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  • Cited by 1
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2023
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Book description

Examining the racially white 'others' whom Shakespeare creates in characters like Richard III, Hamlet and Tamora – figures who are never quite 'white enough' – this bold and compelling work emphasises how such classification perpetuates anti-Blackness and re-affirms white supremacy. David Sterling Brown offers nothing less here than a wholesale deconstruction of whiteness in Shakespeare's plays, arguing that the 'white other' was a racialized category already in formation during the Elizabethan era – and also one to which Shakespeare was himself a crucial contributor. In exploring Shakespeare's determinative role and strategic investment in identity politics (while drawing powerfully on his own life experiences, including adolescence), the author argues that even as Shakespearean theatrical texts functioned as engines of white identity formation, they expose the illusion of white racial solidarity. This essential contribution to Shakespeare studies, critical whiteness studies and critical race studies is an authoritative, urgent dismantling of dramatized racial profiling.


‘Brown's much needed study powerfully and persuasively demonstrates how the policing of whiteness within Shakespeare's plays recruits and reproduces antiblackness at the heart of early modern English culture.'

Patricia Akhimie - Director, Folger Institute, Folger Shakespeare Library

‘Premodern critical race studies is the most significant call to action for all Shakespeareans right now. David Sterling Brown's intervention is timely, unflinching, and provocative. It advances the field by bringing forward the figure of the white other, and draws together critical, personal and experiential modes of reading.'

Emma Smith - Professor of Shakespeare Studies, University of Oxford

‘Shakespeare's White Others is stunning in its readings of plays from Macbeth to The Comedy of Errors with respect to the ‘intraracial color line' and in the connections it makes to the deadly serious issue of racism. After Brown's book, no analysis of any of Shakespeare's plays will be able to efface race as a category of analysis.'

Bernadette Andrea - Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara and 2022-23 President of the Shakespeare Association of America

‘David Sterling Brown's precise scholarship is infused with unapologizing emotion - emotion, and scholarship, both rooted as they are in his Black humanity. Brown's articulate and adamant voice is the sound of indomitability shouting through the subterfuge.'

Keith Hamilton Cobb - actor and playwright, American Moor

‘A remarkable work of scholarship by David Sterling Brown, Shakespeare's White Others is an in-depth examination of intraracial dynamics in Shakespeare's work that brilliantly articulates – and offers meaningful correctives – to historical practices. Dr. Brown audaciously illuminates the theatrical possibilities that emerge from a nuanced exploration of Shakespeare's infinite variety.'

Simon Godwin - Artistic Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, DC

‘With Shakespeare's White Others, David Sterling Brown engages racial whiteness and provokes interdisciplinary dialogue through his rhetorically accessible ‘critical-personal-experiential' style. The book's unexpected final words, documenting Brown's own racial profiling experience, anticipate the depths of this brilliantly bold Shakespearean discourse that seamlessly blends genres while reimagining the scholarly monograph mode.'

Claudia Rankine

‘David Sterling Brown takes us into the racial impact of an individual regarded by many as the greatest writer in the English language. In part, this praise is a result of William Shakespeare’s contribution to racial thought. In Shakespeare’s White Others we are presented with an outstanding contribution to understanding the logic of whiteness. Shakespearean reference to ‘white others’ helped foster the racial reasoning used to promote enslavement and colonialism. This work is essential and insightful reading for those interested in the invention of racism in modern literature and more generally in modern society.’

Tukufu Zuberi - Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations, University of Pennsylvania

‘Maintaining that tensions between white characters are themselves racial conflicts, this paradigm-changing book establishes that all of Shakespeare’s plays are about race. Rather than understand early modern race in binary terms, Shakespeare’s White Others attends to the intraracial color line to reveal that whiteness is not an inalienable property, but rather an unstable commodity that is policed and confiscated through the deployment of anti-Black racism and white supremacy.’

Melissa E. Sanchez - Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

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