Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare’s Othello

  • Editors: Peter Erickson, Maurice Hunt
  • Pages: xiii & 244 pp.
  • Published: 2005
  • ISBN: 9780873529907 (Cloth)
  • ISBN: 9780873529914 (Paperback)
Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's Othello Cover

“This collection of essays is outstanding. Its great variety of topics and approaches should enable any teacher at any level . . . to find some ideas and techniques that can be incorporated into his or her teaching.”

—James Hirsh, Georgia State University

Investigating the paramount issues of race, gender, and sexuality in Othello; teaching the drama as an adventure play, as a tragedy and a comedy, as an antirevenge play; assessing the complex motivations of Iago; exploring the range of actors’ interpretations of Othello’s character over the centuries—these are only a few of the pedagogical strategies discussed in this volume.

Part 1, “Materials,” is designed to help instructors manage the wealth of resources available for teaching Othello. The editors carefully assess editions of Othello and of Shakespeare’s collected works; review the textual history of the play; survey studies that address gender and race as historical concepts; and examine visual representations of Othello, particularly film adaptations.

The essays in the second part, “Approaches,” are divided into six topical sections. The first group considers race in Othello, in the Renaissance, and in the contemporary classroom. The second section addresses male desire, the fluidity of gender roles, and competing male and female fantasies. The generic forces that shape Othello are examined in the third section. The final sections explore classroom strategies, survey performances of the play, and formulate innovative ways to teach the sources and analogs of Othello.

Preface to the Series (xi)

Preface to the Volume (xiii)


Peter Erickson and Maurice Hunt


Complete Editions of Shakespeare (3)

Single Editions (5)

Textual Studies and Sources (7)

Teaching Resources

Critical and Pedagogical Studies (10)

Suggested Student Reading (16)

Performance and Theater Studies (16)

Visual Materials and Other Artistic Media (18)


Introduction (25)

Peter Erickson


Othello in the Work of James R. Andreas (31)

Peter Erickson

Histories of Race

Othello and Race (37)

Michael Neill

Rememorializing Othello: Teaching Othello and the Cultural Memory of Racism (53)

Francesca T. Royster

Genealogies of Gender and Sexuality

“Your Own for Ever”: Revealing Masculine Desire in Othello (62)

Nicholas F. Radel

Improvisation and Othello: The Play of Race and Gender (72)

Emily C. Bartels

Orders of Fantasy in Othello (80)

Cynthia Marshall

Generic Frameworks

Othello as an Adventure Play (90)

Jean E. Howard

Teaching Othello as Tragedy and Comedy (100)

Douglas Bruster

“ ’Tis But a Man Gone”: Teaching Othello as an (Anti)Revenge Play (108)

Cynthia Lewis

Classroom Strategies

Teaching the Texts of Othello (117)

Michael Warren

Motivating Iago (125)

Maurice Hunt

Unhoused in Othello (133)

Geraldo U. de Sousa

Teaching Teachers: Othello in a Graduate Seminar (141)

Martha Tuck Rozett

Approaches to Performance

Teaching Richard Burbage’s Othello (148)

Virginia Mason Vaughan

Teaching Othello through Performance Choices (156)

Miranda Johnson-Haddad

“Ocular Proof”: Teaching Othello in Performance (162)

Samuel Crowl

Interpreting the Tragic Loading of the Bed in Cinematic Adaptations of Othello (169)

Kathy M. Howlett

Comparative Contexts

Teaching Othello with Works by Elizabeth Cary and Aphra Behn (180)

Lisa Gim

Tales of a Fateful Handkerchief: Verdi, Vogel, Cinthio, and Shakespeare Present Othello (187)

Sheila T. Cavanagh

Paper, Linen, Sheets: Dinesen’s “The Blank Page” and Desdemona’s Handkerchief (194)

Janelle Jenstad

Finding Othello’s African Roots through Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet (202)

Joyce Green MacDonald

Notes on Contributors (209)

Survey Participants (213)

Works Cited

Books, Articles, Other Sources (215)

Audiovisual Materials (236)

Index (239)