Author: Mary Floyd-Wilson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
In English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern Drama, first published in 2003, Mary Floyd-Wilson outlines what we might call 'scientific' conceptions of racial and ethnic differences in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English writing. Drawing on classical and contemporary medical texts, histories and cosmographies, Floyd-Wilson demonstrates that Renaissance understandings of racial and ethnic identities contradicted many modern stereotypes concerning difference. Southerners, Africans, in particular, were identified as dispassionate, cool-tempered and wise, whereas the more northern English were understood to be unruly, impressionable and slow-witted. Concerned with the unflattering and constraining implications of this classically derived knowledge, English writers laboured to reinvent ethnology to their own advantage - a labour that paved the way for the invention of more familiar racial ideas. Floyd-Wilson highlights these English revisionary efforts in her surprising and transformational readings of the period's drama, including Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Jonson's The Masque of Blackness and Shakespeare's Othello and Cymbeline.