception of Round 1, only the top finishers in each round advance to the next level.   California, the state with the largest Academic Decathlon, holds local scrimmages using the Round 1 tests, which are largely for practice and do not determine whether a team can compete at the regional level, which uses Round 2 tests.  In the 2008–09 season, 43 states participated in statewide Academic Decathlons,  though only 35 and an international school participated in the national competition.