Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Articles Written For:

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is This Man Othello?

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, was an ambassador from Morocco who visited the court of Queen Elizabeth for six months in 1600, and had a meeting with her on August 19 and September 10.

The king of Morocco, no doubt impressed by the British victories against Spain, sent this ambassador to propose a joint invasion against Spain.

These plans never came to pass, as both Queen Elizabeth and the King died within the next two years.

It is hard to think that Shakespeare would not know of this man, and his visit to the Queen. It is probable, what with Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men's performances for the Queen and her court, that Shakespeare may have even performed for him, and perhaps even met the man.

Shakespeare's Othello play is believed to have been written about 4 years after Messaoud's visit.

So, is Messaoud the inspiration for Othello?

Shakespeare only referred to Othello as a Moor. The Moorish people were North African Muslims.

Shakespeare begins the play in Venice. Messaoud communicated with the Queen in Italian, through an interpreter.

London at the time was a bustling city, with visitors from far-flung places, and the sight of different "alien" races was not uncommon.

London was changing rapidly and the change must have been unsettling, to say the least, for many people.

Shakespeare's purpose in writing the play may have nothing to do with Messaoud's visit, but it may have been all he needed to introduce the character of a Moor in a play. 

Shakespeare may have been trying to challenge the audience with the "alien" character, and while perhaps reinforcing their prejudices that such a man was possibly dangerous and not fit for your daughter, Othello in the final analysis is not such a bad man, and after all he is undone by his evil ensign, Iago -- who is caucasian.

The source for Shakespeare's play was a short story Un Capitano Moro by an Italian writer, Cinthio. This story is believed to have been a warning against miscegenation -- mixing of the races.

I think Shakespeare was not advocating the mixing of the races, but he certainly was trying to see how far he could go with an audience in an effort to humanize Othello, and make him as three dimensional as possible.

Finally, it would not have been the first time that Shakespeare put an "alien" on stage and made him out to be the best man in the play -- as I have proved in my version of The Merchant of Venice with Shylock.