Respeaking Othello in Fred Wilson’s Speak of Me as I Am

  • Peter Erickson


At the 2003 Venice Biennale, the African American installation artist Fred Wilson made an extraordinary appeal to Shakespeare’s Othello.1 The exhibition title proclaims the connection by quoting from Othello’s long final speech: “Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate/Nor set down aught in malice” (5.2.351–52). But the speech culminates in the “bloody period” (365) of suicide. Othello’s implosion collapses the potential space between extenuation and malice where an alternative definition of “I am” might hypothetically have been possible. This cancellation is Wilson’s starting point, and my term “respeaking,” ambiguously poised between repeating and revising, addresses the prospect of a new start. The issue turns on what it means to say Othello’s words and on how we define “I.”


Film Clip Large Game Chess Game Black Glass Molotov Cocktail 
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Copyright information

© Peter Erickson 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Erickson

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