Project Title

The Demonization of the Other: How Casper van Senden Influenced Shakespeare’s Othello

Presenters

Ella HiteFollow

Academic department under which the project should be listed

COTA - Theatre and Performance Studies

Faculty Sponsor Name

Thomas Fish

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Ella Hite

November 8th, 2020

The Demonization of the Other: How Casper van Senden Influenced Shakespeare’s Othello

In the modern era, Othello has been criticized heavily for its use of harmful, racial stereotypes, which were created to mainly “demonize an Other as a means of securing the self” (Bartels 454). This research will turn to early modern history in an effort to understand why Shakespeare chose to portray Othello in such a derogatory way. An important historical event to consider is Casper van Senden and the expulsion of Black Englishmen. In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I issued the decree: “Licensing Casper van Senden to Deport Negroes” in which she expelled all Black citizens (enslaved or not) from Great Britain. Othello was first performed 1604, only three years following. How did the deportation/trade of Black Englishmen by Casper van Senden impact the racial stereotypes used by Shakespeare in his play Othello? To answer this, my project combines an analysis of primary sources, early critiques, with reader response and critical race theory. Ultimately, the presentation will show how racist literature and art is the result of politics and societal norms. It will also educate and help to develop cultural sensitivity for directors, actors, and other creatives interested in producing Othello. Most importantly, my research encourages others to question racist literature/art and to push for a deeper understanding than the simple answer: “Those were just the times.”

Project Type

Event

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The Demonization of the Other: How Casper van Senden Influenced Shakespeare’s Othello

Ella Hite

November 8th, 2020

The Demonization of the Other: How Casper van Senden Influenced Shakespeare’s Othello

In the modern era, Othello has been criticized heavily for its use of harmful, racial stereotypes, which were created to mainly “demonize an Other as a means of securing the self” (Bartels 454). This research will turn to early modern history in an effort to understand why Shakespeare chose to portray Othello in such a derogatory way. An important historical event to consider is Casper van Senden and the expulsion of Black Englishmen. In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I issued the decree: “Licensing Casper van Senden to Deport Negroes” in which she expelled all Black citizens (enslaved or not) from Great Britain. Othello was first performed 1604, only three years following. How did the deportation/trade of Black Englishmen by Casper van Senden impact the racial stereotypes used by Shakespeare in his play Othello? To answer this, my project combines an analysis of primary sources, early critiques, with reader response and critical race theory. Ultimately, the presentation will show how racist literature and art is the result of politics and societal norms. It will also educate and help to develop cultural sensitivity for directors, actors, and other creatives interested in producing Othello. Most importantly, my research encourages others to question racist literature/art and to push for a deeper understanding than the simple answer: “Those were just the times.”