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This content is taken from the University of Birmingham & Royal Shakespeare Company's online course, Othello: In Performance. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Welcome back to the second week of Othello in performance. Leading this week, Dr. Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will be exploring the much debated issue of race in the play. Othello’s notable among Shakespeare’s plays for many reasons, but not least, because the eponymous character Othello is identified as the Moor of Venice. As a result, race and the treatment of race has become one of the most controversial and discussed topics surrounding the play.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds This week, Nick will be specifically looking at critical responses to the issue of race, the ways in which the play has been received by audiences and critics throughout history, then the contextually impact on Shakespeare’s writing, how his own society’s views on race must have influenced the play’s content, the language that is used about race, and the different ways of interpreting the play’s representation of it. And lastly, the treatment of this particular theme in the RSC’s current production, specifically looking at act one, scene one with director Iqbal Khan and the acting company. So as you work through this week, consider the questions Nick puts forward.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds Why do you think the question of whether this is a racist play or a play about race has become so frequently asked? And more interestingly, what are your views on the answers to those questions? Please don’t forget to get involved in the discussion boards, and let us know what you think. I hope you enjoy discovering more about the different perspectives on the play’s content and treatment of racial difference, and I look forward to joining you, again, in a week’s time.


Over the week Dr Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will be asking questions about Shakespeare’s motivations and intentions, critical perspectives and the language itself.

You will also get the chance to take a closer look at the representation of race in Act 1 Scene 1, with insights from the RSC 2015 acting company and director Iqbal Khan.

Before continuing with the week you may want to take a look at the following:

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This video is from the free online course:

Othello: In Performance

University of Birmingham