A trip to the past

We arrived by coach and attended a talk first about Shakespeare’s play, Othello, a tragedy in which the marriage of Othello as a black man to Desdemona who is a white Venetian women, is jeopardized by Iago the antagonist for various personal and social reasons. We discussed a variety of different factors which could have influenced Shakespeare when he was writing the play including the presence of Africans and Arabs in England during the Elizabethan era. Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth the first declared in a letter to the Lord Mayor of London at the time that there were “too many blackamoors” in England and that they must be deported. It is clear that racist attitudes as such had an influence on the development of the play. Something that was particularly bogus was that in the first performance of the play, Richard Burbage, a white actor, was cast to play the role of Othello using blackface makeup. Clearly, the traditions of the time made it impossible to have a black person portray Othello.  Overall the talk was definitely informative but it evoked my curiosity about racist attitudes in Elizabethan England and also who portrayed the first ever black Othello?! A little research told me that it was Ira Aldridge in 1826 - a realistic and truly representative performance to say the least. French poet and novelist Théophile Gautier noted that Aldridge’s performance was “Othello himself, as Shakespeare has created him…quiet, reserved, classic and majestic.”

After the talk we were free to wonder the town and I found that everything was so quaint and pretty, it was definitely fascinating to see the Tudor style houses and vintage shops. My friends and I were particularly taken by a Tudor style Costa Coffee shop.

Sawdah Bhaimiya