Abstract

While Othello (1604) lacks religious conversions, it is one of the most illuminating plays for the study of early modern dramatic representations of conversion. It suggests in several ways that its titular hero was not born a Christian but baptized into the faith before the story of the play unfolds. A central issue in criticism of the play is why Othello’s social integration into Venice as a convert ultimately breaks down. This paper argues that understanding Othello in the broad context of early modern conversion drama allows us to see that Othello is the only play that revolves entirely around the fortunes of a character after his interfaith conversion, that is after the adoption of a new confessional or religious identity. In this way, Othello offers answers to the questions raised by other interfaith conversion plays of the period, where the new (Christian) identity of stage converts and their entrance into their new religious society in particular is left to the imagination of the spectators.

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