White screen, black masks : Othello and the performativity of race on stage and screen
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This thesis attempts to expose stereotypologies of black African skin as performed on the Shakespearean stage and before the Shakespearean camera. My research engages with a number of Tudor/Stuart travel narratives and plays containing imperialistic denigrations of Negritude. To accompany these early revelations of the 'unknown' black Other, I effect a close performative and historical consideration of Shakespeare's Othello (1602). By critiquing the repetitive containment of the character of Othello, the Moor, by successive theatrical ideologies, I work towards a full analysis of his twentieth-century representation on film. Here, through positioning myself within contextual, postcolonial, and methodological discourses surrounding representations of Othello by Orson Welles (1952), Stuart Burge (1965), and five other directors from 1981 to the present day, I confirm and analyse the politicisation of both genuine and masked blackness. In asserting that Welles's ninety-minute statement is powerfully emancipated from white ideological constraint, I nonetheless conclude that the Elizabethan and Jacobean tropes employed in dramatic formulations of black skin retain powerful visual significance within the contemporary film industries that interpret Shakespeare's Moor of Venice.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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