The English actor Edmund Kean chose instead to appear as a North African in light brown make-up, suggesting an African from the Mediterranean rim rather than a sub-Saharan.With the exception of Ira Aldridge, a black actor who portrayed Othello throughout northern Europe in the 19th century, the role was taken by white actors in various shades of make-up until the African-American actor Paul Robeson undertook the role in London (1930) and New York (1943).
Venice owned Cyprus from 1470 to 1569, but in 1571 Turkish forces seized the island.
Later that year an alliance of Christian powers defeated the Turk in the famous naval battle of Lepanto.
New historicist critics often debate whether or not race was a factor in early modern representations of non-English peoples.
Although Othello’s racial identity is clearly a factor in Shakespeare’s text, when the play was first performed the audience would not have seen it as squarely focussed on race as we do.
’s geopolitical impact is not limited, however, to conflicts between Venice and the Ottoman Empire.
Othello’s blackness and his background as a foreign mercenary prefigures the hybridity postcolonial theorists have identified in colonial subjects.
The dictionary also includes terms used in the theatre and stagecraft, as well as historical references and details on the Elizabethan historical and social period.
From the conjectured identity of the Dark Lady of the Sonnets to misprints in the First Folio, from Shakespeare's favorite figures of speech to the staging of Othello in South Africa, The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare offers the most comprehensive coverage available on all aspects of Shakespeare's life and works.
In Shakespeare’s time Othello was performed by Richard Burbage, a white actor who wore black make-up and a wig of black lamb’s wool.
(Burbage’s powerful cross-racial performance should not be confused with the caricatured blackface used in 19th-century minstrel shows.) Still, by the early 19th century, a truly black Othello was no longer tenable in England and America.