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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 13, 2018

Trans*textuality in William Shakespeare’s Othello: Italian, West African, and English Encounters

Susan Arndt
From the journal Anglia

Abstract

William Shakespeare’s Othello (1604) displays a critical agenda towards the emerging colonialist discourse of his time and may have encountered, or even been influenced by, African oral literature. This thesis will be probed in this article by comparing Othello with the folktale “The Handsome Stranger” and the Trickster character, well known all across Western Africa, touching lightly on Leo Africanus’s The History and Description of Africa (1550) in the process. In doing so, Othello’s most acknowledged source text, “Un Capitano Moro” by Giovanni Battista Giraldi (1565), will be involved, thus complementing earlier comparative readings of “Un Capitano Moro” and Othello. This postcolonial comparative reading will finally embrace Ahmed Yerima’s adaptation of Othello, entitled Otaelo (2002). In doing so, the article will discuss striking parallels among all four texts, as well as differences and diversions. The latter are, however, not read as counter arguments to the possibility of an encounter; rather, discursive diversions are contextualised historically and trans*textually. Before delving into this analysis, the article will explore both historical probabilities and methodological challenges of reading African oral literature as possible sources of Shakespeare’s Othello, as well as theorise trans*textuality (as related to and yet distinct from Kristeva’s intertextuality and Genette’s transtextuality).[1]

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Published Online: 2018-09-13
Published in Print: 2018-09-06

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