‘Begrimed and Black:’ Shakespeare’s Depiction of Race in the Renaissance

Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 2021


At the request of the author, this paper is not available for download. Bona fide researchers may consult it by visiting the University Archives in Tate Archives & Special Collections; contact archives@iwu.edu for details.


Many prominent scholars of color have argued that British and European subjects were building what we now refer to as race the moment that globalization in the Mediterranean increased in the Renaissance. Studying the prominent Black characters in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Othello, and Titus Andronicus shows how racial stereotypes were created and portrayed in early modern theatres. The characters Prince of Morrocco, Othello, and Aaron the Moor respectively also each bring their own way of reacting to the racist treatment by their fellow characters and asserting themselves when faced with racial discrimination. Insight into the plays is gained through historical context and the work of scholars like Kim Hall, Ayanna Thompson, Ian Smith, among others who have spoken extensively on race and blackness in these plays as well as the state of race studies in the study of Renaissance literature. The plays display the socioeconomic situation in England regarding the desire to define self and other which influenced works like Shakespeare’s to include and contribute to the construction of racial narratives. Understanding the construction and motivation of racial narratives and stereotypes then can help us deconstruct them now.


English Language and Literature

This document is currently not available here.