Othello Historical Context

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The Moorish Ambassador and the Banishment of Africans

One of the large questions facing Shakespeare scholars was that of Elizabethan attitudes toward Moors and others of different races. It is difficult to determine how many English people had actually even ever seen someone with a different color skin than their own. It is known that in 1596, Queen Elizabeth I ordered the banishment of ten "blackamoors" from her country. Shortly after this, English prisoners being held in Spain and Portugal were traded for "blackamoors." Thus, while there were evidently people of color in England at the time, it seems likely they were exceedingly rare.

In 1600, in an odd turn of events, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud Anoun, the Moorish ambassador of Elizabeth I, came to England with his entourage. In a series of letters between Elizabeth and the king of the Barbary Coast, the two colluded for ways the North...

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This section contains 492 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Othello Study Guide
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Othello from Shakespeare for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.