Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 19.34 (William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare, William

I read this in high school and also in college. I don't think I have read it since.

One thing I remember about the way this was taught has to do with the discussion of race. All of my teachers seemed uncomfortable talking about Othello's blackness. They seemed to want to de-emphasize it or not talk about it at all. They certainly didn't want to talk about racism as a driver of the plot in a play, who had more "important" things to write about.

The most common way to do this was to focus on his being a Moor, meaning an Arab, meaning he wasn't necessarily "black," just "dark," the implication being that we should not read the play in terms of race or racism but should instead focus on the more universal theme of jealousy as a tragic flaw in a king.

It always felt like they were on a mission to resist discussions of contemporary racial issues while reading a renaissance play. As if the worst thing that could happen in an educational setting was for a concept to descend from the plane of abstraction into the abyss of the real.

The irony of course was that when we stepped across the hall into our religion or history classes, these same Moors were depicted as barbaric hordes that overran the pure, gentle, innocent Catholics of Spain, besmirching them with Islam, yet bequeathing a lovely style of architecture.

I wonder what they teach about the Moors after 9/11?

from Othello


Even now, now, very now, an old black ramIs tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise;Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.Arise I say! 

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