Shakespeare and the Law: Othello and Racial Politics in America

Boston Lawyers Chapter

The Federalist Society, Boston Lawyers Chapter
and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

A Staged Reading of Shakespeare's Othello

Followed by a Panel Discussion on
The Politics of Race in America Under President Obama

OthelloAs in the past, the first hour features prominent judges, public officials and members of the bar performing an abridged version of a Shakespeare work. This is followed by a discussion of the legal and political issues addressed in the play and their application to today's headlines.

Shakespeare's Othello tells a story with strong echoes to today's political world. A charismatic African leader is asked to lead a white European nation at a time of crisis. The play challenges whether such assimilation is possible, especially after a daughter of a prominent white nobleman falls in love with and marries Othello. Othello is convinced by his deceitful and malicious aid that is wife is cheating on him with a white man; his jealousy and concern for his reputation proves his and his wife's undoing. Shakespeare's play implicitly asks whether race is a factor in this tragedy. This question serves as fitting backdrop for the discussion following the play. The participants will discuss whether Obama's election makes racial preference laws and regulations an anachronism, and whether the goals of the proponents of the civil rights struggle beginning with the abolitionists and up to the modern civil rights movement has been fulfilled. The participants will also discuss whether racial prejudice still exists in the political and corporate arena, and whether it will rear its head at the presidential level if Obama's programs are not successful.

The event is the ninth in the series "Shakespeare and the Law," produced by the Boston Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, in conjunction with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. The event is directed by CSC's Artistic Director Steven Maler and produced by McCarter & English partner Daniel J. Kelly. The Massachusetts Bar Association and McCarter & English, LLP serve as a co-sponsors of the event.

Cast and Panelists:

  • Jennifer Braceras [Desdemona, Wife of Othello], former Civil Rights Commissioner
  • Wayne A. Budd [Othello, a Noble Moor in the service of Vienna], Counsel, Goodwin Procter and former U.S. Attorney
  • Judge Nathaniel Gorton [Roderigo, a Venetian Gentleman], U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts 
  • Brent Henry [Narrator], Vice President and General Counsel, Partners HealthCare
  • Daniel Kelly [Iago, Othello's Ensign], Partner, McCarter & English
  • John T. Montgomery [Brabantio, a Senator and Montano, the Governor of Cyprus], Partner, Ropes & Gray 
  • Judge Dennis Saylor [Cassio, Othello's Lieutenant], U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
  • Harvey Silverglate, Attorney at Law
  • Judge Douglas Woodlock [Duke of Venice and Lodovico, Kinsman to Brabantio], U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
  • Judge Rya Zobel [Emilia, Wife to Iago], U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts


  • Host and Moderator: Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Freddie Mac Foundation and former head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division
  • Director: Mr. Steven Maler, Artistic Director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company