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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Islam
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0686  Friday, 21 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	Thomas Le <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 10:43:29 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0675 Shakespeare and Islam

[2] 	From: 	Imtiaz Habib <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 17:26:22 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam

[3] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 21:50:04 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam

[4] 	From: 	Brian Gatten <
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	Date: 	Friday, 21 Jul 2006 03:16:55 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: Shakespeare and Islam


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Thomas Le <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 10:43:29 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0675 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0675 Shakespeare and Islam

One of the first rules of civilized discourse is civility.

V. K.  Inman's vituperative rantings do not rise to the level of 
civilized discourse. His vitriolic opinions belong in another arena and 
should not be dignified with an answer.

Therefore, they will not be.

Thomas Le

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Imtiaz Habib <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 17:26:22 -0400
Subject: 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam

What does V.K. Inman think the terms "blackamoor" or "blackamore" mean? 
If North Africans like the Berbers are not as black as those from the 
Congo or Sierra Leone or Guinea, they ain't white. That's for sure-and 
particularly to the Elizabethans. See Purchas. A black Aaron is not 
consistently Shakespearean? Please, do your historical research before 
making such desperate assertions.

Imtiaz Habib
Associate Professor of English
Old Dominion University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Jul 2006 21:50:04 -0400
Subject: 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0681 Shakespeare and Islam

Concerning Shakespeare and Islam, no one has mentioned Othello, the 
Moor, who is characterized as a Moslem convert, another factor of his 
"otherness" within his society.

In Othello's last speech, he alludes to his own circumcision as a former 
Muslim as he notes his seizing of "the circumcised dog" in Aleppo and 
smiting him "thus." In the play, he in fact smites himself at that 
moment, being rescuer and evil perpetrator at one and the same time. As 
Florence Amit observed, even Othello's name, when parsed into syllables 
and understood as Hebrew, declares literally, "his sign of God," which 
in a Jewish-Hebrew context refers to his circumcision, which is "the 
sign of God."

Of course, there is no judgmental statement by Shakespeare here about 
Muslims, just the words of a particular man, Othello, responding to his 
unique situation marvelously in character.

David Basch

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Brian Gatten <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Jul 2006 03:16:55 -0500
Subject: 	RE: Shakespeare and Islam

V. K. Inman writes:

 >Very few North Africans are black.  Arabs tend to be
 >olive skinned and the Amazight (formerly called Berbers) who conquered
 >Spain are very light and sometimes blond.  So what is a Moor? Are modern
 >portrayals of Moors as blacks in Shakespeare consistent Shakespeare's
 >concept of Moors? And how did this idea that Moors are black come about?

Near the beginning of this thread, I posted about Nabil Matar's book 
Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, in which Matar 
suggests Elizabethans willfully conflated North Africans with 
sub-Saharan Africans in order to deal with the economic and political 
threats posed by the first group by portraying them as members of a 
group over which Britons exerted greater power.  Jack D'Amico makes a 
similar argument in The Moor in English Renaissance Drama.  Religious 
and climatological theories of race also probably played a role in the 
conflation of the terms "Moor" and "blackamoor" (for instance, I think 
it's Hakluyt who regarded Africans as being black because they were the 
non-Christian descendents of Ham).

Dympna Callaghan has an article somewhere (Alternative Shakespeares vol. 
2, possibly) in which she suggests Elizabethan stage conventions 
dictated that "Moors" were always represented by actors in blackface 
just as women were always represented by actors in whiteface.  I forget 
if she includes anyone else in her blackface claim (I'm tempted to say 
she says the same for Turks and Jews, but I may very well be wrong about 
that).  In any case, it suggests a less-than-nuanced visual 
characterization of Moors, as well as a provocative parallel with 
gendered othering.

Actors began playing Othello as a "tawny" Moor after Edmund Kean did so 
in 1814.  This was almost entirely due to blatant racism on the part of 
people like Samuel Coleridge, who couldn't imagine Shakespeare allowing 
Desdemona to kiss a black man.  A.C. Bradley neatly dismisses (I think) 
their arguments for the light-skinned Moor in Shakespearean Tragedy: 
Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.

So basically, the Elizabethans' practice of portraying Moors as 
dark-skinned was sort of proto-racist, and the 19th century's practice 
of playing them as Arabs was full-blown racism.  Pick your poison, I guess.

Incidentally, the Star Trek captain Othello Inman was thinking of was 
Patrick Stewart.  I suppose it's possible he played the role more than 
once, but he did not wear dark makeup in the production I'm familiar 
with (in Washington D.C. in 1997).  In that production, directed by Jude 
Kelly, Stewart's Othello was white, and all the other roles were played 
by black actors.

-Brian Gatten

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