Ethnicity and identity

From Othello and Shylock to depictions of the ‘New World’ and anti-immigration riots, explore Shakespeare’s fascination with ethnic identity.

‘Wretched strangers’: Shakespeare’s plea for tolerance towards immigrants in Sir Thomas More

‘Wretched strangers’: Shakespeare’s plea for tolerance towards immigrants in Sir Thomas More

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

‘The Book of Sir Thomas More’ is the only surviving literary manuscript in Shakespeare’s hand. Here Andrew Dickson describes how the scene Shakespeare wrote for the play contains a moving plea for the plight of immigrants.

Read More
Multiculturalism in Shakespeare's plays

Multiculturalism in Shakespeare's plays

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson describes the position of racial and religious minorities in Renaissance England, and considers how this might have influenced Shakespeare's depiction of immigrants, outsiders and exiles.

Read More
Othello: the role that entices and enrages actors of all skin colours

Othello: the role that entices and enrages actors of all skin colours

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson explores how different actors have struggled with the character of Othello and the play's depiction of race.

Read More
Post-colonial reading of The Tempest

Post-colonial reading of The Tempest

Article by:
Jyotsna Singh

Post-colonial readings of The Tempest were inspired by the decolonisation movements of the 1960s and 1970s in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Jyotsna Singh describes how these readings challenge more traditional interpretations of the play, questioning Prospero's ownership of the island and rethinking the role of Caliban.

Read More
Playing Othello

Playing Othello

Article by:
Hugh Quarshie

Hugh Quarshie describes his reservations about Othello, and how he used these to shape the production in which he played the title role.

Read More
Racism, misogyny and ‘motiveless malignity’ in Othello

Racism, misogyny and ‘motiveless malignity’ in Othello

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

The causes of the tragedy of Othello are more complex and disturbing than they might at first appear, Kiernan Ryan contends.

Read More
Critical approaches to Othello

Critical approaches to Othello

Article by:
Virginia Mason Vaughan

There have been numerous interpretations of Othello over the last 400 years. Virginia Mason Vaughan discusses four recent critical approaches: feminist, new historicist, marxist and post-colonial.

Read More
Character analysis: Iago in Othello

Character analysis: Iago in Othello

Article by:
Alexandra Melville

Alexandra Melville provides a close reading of the villainous character of Iago in Act 2, Scene 1 of Othello.

Read More
Strangers in the city: the cosmopolitan nature of 16th-century Venice

Strangers in the city: the cosmopolitan nature of 16th-century Venice

Article by:
Farah Karim-Cooper

Othello shows us the cosmopolitan nature of renaissance Venice, as Dr Farah Karim-Cooper reveals.

Read More
The Tempest and the literature of wonder

The Tempest and the literature of wonder

Article by:
Martin Butler

Martin Butler shows how Renaissance travel, trade and colonisation shaped the portrayal of Caliban and the Italians in The Tempest.

Read More
A Jewish reading of The Merchant of Venice

A Jewish reading of The Merchant of Venice

Article by:
Aviva Dautch

From Antonio spitting on Shylock's 'Jewish gabardine' to the moneylender's famous speech, 'If you prick us, do we not bleed?': Dr Aviva Dautch responds to The Merchant of Venice as a Jewish reader.

Read More
How were the Jews regarded in 16th-century England?

How were the Jews regarded in 16th-century England?

Article by:
James Shapiro

Jews in 16th-century England practised their religion secretly, and many of those raised in the Jewish faith either converted to Christianity or pretended to have done so. James Shapiro considers Elizabethan prejudices and paranoia about Jews, putting Shakespeare's Shylock in context.

Read More

Further themes

Comedies

From cross dressing in Twelfth Night to magical storms in The Tempest; from deception in Much Ado to biting satire in The Alchemist, discover the beauty and complexity of Shakespearean and Renaissance comedies.

Tragedies

From Hamlet’s melancholy to Juliet’s eloquence; and from Othello’s misunderstanding to Doctor Faustus's damnation, discover the richness of Shakespearean and Renaissance tragedies.

Histories

From the staging of disability to the influence of Machiavelli, explore the history plays of Shakespeare and other Renaissance writers.

Shakespeare’s life and world

From the open air Globe to the candlelit Blackfriars; from countryside to city; and from noblemen to strangers, discover the world that shaped Shakespeare’s work and that influenced his legacy.

Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage

From courtship rituals to cross-dressing to love poetry, examine the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers explored identity, sexuality and gender roles.

Elizabethan England

Exploration and trade, crime and punishment, clothing and social structure: explore key aspects of Elizabethan life, culture and society.

Poetry

Discover close readings, critical interpretations and personal responses to Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poetry of John Donne and more.

Renaissance writers

Uncover the fascinating, colourful lives of Renaissance writers including John Donne, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, and explore key features and themes in their groundbreaking plays and poetry.

Ethnicity and identity

From Othello and Shylock to depictions of the ‘New World’ and anti-immigration riots, explore Shakespeare’s fascination with ethnic identity.

Power, politics and religion

A murdered king, a homeless ruler, a man who sells his soul to the Devil: discover how Shakespeare and other Renaissance writers represented power and powerlessness.

Global Shakespeare

Discover how Shakespeare’s work was influenced by other cultures, and how it’s been interpreted in nations across the world for 400 years.

Interpretations of ‘madness’

From Lear’s breakdown to Ophelia’s malady, examine the ways in which Shakespeare depicts ideas of ‘madness’.

Deception, drama and misunderstanding

Investigate the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers explore miscommunication, dishonesty, trickery and the nature of theatre.

Language, word play and text

Prose and verse, word play, neologisms and rhetoric: discover how Shakespeare and Renaissance writers developed innovative and experimental uses of language.

Magic, illusion and the supernatural

Mischievous fairies, monstrous apparitions and scheming witches: examine the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers played with the magical and supernatural.