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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Islam
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0692  Monday, 24 July 2006

[1] 	From: 	V. K. Inman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 21 Jul 2006 12:23:01 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

[2] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Friday, 21 Jul 2006 17:31:06 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

[3] 	From: 	Holger Schott Syme <
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	Date: 	Friday, 21 Jul 2006 19:07:10 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

[4] 	From: 	Bruce Young <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 22 Jul 2006 20:06:33 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		V. K. Inman <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Jul 2006 12:23:01 -0400
Subject: 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

Imtiaz Habib writes,

 >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.

V. K.: I have seen Amazight in Morocco who were whiter than Shakespeare 
in his alleged paintings. Some also have blond hair and blue eyes-pretty 
white! And it is not from European intermarriage-these are isolated 
villages that are remote. This is called field research.

 >That's for sure-and
 >particularly to the Elizabethans.

V. K.: Who had never seen them--that's the point. Where does the idea 
come from!

 >See Purchas. A black Aaron is not
 >consistently Shakespearean? Please, do your historical research before
 >making such desperate assertions.

I have--and I don't see where I said that a black Aaron was not 
consistently Shakespearean--I asked a question.

David Basch and Brian Gatten made what I think are useful comments.

 >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.

The production I am referring to was a different production which I saw 
on DVD, but I can't identify the exact production. It may have not been 
Othello but another Moor in another play.

--V. K. Inman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Jul 2006 17:31:06 +0000
Subject: 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

V. K. Inman asks:

 >So what is a Moor? Are modernportrayals of Moors as blacks in 
Shakespeare consistent
 >[with] Shakespeare'sconcept of Moors? And how did this idea that Moors 
are black come
 >about?

Talmudic and Midrashic sources inculpated Noah's lustful devilish son 
Ham or Cham as behind it all, trying to get a jump on his brothers. 
Sound familiar?

But let George Best (c.1578) tell the tale on how Noah's three sons

"who all three being whiote, and their wives also, by course of nature 
shopuld have begotten and brought foorth white children. But the envie 
of our great and continuall enemie the wicked Spirite is such, that as 
hee coulde not suffer our old father Adam to in the felicitie amd 
Angelike state wherein hee was first created, but tempting him, sought 
and procured his ruine and fall: so again, finding at this flood none 
but a father and three sonnes living, hee so caused one of them to 
transgresse and disobey his father's commaundement, that after him all 
his posteritie shoulde bee accursed. The fact of disobedience was this: 
When Noe all the commandment of God had made the Arke and entered 
therein...he straitely commaunded his sonnes and therir wives, that 
they...should use continencie, and abstaine from carnall copulation with 
their wives...Which good instructions and exhortations notwithstanding, 
his wicked sonne Cham disobewyed, and being perswaded that the first 
chile born after the flood (by right and Lawe of nature) should inherite 
and possesse all the dominions of the earth, hee contrary to his fathers 
commandment while they were yet in the Arke, used company with his wife, 
amd craftily went about thereby to dis-inherite the off-spring of his 
other two brethren: for the which wicked and detestable fact, as an 
example for contempt of Almightie God, and disobedience of parents, God 
would a sonne should bee borne whose name was Chus [a source for 
Shylock's companion?], who not only it self, but all his posteritie 
after him should be so blacke and lothsome, that it might reamaine a 
spectacle of disobedience to all the worlde. And of this blacke and 
cursed Chus came all these blacke Moores which are in Africa." [Best, 
DISCOURSE (1578); reprinted in Hakluyt (1600)]

Hence Ham's Cushite black progeny are entitled by primogeniture to all 
the world's estate. Some reparations bill!

The black "Ethiop" and "Blackamoor" were often conflated in the 
Renaissance mind and on the Renaiisance stage. Their "hideous" and 
monstrous darkness extended in word and art to a host of Others such as 
Jews, aliens, heretics, infidels and savages in general, bastards, lower 
class poor, loose women, witches and their Satanic sponsors--in short 
any group allegedly threatening the ordained rule of fair Christian 
nobility and their legitimating clergy.

For more info, check out:

--Africanus, Leo (1526) HISTORIE OF AFRICA.

--Bartels, Emily (1990) "Making More of the Moor".

