In the board game 'Othello', players must turn double-sided counters to their advantage. This doubleness is shared by Shakespeare's play of 1604, marked from its outset by a dual and paradoxical title "Othello, or the Moor of Venice". This study teases out instances of doubleness, duplication and paradox to discuss the play's language and its themes. Chapters cover the issues of substitution, of racial polarity and its confusions, of the contested place of the domestic in the play, and the mixed generic signals this comedy-turned-tragedy gives out to its audiences. Throughout the emphasis is on the close readings of the play on the page and on stage, informed by the recent scholarship that has made Othello so pressing a play for the vexed cultural politics of the 21st century.
Emma Smith is Fellow in English, Hertford College, University of Oxford. She has written A Guide to Criticism: Shakespeare's Comedies, Shakespeare's Tragedies, Shakespeare's Histories (2004) and Shakespeare Introduction: Henry V.