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Costume, Rank and Race: Othello’s Visual Identity in the Eighteenth Century


University of Bergen


An exploration of the ways in which the character of Othello was presented in visual form, both performance and illustration, during the eighteenth century, in terms of the approaches to ethnicity and social rank that they reveal. It begins with the illustration by François Boitard for the edition of Nicholas Rowe, moving through images by Francis Hayman and Phillip James de Loutherbourg. Later images are discussed in comparison with visits by a group of Iroquois dignitaries, in which they themselves become performers in various social settings, and that of the Tahitian Omai, in particular the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pantomime based on his visit, and visual presentations of him as a figure of high rank as well as a representative of a different race.

Keywords: François Boitard, class, ethnicity; Hubert Gravelot, Thomas Hanmer, Francis Hayman, illustration, Iroquois, Philip James de Loutherbourg, Omai, Othello, performance, rank, Joshua Reynolds, Nicholas Rowe, Thomas Rymer, William Shakespeare



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