At the end of Shakespeare’s Othello, after the Moor murders Desdemona and recognizes his tragic error, he is concerned about how he will be remembered in Venice — and by implication, in history: ‘When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, / Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, / Nor set down aught in malice’.3 A few moments later, Othello’s firm claim to an identity is undermined, when he identifies with the ‘malignant and turbanned Turk’, while ‘[dying] upon a kiss’ as Shakespeare’s tragic hero. Does the play’s conclusion offer a clear, ‘moral’ resolution to the tragedy, as critics have often suggested?4 I would suggest that it simply lets the murderous deed ‘be hid’, blocking off any further consideration of the social and psychic divisions which Othello experiences through the play, and which remain with him till the end, when he straddles contradictory roles — as ‘both infidel and defender of the faith’.5 Thus we cannot really ‘Speak of [Othello as he is]’, for his ‘otherness’ as a black man cannot be contained within the dominant, Western fantasy of a singular, unified identity.
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