1. GENERAL HEADING: Performance Exercises
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Contextualizing Racist Language" (Othello 1.1)
3. GOALS: To encourage close textual analysis, awareness of shifts/similarities in racist language, and understanding of casting implications.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 3 or more (roles: Roderigo, Iago, Brabantio)
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: copies of Othello 1.1
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: 45 minutes
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: Working either in pairs or alone, students mark the racist slurs and images in Othello 1.1. Cast the three roles and ask the student actors to perform the scene in a variety of ways: a) as deeply racist and offensive b) lightly or comically c) ironically d) other options (generated by student actors or audience/directors).
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: How do Brabantio and Roderigo react to Iago's speeches? Are they shocked? Amused? Disgusted? To what extent does Roderigo's reaction differ from Brabantio's? Is Roderigo enthusiastic? Is it possible to perform this scene comically? Why or why not? What are the implications for speaking these lines if the actor playing Iago is black?
9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Miranda Johnson-Haddad
10. ADDITIONAL READING: Miranda Johnson-Haddad, review of Shakespeare Theatre production of Othello in Shakespeare Quarterly 42.4 (1991): 476-80.
11. VARIATIONS: See list in "Moors, Jews, and the Performance
of Cultural Identity in Othello and The Merchant of Venice"
in the Projects section.