Adaptations of Othello: (In)Adaptability and Transmedial Representations of Race
This thesis examines adaptations of William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (c. 1601–4) across media, comparing cinematic, televisual, musical, visual art, and online adaptations, among others, in an endeavour to determine its adaptability in various periods and cultural and societal contexts, with a focus on the issue of race. Shakespeare’s seeming endorsement of a racial stereotype has proved to be challenging in adaptations, which have not always been successful in either reproducing or interrogating the issue, despite the fact that the play has continuously been engaged with across media, periods, and cultures. Resultantly, the thesis considers the ways in which the race issues present in Othello have been exploited, adapted ‘faithfully’, ignored, and negotiated in different contexts. Sustained consideration of representations of the race issues of the play from a Western perspective has not been undertaken previously and this thesis analyses the use of Othello as a vehicle for commenting on and reflecting contemporary current events through the lenses of adaptation theory and the singular history that adaptations of Shakespeare’s work have. Initially, the thesis explores national readings of screen adaptations (from the United States, Great Britain, and outside the Anglo-American gaze), before grouping adaptations by media (such as music and online videos, as well as allusions in other media), deducing why specific adaptive trends have endured in Othellos, examining the relationship between the adaptability of the play and the media in which it is placed. A pertinent question addressed is: what is Othello’s place in adaptations of Shakespeare’s work – and how adaptable is it when both black and white performers and adapters perpetuate racial stereotypes? One conclusion drawn is that – despite its prevalence across media – Othello is inadaptable when its race issues are linked – through various methods – to the contexts in which it is placed, changing them in the process.
- PhD