Though some scholars have begun to doubt Shakespeare's position as a staple of the Western literary canon, reevaluating his writings in light of current events creates a clearer picture regarding such a status. Othello presents itself as a highly relevant example to confront such issues. As the BLM protests have highlighted historical inequities among Black people, reassessing this play demonstrates deep similarities between early modern and contemporary conceptions of race and racism: that they are based on geography and skin color. Analyzing Othello shows a play reflecting Britain's anxieties regarding their place in the world as a burgeoning hegemonic power. Through language, stereotypes, manipulation, violence, and the broader power of white hegemony, Venice constricts Othello into the figure they believe him to be: of an enemy, a brute, a sexual menace, and a liability to security.
The same scholarship challenging Shakespeare further encourages us to reconsider how adaptations convey his works. Tim Blake Nelson's O (2001), as I shall argue, upholds this same legacy Othello started, of projecting whiteness as this hegemonic force. As O shows, the movie does not holistically challenge racism and white supremacy. Specifically, Nelson depicts Odin (or Othello) as a stereotypical, racist portrait of how Americans perceive Black men as dangerous not only to those around them, but also to the white hegemony that constricts them into these norms. By following Othello's plot too closely, it is problematic with the image of the Black body. Thus, the movie becomes what Othello is: a racist, grueling work that celebrates the triumph of whiteness over Blackness.
"In Defense of the “Moor”: Race, Racism, and Violence in Othello and O,"
Locus: The Seton Hall Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 4, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarship.shu.edu/locus/vol4/iss1/5