All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Rebecca Bach

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts in Education (MAE) School of Education


Since Shakespeare’s first folio and quartos were initially published directly after his death in the early seventeenth century, various editors have altered his plays for their desired goals. With this in mind, the primary focus of my thesis centers around the Updated Folger edition of The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, which was published in 2017. The Folger edition repeatedly points out that they have tailored their rendition of Othello to allow modern audiences to understand Shakespeare’s language; they present the intention to accurately and helpfully gloss confusing, antiquated, or significant language throughout the play. However, after thoroughly reading the Updated Folger edition of Othello, it is apparent that the Folger editors seemingly censor many of Shakespeare’s more provocative references to sexuality through the use of their “Explanatory Notes.” Namely, the Folger edition of Othello often fails to gloss, only partially glosses, or incorrectly glosses references to sexuality throughout the play, far less often than most other editions of Othello. Moreover, they appear to exhibit a heavily gendered pattern of what they choose to define and how. The words men use when making references to their own sexuality are most often properly defined. Moreover, the words men employ when referencing female sexuality or using sexually demoralizing terms about women are often more properly defined than instances where female characters discuss their own sexuality or that of men. However, when the Folger editors do helpfully gloss male or female references to female sexuality, another pattern emerges. The Folger editors seem to accurately gloss references to female sexuality in less vulgar instances. By selectively glossing references to female sexuality, the Folger editors seemingly champion the idea that it is more common and appropriate for men to talk about sexuality than women and also for women to be accustomed to being sexually objectified. Most importantly, by risking readers not understanding or misconstruing the sexual comments of the play's characters, the Folger edition risks misconstruing character agency, character development, and motivation for characters’ actions throughout Othello.

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