Divergent Portrayals of the Other in Titus Andronicus and Othello

Whitehead, Jasmin, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kinney, Clare, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

In the early modern period, the word “Moor” offers a vague representation of people who originate from Northwest Africa, and in the 16th and 17th centuries, many writers represented “Moorish” people as emphatically “Other.” In Shakespeare’s plays, Othello and Titus Andronicus, he takes two different turns at depicting “the Moor”; while Othello and Aaron are both portrayed as culturally other, the striking differences in their character development allows his relatively open-minded portrayal of “Moors” to be a fluid rather than a definitive representation. Othello is a noble tragic protagonist; Aaron is an evildoer who is linked to other evildoers. My project will explore their different portrayals within two very different dramatic settings, putting their representation in conversation with 16th and 17th century notions of race and suggesting that Shakespeare does not offer one single account of “Moorishness.” In the books, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race by Ayanna Thompson and Shakespeare and Race by Catherine Alexander and Stanley Wells, there are various essays by Matthew Dimmock, Noémie Ndiaye, Adrian Lester, and Margo Hendricks that critique the character depictions of Aaron and Othello and how their Moorish background entangles them with the notions of their time, with Othello being experimental and Titus Andronicus combining race with globalization.

MA (Master of Arts)
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