The Jew and the Moor: Shakespeare’s Racial Vision Chung-hsuan Tung Abstract

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The Jew and the Moor: Shakespeare’s Racial Vision
Chung-hsuan Tung

Race was never Shakespeare’s central theme, but Shakespeare’s comprehensive soul has created an impressive racial vision. Five of his plays have touched on racial problems and his racial personae are above ten. The Jew and the Moor are two most prominent figurers representing two basic types of racism in Shakespeare. Racialism can be distinguished from racism. Intrinsic racism and extrinsic racism are due to racial pride and racial prejudice, respectively. Shakespeare’s world was a white-centered Christendom. Skin color and religion were thus the elemental features (of nature and nurture) that induced racism, Venice or Italy being Shakespeare’s convenient locale for dramatizing his racial actions and reactions. In this paper, instances of racial pride and prejudice in Shakespeare are presented, the causes of racism are investigated, Shakespeare’s views of race and racism are discussed, and his racial vision is delineated. The conclusion is: Shakespeare recognizes the existence of racial differences but he is not a racist. Shakespeare is in fact an impartial, humanitarian dramatist preaching interracial liberty, equality, and fraternity. In his vision there is always a Shylock locked up shyly in his racial ideology, accompanied by an Othello crying “Ot, hell, O!” for villainous misuse of racial consciousness. The playwright’s comprehensive soul wants every one of us to shy away the racial “bond” that cuts our hearts and discard the racial “handkerchief” that brings us tragedies instead of curing our headaches.

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