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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Othello's Name
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2371  Wednesday, 17 October 2001

From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Oct 2001 17:38:56 +0100
Subject:        Othello's Name

In conversation once the subject of where Othello's name came from and
what it might mean (if anything) arose.

I have always harboured a pet theory that it is an Italilanized version
of Ottoman/Othoman/Othman, and that the play might be capitalizing on
contemporary interest in the Turkish empire following the publication of
Knolles's Generall Historie of the Turkes... to the rising of the
Othoman Familie (1603).

This would suggest some interesting perspectives on aliens, alienation,
racism, miscegenation and national loyalty, if we see Othello as a sort
of Italo-Turk fighting against Turks. I gather that the term "Turk"
could refer to just about anyone without a white skin in WS's day...

I've never followed this up myself, although at a conference in Reading
earlier this year I did mention it to Mark Hutchings of the University
of Aberdeen, who is working on a study of "the image of the Turk in
early modern England". That did not come to much, though...

Any thoughts?

Martin S.

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