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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
A Titus Tangent of Tone
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0072  Wednesday, 6 February 2008

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Monday, 04 Feb 2008 23:37:34 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone

[2] 	From:	Kristen McDermott <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 07:57:52 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone

[3] 	From:	Patrick Dolan Jr. <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 07:11:38 -0600
	Subj:	A Titus Tangent of Tone

[4] 	From:	John Briggs <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 13:21:52 -0000
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Monday, 04 Feb 2008 23:37:34 -0500
Subject: 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone

 >Schoolchildren who studied Latin and Roman history would
 >have been taught of the great Roman hero Scipio Africanus,
 >who was so called because of the color of his skin.

I suppose school children might have been told such a thing. After all, 
some teachers today tell their charges that Cleopatra VII Ptolomy was a 
black African.

In fact, of course, Scipio was awarded the agnomen Africanus as a 
triumphal mark when he returned to Rome after defeating Hannibal at 
Carthage.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Kristen  McDermott <
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Date:		Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 07:57:52 -0500
Subject: 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone

Joe Egert notes:

 >And Satanic as well. When Emilia begrimes, not Iago's, but
 >Desdemona's union with Othello as a "most filthy bargain,"
 >I believe this is sermon code for devil's compact. Has any
 >editor noted this?

Indeed, Othello is described in the language for a medieval stage devil 
in the same way Iago shares qualities with the medieval Vice. However, 
an even more interesting interpretation of Othello's symbolic blackness 
is Robert Hornback's "Emblems of Folly in the First Othello: Renaissance 
Blackface, Moor's Coat, and 'Muckender'," Comparative Drama 35.1 (2001): 
69-99. He argues persuasively that blackface was equally associated with 
stage fools as with devils-very interesting stuff.

Kris McDermott
Central Michigan University

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Patrick Dolan Jr. <
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Date:		Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 07:11:38 -0600
Subject:	A Titus Tangent of Tone

Two points:

1. Unless I've missed something, Aaron was originally played by an 
English male. The question isn't so much whether he's played by a man 
whose skin is dark, as whether he's played as black, whatever black 
meant to an Elizabethan audience and means to today's.

2. And the latter point is the problem. Whatever a black, African or 
Moorish male character meant to a Tudor audience, he/she didn't mean 
several centuries of international chattel slavery, the colonial 
devastation of Africa, a fully articulated pseudo-science of race that 
persists to this day, the U.S. Civil War, Frederick Douglass, M.L. King 
Jr., Michael Jordan, Denzel Washington, O.J. Simpson, the U.S. discourse 
on "the war on drugs," and Kofi Annan.

For me, at least, the changes in audience over the last several 
centuries give the people who put on the play wide latitude to adjust, 
depending on their purposes. If their purpose is to put on 
"Shakespeare's play" as "originally conceived by the playwright," then 
boy actors for the women, no dental work for any of the cast, the play 
gets put on outside in daylight, and Aaron's blackness gets full 
emphasis. Any other purpose seems to me to involve balance and choice.

The upshot is that Aaron's blackness may be an important signifier, but 
the signified has so radically changed for any audience today that 
directors have to make choices for today's audience.

Cheers,
Pat

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Briggs <
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Date:		Tuesday, 5 Feb 2008 13:21:52 -0000
Subject: 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0064 A Titus Tangent of Tone

Dan Venning wrote:

 >Schoolchildren who studied Latin and Roman history would have been
 >taught of the great Roman hero Scipio Africanus, who was so called
 >because of the color of his skin.

One hopes that even Elizabethan schoolchildren wouldn't have committed 
such a howler. Those with a classical education (and what other type of 
education was there?) would have known that Scipio received the agnomen 
"Africanus" as an honour commemorating his victory over Hannibal. 
[Perhaps I need to point out that Carthage is in North Africa...] Now, 
what colour was Hannibal's skin might (or might not) be a relevant 
question in this context... Dan Venning was probably misled by "Scipio 
Africanus" being a name 'jocularly' bestowed on slaves in the 18th or 
19th centuries.

John Briggs

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