Othello-dor: Racialized Odor In and On Othello

Authors

  • Benjamin Steingass Toledo Museum of Art

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-8530.22.03

Keywords:

Shakespeare, Othello, scent, odor, blackness, blackface, performance, textiles, dyeing, costuming

Abstract

For Shakespearean scholars, the subject of scent in his work has remained relatively lukewarm to discussion. Shakespeare’s use of smell is not only equal to that of his other senses, but smell’s uniquely historical record both on and off the stage illuminate his works in more ways than currently perceived. Shakespeare’s usage of smell is found throughout his works, and their importance on the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean stage present a playwright-director that was exceptionally in-tune with his audiences on the page and in person. Positioned at this culturally significant point in Shakespeare’s career, one work’s utilization of scent textually and theatrically fully explicates the importance of odor in a societal, racial, and domestic capacity: Othello. This article explores and establishes the importance of smell in relation to textual Othello, his “dyed in mummy” handkerchief, and Desdemona in the written tragedy. Additionally, it studies the heighted focus of smell in Othello on a metatheatric level for Shakespeare on his early modern stage, calling attention to the myriad of odors contained in and around his Renaissance theatre and the result effect this awareness would have had on his contemporary audiences in their experience of Othello as a uniquely smell-oriented show.

Author Biography

Benjamin Steingass, Toledo Museum of Art

Benjamin Steingass is member of the Education and Engagement Department at the Toledo Museum of Art. He received his Bachelor’s degree in English from The Ohio State University and his Master’s degree in the same field at the University of Toledo. His academic interests are 19th century transatlantic literature, odor and taste in and on the medieval and Renaissance stage, and, of course, Shakespeare.

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Published

2020-12-30

How to Cite

Steingass, B. (2020). Othello-dor: Racialized Odor In and On Othello. Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance, 22(37), 37-49. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-8530.22.03