The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0889  Sunday, 22 April 2001

From:           Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 18 Apr 2001 18:46:08 -0700
Subject: 12.0839 Re: Black Rosalind
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0839 Re: Black Rosalind

>  >Certainly actors of all colors have played many
>>(all?) of Shakespeare's roles without disturbing audiences or critics.
>>That the author intended us to regard her as of African descent is
>>another question and one that has been rather thoroughly gone over
>I'm not so sure that interest has been exhausted.  Shakespeare & Co.
>(Lenox MA) cast a black King of Narvarre, a dark eyed but otherwise
>"white" Rosaline, and a light skinned African American actress of
>abundant classical skill as one of the other ladies.  The resultant
>cognitive dissonance at every reference to "blackness" was disturbing in
>the extreme-- there were shocked gasps from the audience at each such
>line-- but I saw no reviews in which critics found a way to talk about
>this. I have the feeling that if we could find a way, it would be very
>instructive.   Any suggestions?

I think I understand what you're asking. If a director casts a play with
a mixed race cast and that play has lines that refer to someone as
"black," you're saying that causes a break in the audience's ability to
stick with the story. It's disruptive.

I hadn't thought of that but I can see how it could happen. If I were
the director I would substitute another word. It's the story and the
poetry that are sacred (if that's the right word) not any specific word.
If a word causes a break, out it goes. Use "dark" or "bronzed" or "pale"
or whatever suits.  Shakespeare the master storyteller would certainly
not wish his play to be disrupted by something so simple to fix.

As for Shakespeare's intention when he used the word, again, all that he
meant (in most instances) was that a fair skinned character had dark
brown or black hair.

Stephanie Hughes

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