The Appearance of Blacks on the Early Modern Stage: <i>Love’s Labour’s Lost</i>’s African Connections to Court
Keywords:masques, Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost, Merchant of Venice, Othello, history of black actors, blackface, race, Queen Anna of Denmark, Elizabeth I
AbstractWhile scholarship is certain that white actors did appear in blackface on the Elizabethan stages, this paper argues for the additional possibility of actual moors and blacks appearing on stage in early modern London. Examining the positive social, political, and economic implications of using in performance these bodies perceived as exotic, I argue for the appearance of blacks in Love’s Labour’s Lost as a display of courtly power in its 1597-8 showing for Elizabeth I. Building on this precedent, Queen Anna’s staging of herself as black in the 1605 Masque of Blackness, I argue, worked to assert the new Jacobean court’s power.
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