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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: February 2021

Chapter 7 - Experimental Othello

Summary

Focusing on the ways in which Shakespeare’s Othello defies the expectations of its early audiences, this essay argues that the play should be considered as an experiment that can offer new perspectives on race, religion, and the stage in early modern England. In almost every respect, the figure of Othello and his Venetian and Cypriot contexts are the result of Shakespearean innovation. He is the first Christian Moor on the stage; he is racialized differently; his trajectory intentionally defies the model established by the popular "Turk play." He even speaks differently from those "strangers" that had gone before. Reflecting in detail on the nature of those innovations reveals the extent to which the play was a sustained challenge to assumptions regarding race, religion, and the theatricality of difference that had hitherto dominated onstage and beyond. It was an experiment that proved enduringly influential.