‘More fair than black’: Othellos on British radio

Andrea Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1933, as the BBC prepared to air its latest radio production of Othello, the critic and playwright Herbert Farjeon wrote an article for the Radio Times headlined: ‘Othello was a black man.’ In it, he states that, ‘in most present-day stage versions of the play, this all-important point is blunted. The broadcast version will enable us, if not to see, at least to imagine Othello the colour Shakespeare first painted him.’1 However, for almost another seven decades, imagining was all that audiences could do, as a succession of white actors continued to play the role. Examining the part of Othello as played on BBC radio charts the changing attitudes as to who could, and should, play him. This article will look at some of the key productions over the BBC’s 100-year history, reaction to them, and the changing attitudes to a character referred to in the text as ‘more fair than black’ (Othello, 1.3.290)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalShakespeare Survey
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2022

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