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"We think of others possessing you with the throes of Othello": Dickinson playing Othello, race and Tommaso Salvini

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Othello is one of Emily Dickinson's favorite plays. It is the play alluded to most often in her extant letters and the one most often marked with pencil in her copy of Shakespeare's works at the Houghton Library, Harvard (Capps 182-5). It is also the only play Dickinson is likely to have seen performed. In 1851, while in Boston, Lavinia Dickinson recorded in her diary on the 8th of September that they 'heard Othello read' at the Museum (Leyda I, 211). Dickinson's epistolary allusions to this play begin in 1876 as if the play and its characters had a special significance for Dickinson in the last decade of her life. Moreover, in three of these references, Dickinson actually identifies with Othello. This paper examines Dickinson's identification with this character by focusing upon his theatrical and critical reception in nineteenth century America. Dickinson references to the play are best understood within this context, particularly the performances of Othello by the Italian actor Tommaso Salvini. Othello was one of the most popular plays on the American stage during Dickinson's lifetime...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalThe Emily Dickinson Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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