“Far more fair than black”: Othellos on the Chilean Stage

Authors

  • Paula Baldwin Lind Universidad de los Andes (Chile)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-8530.22.09

Keywords:

Shakespeare, Othello, Chilean theatre, blackface, Moor, Other

Abstract

This article reviews part of the stage history of Shakespeare’s Othello in Chile and, in particular, it focuses on two performances of the play: the first, in 1818, and the last one in 2012-2020. By comparing both productions, I aim to establish the exact date and theatrical context of the first Chilean staging of the Shakespearean tragedy using historical sources and English travellers’ records, as well as to explore how the representation of a Moor and of blackness onstage evolved both in its visual dimension — the choice of costumes and the use of blackface—, and in its racial connotations alongside deep social changes. During the nineteenth century Othello became one of the most popular plays in Chile, being performed eleven times in the period of 31 years, a success that also occurred in Spain between 1802 and 1833. The early development of Chilean theatre was very much influenced not only by the ideas of the Spaniards who arrived in the country, but also by the available Spanish translations of Shakespeare; therefore, I argue that the first performances of Othello as Other — different in origin and in skin colour — were characterised by an imitative style, since actors repeated onstage the biased image of Moors that Spaniards had brought to Chile. While the assessment of Othello and race is not new, this article contrasts in its scope, as I do not discuss the protagonist’s actual origin, but how the changes in Chilean social and cultural contexts can reshape and reconfigure the performance of blackness and turn it into a meaningful translation of the Shakespearean Moor that activates audiences’ awareness of racism and fears of miscegenation.

Author Biography

Paula Baldwin Lind, Universidad de los Andes (Chile)

Paula Baldwin Lind is Professor at the Institute of Literature, Universidad de los Andes (Chile). She holds a BA in English Literature (Catholic University of Chile), a Master of Studies (MSt) in English 1550-1780 (University of Oxford, England), and a PhD in Shakespeare Studies (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, England). She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters related to the study and translation of Shakespeare’s works, as well as written the entry “Shakespeare in Chile” for the forthcoming Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia. She has also co-translated (with Dr. Braulio Fernández Biggs) three plays by Shakespeare into Spanish: La tempestad (2010), Noche de Reyes (2014), and El rey Lear (2017), all published by Editorial Universitaria (Chile). She has presented papers on different Shakespearean topics in conferences both in Chile and around the world.

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Published

2020-12-30

How to Cite

Baldwin Lind, P. (2020). “Far more fair than black”: Othellos on the Chilean Stage. Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance, 22(37), 139-170. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-8530.22.09