Abstract and Keywords
In Shakespeare’s period, when applied to people the word race normally referred to a lineage, rather than an ethnic group or skin colour. But there were widespread beliefs that individuals who descended from a noble or royal ‘race’ were intrinsically superior to others. This chapter demonstrates the pervasiveness of such concepts of social racism in early modern discourse, distinguishing between different varieties of racist thought. It then explores the role of racial ideas in the politics of England, Scotland and Ireland, where the Gaelic elite was heavily invested in a belief in its racial superiority to Irish peasants. The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of race in Shakespearean plays.
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