Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Naomi Conn Liebler

Committee Member

Leslie Wilson

Committee Member

Monika Elbert


Shakespeare’s two inverse representations dealing with the black male Moor— Aaron (Titus Andronicus) and Othello (Othello)—can figure prominently in a reading of his stage treatment of those notions of racial differences in the early modem era. By retracing early modem histories which affected the early formation of race and by emphasizing the popular representations of race on the early modem English stage, this study seeks to answer whether Shakespeare’s own treatment of race was typical or, in fact, anomalous for his time. Using re-conceptualized vocabularies of race laid out by recent early modem race scholars, this study applies that groundwork in order to better understand Shakespeare’s visible preoccupation with race.

The paper begins with a look at early modem England’s construct of the racial Other through travelogues and rhetorical handbooks, it follows with an examination of the significant early representations of blackness on the early modem English stage; George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar (1589), Thomas Dekker’s Lust’s Dominion (1599), and Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness (1605). The finale provides a reading of Shakespeare’s black male Moors in Titus Andronicus c. 1593-94, The Merchant of Venice c. 1596-97, and (as his only black tragic hero) Othello c. 1603-04.

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