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Recent readings of 'Othello'.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Kate Newey
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1998
<mark>Journal</mark>Sydney Studies in English
Issue number1
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In her survey of current attitudes towards Shakespeare in the American theatre, Felicia Hardison Londré argues that Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All’s Well that Ends Well have been replaced as problem plays in the Shakespearean canon by The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello. These three plays focus attention on late twentieth-century anxieties about gender, race, and ethnicity, and have provoked some heated discussions in rehearsal rooms, theatre reviews, and scholarly conferences and publications in the last decade. Londré goes on to argue that from her survey of American theatre directors, Othello is seen as the least problematic of these ‘politically incorrect’ plays, since Paul Robeson’s performance as Othello in 1943 ‘initiated the gradual process of transferring ownership of the role from white actors in blackface to black actors’ (p. 87). Although Londré concludes that the ‘racial make-up of the cast does not appear today to be a significant factor in the designation of Othello as a problem play,’ the difficulties of Othello for scholars are still felt acutely, and have produced a range of critical responses since the mid-1980s which in many ways chart the significant changes in Shakespearean scholarship in that time. Indeed, the distance between theatre professionals’ and scholars’ attitudes to the racial politics of Othello is typical of a broader distance between the practices of the theatre and the academy.