Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2007
All Shakespeare criticism is irrepressibly local. As recent literary theory has insisted, we can't help but read or play him in ways that inevitably expose our own positions – ideological, historical, geographical – whether we like it or not. Some criticism likes it a great deal and, responding to the metacritical impulse of our times, self-consciously, not to say cathartically, examines the myriad ways Shakespeare's texts take on the camouflage of the cultures in which they find themselves. An omnibus case in point is Celia R. Daileader's street-smart, provocative, sometimes infuriating book, Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee, which traces the career of the Othello story in a series of local reworkings of it, from a vulgar recension by Thomas Dekker in the seventeenth century, Lust's Dominion; or, The Lascivious Queen, to Spike Lee's movies in the twentieth which, comfortably in the Dekker tradition, celebrate the machinations of 'snaky white women'. He and before him other writers such as Aphra Behn in her tragedy Abdelazar (1676) and her novella Oroonoko; or, the Royal Slave (1688), Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley in Frankenstein, James Fennimore Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans (1826), Emily Brontë in Wuthering Heights, Bram Stoker in Dracula, Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind – all are mesmerized by what Daileader calls the 'siren-song of Othellophilia', doomed, like Coleridge's mariner, to retell a version of the same story of inter-racial or inter-cultural tragic love.