Lend Me Your Ears podcast, Episode 5: Shakespeare’s Othello.

Is Othello a Racist Play or a Play About Racism—or Both?

Is Othello a Racist Play or a Play About Racism—or Both?

A Podcast About Shakespeare and Politics.
Sept. 11 2018 7:00 AM

Lend Me Your Ears: Othello

How Shakespeare’s domestic tragedy has changed radically over time, even as the words have stayed the same.

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Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate. Images via Wikimedia Commons.

Lend Me Your Ears is a podcast miniseries exploring how Shakespeare’s works have shaped our modern views on politics. Each month, host Isaac Butler will dig into a different Shakespeare play to explore how Shakespeare was responding to his current events, and how they map onto our own. Read Isaac’s introduction to the series and listen to previous episodes now.

Othello isn’t just a play about race, toxic masculinity, and the nature of identity—it’s a play that has influenced our own views on race throughout the centuries. But what did race mean in early 17th-century London?

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In this fifth episode of Lend Me Your Ears, host Isaac Butler talks to Queen Mary University of London professor Jerry Brotton, Barnard College professor Kim Hall, and Ayanna Thompson, director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University, about the history surrounding Othello and what it means to perform the play today.

The actors in this episode are Will Sturdivant as Othello, Sid Solomon as Iago, and Emily Gardner Xu Hall as Desdemona.

Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Lend Me Your Years every month. This episode, Isaac is joined by New York Times culture editor Aisha Harris and Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, to discuss the play’s themes on race, masculinity, and truthfulness.

If you are logged into your Slate Plus account, you can find this week's bonus episode in the player below this paragraph, or find it in your members-only podcast feed. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Podcast produced by Chau Tu.

*Correction, Sept. 11, 2018: Due to an editing error, this show page originally misidentified Othello as a domestic comedy. It is a domestic tragedy. It also misidentified Ayanna Thompson's title. She is director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University, not an associate dean at the university.