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This chapter explains how and why The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race would have been nearly impossible to create thirty years ago. It traces how the volume requires scholars who know not only Shakespeare’s works, the historical and cultural milieu of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries in England and Europe, and the archives that hold the historical documents from these time periods, but also the history of imperialism, alternative archives that reveal more about the various lives of people of color in the early modern world, and the history of Shakespeare’s employment in various theatrical, educational, and political moments in history – from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first century. Post-colonial studies, African American studies, critical race studies, and queer studies allow scholars to apply new methodologies to Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race shows teachers and students how and why Shakespeare and race are inseparable. Moving well beyond Othello, the collection invites the reader to understand racialized discourses, rhetoric, and performances in all of Shakespeare's plays, including the comedies and histories. Race is presented through an intersectional approach with chapters that focus on the concepts of sexuality, lineage, nationality, and globalization. The collection helps students to grapple with the unique role performance plays in constructions of race by Shakespeare (and in Shakespearean performances), considering both historical and contemporary actors and directors. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race will be the first book that truly frames Shakespeare studies and early modern race studies for a non-specialist, student audience.