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Chaste ValueEconomic Crisis, Female Chastity and the Production of Social Difference on Shakespeare's Stage$
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Katherine Gillen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417716

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417716.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Chastity and Blackness: Racial Value and Commodity Potential in the Fair Maid of the West, Part I and Othello

Chastity and Blackness: Racial Value and Commodity Potential in the Fair Maid of the West, Part I and Othello

Chapter:
(p.168) Chapter 4 Chastity and Blackness: Racial Value and Commodity Potential in the Fair Maid of the West, Part I and Othello
Source:
Chaste Value
Author(s):

Katherine Gillen

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417716.003.0005

This chapter addresses the role of economic chastity discourse in determining thevalue and subjectivity of racial others. Heywood’s Fair Maid of the West draws out the racial implications of city comedy’s invocation of chastity to articulate subject status. Although foreign men are judged unfavorably against Bess’s virtue, her mode of chaste agency—grounded as it is in her negotiation of market forces—is ostensibly available to Moors who regard her as a model for moral rehabilitation. Othello supplants Fair Maid’s assimilationist paradigm with an alternate discourse, expounded by Iago, that asserts chastity’s commodity value and then assesses racialised men in similar terms. In contrast to Fair Maid, Othello invokes chastity discourse to address the status of people who may, quite literally, be regarded as commodities. Reading Othello in conjunction with Fair Maid, therefore, illuminates how conceptions of chastity-as-subject and chastity-as-object converge in English assessments of racial value, and how a prevailing emphasis on commodity status proves central to the development of racist ideologies.

Keywords:   Thomas Heywood’s Fair Maid of the West, Part One, Shakespeare’s Othello, chastity, race, commoditisation, subjectivity, slavery

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