For a paper on Elizabethan theatre. I've seen adaptations of Shakespeare's work staring actors such as Laurence Olivier and HG Wells in which they painted their skin different shades, would the same have been done in Elizabethan times?? For example, when Othello was first written in 1604 would a black actor have played the titular role. I think I found an answer. No one knows for sure, but Othello was probably performed by a white actor in dark make-up. There is a lot of discussion on Wikipedia and elsewhere about the original productions and the term "Moor", which is what Othello is called in the play. He was probably meant to be an African and there are enough references to his dark skin in the play that he was probably played with dark make-up. But it is never mentioned specifically by anyone of that time period. Many people believe the words and the action were the most important elements of Shakespeare's productions and in the same way that they never tried to represent a castle – they just said that's where they were – they also might have just said he was dark-skinned and not actually made him that way. But we do know that make-up was used during the period so it might have been played with dark make-up to remind the audience that he was an exotic outsider. It is unlikely that Othello was played by a dark-skinned actor during Shakespeare's life. The first person to play Othello was Richard Burbage, the leading player in Shakespeare's company. Since it is a starring role, it was probably played by the leading actors of the time in England and, like Burbage, they would most likely have all been white.
Dustin Hoffman presents the Cecil B. DeMille award to Laurence Olivier for his lifetime achievments. Olivier talks about Hoffman's various "charms" in Tootsi. . .