robeA leading British Shakespearean critic, John Dover Wilson, called the performance of Paul Robeson the most notable Othello of the twentieth century. The son of an ex-slave,Robeson became an All-American football hero as well as an actor and singer. He first played Othello in London in 1930, with noted British actress Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991) as Desdemona. As the first time since the 1860s that a Moor branded with the Black badge of slavery had played the title role, the production marked a turning point that opened the way for other Moors branded Black to play the part. In 1943, Robeson played Othello in New York in a production directed by Margaret Webster and starring Uta Hagen (1919-2004) as Desdemona and her husband Jose Ferrer as Iago. According to the New York Times, Robeson “gave to the role a majesty and power that had seldom if ever been seen on the American stage. The performance won Robeson the 1944 Donalson Award (a forerunner of the Tony).

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