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  • Print publication year: 1969
  • Online publication date: March 2007

‘Othello’, ‘Lepanto’ and the Cyprus Wars


In 1604 the theatrical company for which Shakespeare wrote and acted was taken under the patronage of the new king; and it is becoming increasingly clear that at least two of the plays written by Shakespeare during the early years of the new reign were probably intended to reflect James I’s opinions and tastes. Othello, acted at court on 1 November 1604, seems never to have been considered in relation to Shakespeare’s new patron. I want to suggest that, like Measure for Measure, Macbeth, and possibly other plays written during these years, Othello was also designed as a work appropriate to the chief dramatist of the King’s Men.

James's various interests as a man, theological, political and scholarly, as well as his multiple roles as king—in particular his peculiar historical position as the first British king of modern times—provided panegyrists with a number of possible themes. He could be celebrated for his wisdom and learning, his piety, and his love of peace, as well as for the British unity which his accession to the English throne had achieved. Allusions could be made to his views on the theory of kingship and on witchcraft, and his own published works, Basilikon Doron and Daemonologie, could be searched for usable material.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Volume 21: Othello, with an Index to Surveys 11-20
  • Edited by Kenneth Muir
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053013
  • Book DOI:
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