Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moore of Venice has perhaps aroused more fundamental controversy than any other of his tragedies, not only because of conflicting inter pretations on page and stage, but also because of its subject, which in recent years has provoked an astonishing variety of controversial reactions. A characteristic example of a contemporary response is Hugh Quarshie’s paper ‘Second Thoughts about Othello’ where he boldly claims, ‘Of all the parts in the canon, perhaps Othello is the one which should most definitely not be played by a black actor’. Exactly the opposite seems to have become the practice in Britain and in the United States, where, as a colleague assured me, it would be impossible for the part to be undertaken by any but a black actor. Neill, discussing the subject at some length (cf. pp. 50–71), is aware that in its own time, Othello’s self-destructive passion was ‘keyed to a world in which matters of rank, deference, and subordination were all-important’ (p. 147), whereas the notion of racial difference was not conceived as crucial for the nature of the tragic catastrophe. It was not only Bradley, but even more recent critics and editors who attempted to discuss Othello’s race as a relatively incidental, or at least easily explained aspect of his character. In contrast, the bulk of the historical and critical commentary of Neill’s edition is proof of his own very different emphasis; it clearly mirrors the prevailing contemporary response to the play, in a world where prejudice and racism are among the most hotly debated current issues. This makes his edition more decidedly topical and up-to-date than any other on the market, which is reflected in the brilliant, almost eighty-page stage history and the particular attention to Othello’s race and its representation on stage. Neill gives due weight to Laurence Olivier’s famous performance of the title role (1964), a sensational success at the time, that in retrospect, however, ‘begins to look like an epochal failure’ (p. 59–60) and was also, perhaps unintentionally, influential in discouraging white actors from attempting the part. The critical account of the stage history, though regrettably confined to British and North American productions, is particularly useful and comprehensive, including in its judicious review varying performances of Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia as well as the title hero.
|Ausgabe / Jahr:||1 / 2009|
Seiten 174 - 177
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