John Kani as Othello at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg

  • Adele SeeffEmail author
Part of the Global Shakespeares book series (GSH)


Seeff’s second case study, Janet Suzman’s production of Othello in 1987, investigates the implications of casting a Xhosa in the title role. Seeff argues that Suzman both saw and occluded Kani’s “difference” as a Xhosa. She grasped Kani’s challenge in a language that was not his mother tongue; Kani responded by according Othello the status of a Xhosa warrior chief, a member of a people never enslaved, with access to an ancient tradition of Xhosa storytellers and bards. Kani never sinks into the hyper-emotionalism that causes many contemporary black actors to shun the role. By combining aspects of Xhosa culture foreign to white South Africans, Kani infused the role with a Xhosa sensibility at just the very moment when white power was beginning to fracture.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RockvilleUSA

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