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English Literature   >   Shakespeare and Race

Race in Shakespeare

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Shakespeare and Race

In this course, Professor Miles P. Grier (Queens College, CUNY) explores the issue of race in Shakespeare through the lens of the 'racial plot' – the idea that race is not so much an aspect of one's identity as a process that serves a particular social or political function. In the first module, we introduce the concept of the 'racial plot' and consider the extent to which Shakespeare lived in a world in which racial thought circulated and served social purposes. After that, we turn to four key scholars of race (W. E. B. Du Bois, Leerom Medovoi, Karen Fields and Barbara Fields) to expand on the concepts of race, racism and racecraft. In the third module, we think about the way justice is racialised in Shakespeare, particularly in relation to characters blushing or blanching, before turning in the fourth and final module to the question of how race is tied up with issues of kinship and inheritance, focusing in particular on the figures of Jessica and Lorenzo in 'The Merchant of Venice', Aaron and Tamara (and their child) in 'Titus Andronicus', and Othello and Desdemona in 'Othello'.

Note: All Shakespeare quotations are taken from the Arden Shakespeare (Third Series). Students using a different edition may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.

Race in Shakespeare

In this module, we think about the importance of race and 'the racial plot' when it comes to thinking about in Shakespeare, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which Shakespeare lived in a world in which racial thought circulated and served social purposes; (ii) the concept as race not as an objective feature of one's identity but as a social or political construction; (iii) the social and political purposes of race-based categorisations; and (iv) what ethnicity Shakespeare and his contemporaries had in mind when they described someone as a 'Moor'.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Grier, M. (2021, October 19). Shakespeare and Race - Race in Shakespeare [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Grier, M. "Shakespeare and Race – Race in Shakespeare." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 19 Oct 2021,


Prof. Miles Grier

Prof. Miles Grier

Queens College, CUNY