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Lead book review

Florence's black Medici prince: a drama worthy of Shakespeare

Catherine Fletcher’s account of the life — and violent death — of Alessandro de’ Medici, known as ‘il Moro’, is quite as gripping as Othello

7 May 2016

9:00 AM

7 May 2016

9:00 AM

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici Catherine Fletcher

The Bodley Head, pp.336, £20, ISBN: 9781847922694

In a recent interview, the African American actor Wendell Pierce revealed he had once been told by the head of casting at a Hollywood studio: ‘I couldn’t put you in a Shakespeare movie, because they didn’t have black people then.’ The story was repeated on social media with a mixture of horror and hilarity, many responding — as Pierce himself did — ‘You ever heard of Othello?’

Yet the head of casting’s comments represent a common misconception and a significant gap in historical memory.

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Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £17.00. Tel: 08430 600033. Alex von Tunzelmann’s books include Indian Summer, about the partition of 1947, and Red Heat, about the Cold War in the Caribbean.

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