Britons and Masked Strangers in James I’s Empire: A Historicist Study of Othello, the Moor of Venice
Journal, Anglisticum, Britons and Masked Strangers in James I’S Empire: A Historicist Study of Othello, the Moor of Venice (January 6, 2020)
15 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2020
Date Written: November 2019
This research seeks to explore Shakespeare’s representation of Britons and strangers in Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice (1604) in the context of the accession of James I to the throne of England, and the resulting dramatic shift in geopolitical strategy as well in the conception of the British Empire. This historical reading of the play will be supplemented by an appeal to literary theories about archetypes, the Other, and the notions of play and masks. One of the major arguments of the research is that the idea of empire in Shakespeare’s drama finds one of its best expressions not solely in The Tempest as most postcolonial critics often prone to claim, but also in Othello, a play written and performed at a transitional period in British history marked by a significant change of dynasty and a concomitant shift in the notion of empire, from that of a defensive imperium as a mark of English national sovereignty to that of British Empire in the modern sense of the word. This redefinition of empire in the early Jacobean period, we would also contend, was sustained by a drastic re-deployment in geopolitical strategy that made of the stranger or the Other and the Same vital issue in the process of the definition of self-hood and nationhood.
Keywords: Shakespeare, Othello, British Empire, the Mediterranean, the Other, the Same
JEL Classification: 120
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation