Othello in History
This module offers students the opportunity to study one of Shakespeare's earliest Jacobean tragedies in depth, in its own time, in its afterlife, and from a number of discursive points of view. It reads Othello through the topics that concern the play: race, gender, masculinity, 'civility' versus the 'wheeling stranger', female duty, gossip. Locating Othello in history, it begins by looking at Venice -- in the person of Carlo Giovanni Scaramelli, senior civil servant and secretary to the Venetian Senate -- in London in January 1603 and speculates on the nexus of persons and ideas that provide a possible backstory to the play. It goes on to read Shakespeare's source in Giraldo Cinzio and to consider a map, to plot the play's geographic co-ordinates in locations burdened with significance for early modernity. Thereafter it thinks about early modern forms of narrative: the traveller's tale, the personal history, the cultural documentary, slander. In the final seminars, we re-historicise Othello by looking at some examples of what has been made of Shakespeare's play since its first performance in 1604.