princes and princesses whom the culture has borne only to deny them full participation in the genealogical line of power are still with us. Nor have the "white Negroes," princely yet still debarred from their high inheritance -- exiles in the American mythical homeland -- ceased to figure in the fantasmatic 43dramas which literature stages for the benefit alike of self and society. Whether as Kingsblood Royal in Sinclair Lewis' novel of the same title, or as the sophisticated Charles Bon in Faulkner Absalom Absalom! (whose fate bears some little resemblance to Hollister's) or as Amantha Starr in Robert Penn Warren Band of Angels, to mention but a few, they still haunt the white "city of words," still ask the reader to decipher the riddle of America and the riddle of the sphinx.
TILDEN G. EDELSTEIN
A recent historian of nineteenth-century race relations claims that pre-Victorian Americans so feared racial intermarriage and amalgamation that they "found it difficult to sit through a performance of Othello." Given the history of American race relations such difficulty hardly seems surprising. Paradoxically, despite its racial and sexual elements, Othello has been one of the most frequently performed Shakespearean plays in a nation that has watched more Shakespeare than it has the works of any other playwright.1 Shakespeare encompassed art, culture, and the wisdom of Western civilization; and for American actors and audiences Othello's volatile racial, sexual, and class themes provided drama surpassing the dimensions of the stage. Engrossing drama, exemplified by Othello, communicates symbolically, simultaneously presenting the recognizably concrete event with verbal and physical images transcending material reality. Two centuries of American Othello performances dramatized some of this country's racial reality and its racial fantasies.
A standard Shakespearean reference source warns that Othello was "not intended as a problem of miscegenation American style, because Othello was an aristocrat of royal birth." A writer in the Shakespeare Quarterly argues that "it is not important that he happened to be full-blooded, or part-blooded Arab, Moor, Negro, Blackamoor, or whatever. These are just names." Even the distinguished____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Interracialism:Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law. Contributors: Werner Sollors - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 356.
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