Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 823. Friday, 19 November 1993.
Date: Thursday, 18 Nov 1993 18:55:21 -0500
Subject: The Circumcised Dog
In his final speech, Othello refers to the "malignant" and "turban'd
Turk" as "the circumcised dog." I have found no commentary on why he
refers to the Turk as though he were a Jew. Even if we read "the base
[Judean]" a few lines earlier, following F1, the anomaly seems no clearer.
Now that matters of racial fracture and the representation of the
Other have begun to figure large in the criticism of the play, I
would have thought someone would have said something about this. The
Turk would not have been circumcised, historically, right? The term is
meant to be pejorative, right? Othello is a Moor, right? A Christian
Moor, then? Who, siding with the Venetian state that the Turk "traduc'd,"
sees the "dog" as generic Other, non-Christian? That's the best I can
do, and it seems rather lame.
Can anybody explain the circumcised dog, or point to an explanation in
With many thanks.