--Chandler, Wayne B. (1985) "The Moor: Light of Europe's Dark Age".

--Cowhig, Ruth (1985) "Blacks in English Renaissance Drama..."

--D'Amico, Jack (1991) THE MOOR IN ENGLISH RENAISSANCE DRAMA.

--Grady, Hugh (1996) SHAKESPEARE'S UNIVERSAL WOLF (chap.3).

--Hendricks, Margo and Patricia Parker (eds.) (1994) WOMEN, RACE AND 
WRITING....

--Hunter, G.K. (1967) "OTHELLO and Colour Prejudice".

--Jones, Eldred (1965) OTHELLO'S COUNTRYMEN.

--Jordan, Winthrop (1968) WHITE OVER BLACK.

--Loomba, Ania (1989) GENDER, RACE, RENAISSANCE DRAMA.

--Neill, Michael (1989) "Unproper Beds".

--Newman, Karen (1987) " And Wash the Ethiop White".

--Orkin, Martin (1987) "Othello and the Plain Face of Racism".

--Snowden, Frank (1983) BEFORE COLOR PREJUDICE.

--Tokson, Elliott (1982) THE POPULAR IMAGE OF THE BLACK MAN IN ENGLISH 
DRAMA 1550-1688.

Enjoy,
Joe Egert

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Holger Schott Syme <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Jul 2006 19:07:10 -0400
Subject: 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

David Basch writes, "no one has mentioned Othello, the Moor, who is 
characterized as a Moslem convert." That is incorrect. The text notably 
and crucially leaves the question of Othello's pre-conversion religion 
open -- see Julia Reinhard Lupton's work on this issue (in 
_Representations_ in 1997 and now in her most recent book, _Citizen- 
Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology_ (Chicago, 2005).

Holger Syme

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Saturday, 22 Jul 2006 20:06:33 -0600
Subject: 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0686 Shakespeare and Islam

This thread has recently discussed everything from what Elizabethans 
understood by the word "Moor" to how Shakespeare's Moors (Othello 
especially) have been portrayed on stage over the past 400 years.

On the first question, though the OED is not infallible, it's a good 
place to start.  The OED "Moor" entry indicates that during the Middle 
Ages and Renaissance the word had several basic meanings: an inhabitant 
of North Africa (the word itself derives from "Mauretania"), a Muslim, 
an inhabitant of Africa generally, and (as an adjective) "dark brown" or 
"black" (and therefore "dark skinned").

The entry asserts: "In the Middle Ages, and as late as the 17th cent., 
the Moors were widely supposed to be mostly black or very dark-skinned, 
although the existence of 'white Moors' was recognized (see quot. 1547). 
Thus the term was often used, even into the 20th cent., with the sense 
'black person.'"

One revealing detail in the entry is the adjectival phrase 
"Moor-lipped," with the following quotation: 1639 P. MASSINGER 
Unnaturall Combat IV.i.87 "Moore lip'd, flat nos'd, dimme ey'd." This 
parallels Roderigo's phrase "thick lips" (Othello 1.1.66) and other 
indications that Othello has features we might associate with blacks of 
sub-Saharan Africa; yet at the same time other details in the play 
suggest Othello is North African and possibly a former Muslim who has 
converted to Christianity.  As others have said, distinctions we 
normally make were probably blurred in Shakespeare's time.

Brian Gatten refers to Hakluyt as transmitting one tradition about the 
origin of Africans' blackness.  But the tradition (about descent from 
Ham) goes back much earlier, at least to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim 
commentators of the Middle Ages--as was pointed out by Ania Loomba in a 
remarkable address at the World Shakespeare Congress that just finished 
in Brisbane.  That address, which I hope will be published in the 
proceedings or otherwise made available, covers very broad ground but 
among other things bears on the issue of early modern racial attitudes 
and their precedents.

Gary Taylor adds further interesting twists to the topic in his book 
"Buying Whiteness: Race, Culture, and Identity from Columbus to 
Hip-Hop."  Among other things he says Shakespeare's contemporaries were 
only just beginning (Taylor dates the change to 1613) to see themselves 
as racially "white."  His argument is briefly summarized on the 
following site:  http://dialog.ua.edu/dialog20050221/white20050221.html

Bruce Young

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