Othello and Blackface (rebroadcast)

08.20.2019 - By Folger Shakespeare Library: Shakespeare Unlimited

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In Act 3, scene 4 of Othello, Othello tells Desdemona that the handkerchief he gave her was “dyed in mummy.” What does that mean? According to Lafayette College’s Ian Smith, it means the handkerchief was dyed black. In this episode, originally broadcast in June 2016, we talk to Smith and Ayanna Thompson about Elizabethan modes of blackface—which included covering a performer’s body with dyed cloth to simulate blackness—and how Smith’s insight changes how we understand Othello. Ian Smith is a professor of English at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. When we published this episode, Ayanna Thompson was a professor of English at George Washington University. She is now Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University. Smith and Thompson are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. From our Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Originally published June 14, 2016. Re-broadcast August 20, 2019. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “Teach Him How To Tell My Story,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer. With technical help from Tobey Shreiner at WAMU-FM in Washington, DC, Neil Hever at radio station WDIY in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Jeff Peters at the Marketplace Studios in Los Angeles.

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