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Shakespeare: Othello

2. Casting Othello

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about issues surrounding the casting of Othello – one of the only roles in Shakespeare where modern audiences expect the actor playing the part to be black. As with the issues of racism discussed in the previous module, however, there are several consequences that are worth thinking about. If the actor playing Othello has to be black, does this mean that the actors playing Iago and Desdemona have to be white? Does this rule apply to theatre companies in, say, India or China?


In this course, we explore several aspects of Shakespeare’s Othello, thinking in particular about the play in performance. In the first module, we explore the concept of racism in the play, before moving on in the following three modules to explore issues surrounding the casting of the three main characters of the play: Othello, Iago, and Desdemona. In the final module, we turn to the language of Othello, the so-called Music of Othello.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Othello - Casting Othello [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Casting Othello." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,