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‘More Fair Than Black’: Othellos On British Radio

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2022

Emma Smith
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

In 1933, as the BBC prepared to air its latest radio production of Othello, the critic and playwright Herbert Farjeon wrote an article for the Radio Times headlined: ‘Othello was a black man.’ In it, he states that, ‘in most present-day stage versions of the play, this all-important point is blunted. The broadcast version will enable us, if not to see, at least to imagine Othello the colour Shakespeare first painted him.’1 However, for almost another seven decades, imagining was all that audiences could do, as a succession of white actors continued to play the role. Examining the part of Othello as played on BBC radio charts the changing attitudes as to who could, and should, play him. This article will look at some of the key productions over the BBC’s 100-year history, reaction to them, and the changing attitudes to a character referred to in the text as ‘more fair than black’ (Othello, 1.3.290)

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare Survey 75
Othello
, pp. 49 - 59
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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