Thursday, October 27, 2016

Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Othello

"Can we imagine him (Shakespeare) so utterly ignorant as to make a barbarous negro plead royal birth, -- at a time, too, when negroes were not known except as slaves? . . . Besides, if we could in good earnest believe Shakespeare ignorant of the distinction (between a Moor and a 'negro'), still why should we adopt one disagreeable possibility instead of ten times greater and more pleasing probability? It is a common error to mistake epithets applied to dramatis personae to each other as truly descriptive of what the audience ought to see or know. No doubt Desdemona saw Othello's visage in his mind: yet, as we are constituted, and most surely as an English audience was disposed in the beginning of the seventeenth century, it would be something monstrous to conceive this beautiful Venetian girl falling in love with a veritable negro. It would argue a disproportionateness, a want of balance, in Desdemona, which Shakespeare does not appear to have in the least contemplated."

-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Notes on Some Other Plays of Shakespeare, section IV" (1818)

"Moor," n.2, Oxford English Dictionary

"A native or inhabitant of ancient Mauretania, a region of North Africa corresponding to parts of present-day Morocco and Algeria. Later usually: a member of a Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arab descent inhabiting north-western Africa  (now mainly present-day Mauritania), who in the 8th century conquered Spain. In the Middle Ages, and as late as the 17th century, the Moors were widely supposed to be mostly black or very dark-skinned, although the existence of 'white Moors' was recognized. Thus the term was often used, even into the 20th century, with the sense of 'black person'."

Othello: Some Sources

Leo Africanus, A Geographical Historie of Africa (London, 1600)

Pliny the Elder, The Historie of the World (London, 1601)

John Mandeville, The Voyages and Travailes of Sor John Maundevile (London, 1582)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guest Lecture: Dr. Farah Karim-Cooper, Head of Research and Education at Shakespeare's Globe

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend this important guest lecture which connects nicely with the work we do in this course. Also, if you email me a short response to the lecture which connects it in some way to one of the pays we're studying (a short paragraph will do), I'll give you .25 extra credit on your Research Essay.

"Gesture and Shakespeare's Somatic Theatre"
Friday, November 18, 2016
1:15 PM -- Anthropole 5196

Dr. Farah Karim Cooper
Head of Research and Education
Shakespeare's Globe, London

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Gasparo Contarini, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, trans. Lewes Lewkenor (1599)

Link to the book on EEBO here. This is just one of several English Renaissance texts that participated in the creation of a "myth of Venice."


"The word ‘cosmopolitan’, which derives from the Greek word kosmopolit√™s (‘citizen of the world’), has been used to describe a wide variety of important views in moral and socio-political philosophy. The nebulous core shared by all cosmopolitan views is the idea that all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation, are (or can and should be) citizens in a single community. Different versions of cosmopolitanism envision this community in different ways, some focusing on political institutions, others on moral norms or relationships, and still others focusing on shared markets or forms of cultural expression. In most versions of cosmopolitanism, the universal community of world citizens functions as a positive ideal to be cultivated, but a few versions exist in which it serves primarily as a ground for denying the existence of special obligations to local forms of political organizations. Versions of cosmopolitanism also vary depending on the notion of citizenship they employ, including whether they use the notion of 'world citizenship' literally or metaphorically. The philosophical interest in cosmopolitanism lies in its challenge to commonly recognized attachments to fellow-citizens, the local state, parochially shared cultures, and the like."

Kleingeld, Pauline and Brown, Eric, "Cosmopolitanism," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL:>

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Research Paper Guidelines

Due: Friday, December 23.
Submission guidelines: Submit by email before midnight ( The essay should be in Word format and the file title should be your last name (i.e. Johnson.doc). I will return graded essays to you by email with comments inserted using the Word comments feature.
Length: 2,000 words (approx.)

The Research Paper should discuss two of the pays we have read and engage with at least two pieces of relevant literary criticism or cultural history. The Research Paper should also demonstrate: 

(1) that you have read the  plays you're writing on closely.
(2) that you know how to advance a focused, clear argument and support it with evidence.
(3) that you know how to position that argument in relation to the ideas of other critics/scholars.
(4) that you know how to analyze literary texts in a way that is responsive to cultural and historical context. 
(5) that you know how to document sources and quotations properly. (Please follow the MLA Handbook, Chicago Manuel of Style, or EDGE for matters of documentation and style.)
Also, of course:
(6) your research paper is expected to be free from basic problems of grammar and spelling.

Here are some possible topics for your Research Paper. I leave it to you to decide on a precise argument.
  • The relationship between the exotic and the erotic on the Renaissance stage
  • Global dramaturgy: theatrical techniques used to create a sense of global space
  • Theater and the senses in a global context
  • Notions of gender in a global context
  • Notions of race on the Renaissance stage
  • Conversion narratives
  • Commerce and cosmopolitanism 
  • Perceptions of Islam
  • Early modern trade and theater
  • Law and religion, or justice in a global context 
  • "Turks" and the Ottoman Empire
  • "Moors," "Barbery," and North Africa
  • India


Tamburlaine: Cultural Contexts

Richard Knolles, A Generall Historie of the Turkes (1603)

Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations (1598-1600)

Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570; this image from 1603 ed.)
See Ortelius's map of the Middle East here.

(attr.) Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge, The Tragedy of Selimus (1638)

Robert Daborne, A Christian Turn'd Turke (1612)

(attr.) George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar (1594)