The Metropolitan opera only just stopped using blackface performers. Yes! White dudes were blacking up to play Othello until 2015 and still things needed to be explained to them.
In Shakespeare's time, though—before the Atlantic slave trade, before imperialism, before Jim Crow, before civil rights, before inconsiderate cosplay—blackness was different. Why, then, was Othello black?
To us today, the word “black” carries with it a specific cluster of associations informed by history, culture, stereotypes, and literature. Othello may have started in conversation with Shakespeare’s definition of blackness, but today, he speaks with ours.
A much more interesting question, really, is: Why is Othello black? Why did Shakespeare write a domestic tragedy about jealousy, and make the husband a Moor? Is Othello’s race a canard, or is it the key to unlocking the play’s deeper meanings?
Would you believe the answer to all of this might involve pirates?
The key, Isaac Butler relates, is to consider that to renaissance Englishfolk, "Moorish" would have been inextricably tied into religion: Othello is a converted Muslim, and his tragedy, then, is possibly one of failed assimilation and acculturation.
New York City’s famous Shakespeare in the Park lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from Delta Airlines and Bank of America after conservatives complained that Caesar character is modeled after Trump. In the play, Caesar is assassinated, . From Vulture: While responding to customer complaints on Sunday, the airline tweeted, “No matter what […]
This illustrated flowchart makes it easy to pick an evening out with the Bard.
William Lashner’s The Four-Night Run is available from Amazon. To her opponents Hillary Clinton is Lady Macbeth, raging within the corridors of the power, hoarding wealth, punishing her enemies, ever plotting to gain the throne, crying “Out, damned spot!” as she futilely tries to wipe the blood of Vince Foster from her wretched hands. To […]
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