In 1911, the Encyclopaedia Britannica stated, “The term ‘Moors’ has no real ethnological value.” This is because, at different times in history, the term has been used to refer to people of Berber, Black African and Arab descent.

For most people reading this blog, the most recognizable Moor is probably Othello, who, on stage, is almost always portrayed as a Black African. After all, the characters in the play, including Othello himself, refer to him as “black,” and modern audiences understand that term in a specific way.

But I’ve always wanted to see a production that portrayed Othello as an Arab.

Elizabethan Englishmen viewed the Muslim Middle East — at that time, dominated by the Ottoman Turks — as theocratic, totalitarian and backwards, dominated by sadistic dictators. The Empire was expanding into Europe and was a source of great fear for the West. And so, an Arab Othello would have been quite the interesting dynamic on stage: an Arab fighting against Arabs to protect Christendom.

And how do we, in our modern culture, view the Muslim Middle East? Since 9/11, we have cultivated an image of the region as theocratic, totalitarian and backwards, dominated by sadistic dictators. And there has been much fear of another terrorist attack from them. While no two political realities are identical, there is much similarity. So wouldn’t it be interesting to put that dynamic on stage? Othello the Arab, fighting against the enemy we fear the most: his own people.

Any directors reading this are more than welcome to steal the idea. 😉

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