Greener Journal of Art and Humanities Vol. 1 (1), pp. 001-010, December 2011
The Culture of Othering: An Interrogation of Shakespeare's Handling of Race and Ethnicity in the Merchant of Venice and Othello
Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
This paper examines Shakespeare's handling of the issue of race in The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Race and ethnicity have been at the epicentre of many conflicts throughout history and are still a headache even in 21st century societies that boast of unprecedented technological advancement and sophisticated lifestyles. Shakespeare has been used as a touchstone in many literary communities --playwrights and poets have been measured against his writings and the academic diets of pupils and students alike in many countries have always included a dish from the 'Chief Chef', Shakespeare. There is no doubt that his works entertained as well as educated many, his contemporaries as well as later generations across cultures but did the curriculum content of his education always inculcate virtue? Wasn't the entertainment at the expense of certain individuals because of their background? Through close reference to the plays The Merchant of Venice and Othello, this paper argues that the revered artist was racially intolerant and his writings may have influenced or helped to perpetuate racism and religious bigotry which was evident in The Slave Trade, Colonialism and the persecution of Jews in Germany. Some of his works therefore not only entertain(ed) and instruct(ed) but also misentertain(ed) and misinstruct(ed).
Keywords: Culture, Race, Ethnicity, Shakespeare
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