Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage

Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage

Jane Hwang Degenhardt
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage
    Book Description:

    This book explores the threat of Christian conversion to Islam in twelve early modern English plays. In works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Massinger, and others, conversion from Christianity to Islam is represented as both tragic and erotic, as a fate worse than death and as a sexual seduction.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4320-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. iv-v)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. vi-viii)
  5. Introduction: Seduction, Resistance, and Redemption: ″Turning Turk″ and the Embodiment of Christian Faith
    (pp. 1-31)

    Could anything be worse than being captured by Turks, stripped, beaten, and mercilessly killed? In the minds of early modern English people, there was one thing even worse than dying at the hands of Turks: conversion. Whereas a death by martyrdom offered the chance for salvation, converting to Islam set one on a path of irredeemable damnation. In addition, “turning Turk” implied not just a religious conversion, but also the complete undoing of all things constitutive of an English Christian identity.

    It was a threat that was oddly familiar to those living in and around London in the late sixteenth...

  6. Chapter 1 Dangerous Fellowship: Universal Faith and its Bodily Limits in The Comedy of Errors and Othello
    (pp. 32-72)

    St. Paul’s famous statement of universal fellowship radically proposes that Christian faith renders indifferent the distinctions of ethnicity, caste, and gender. His contention that Israel’s covenantal bonds were illegitimately dividing the early Christian church suggested that all people were eligible for conversion regardless of their earthly stations. Relegating the rite of circumcision to local custom, St. Paul replaced the Jewish covenant with a broader universalism whose basis for inclusion was faith – an intrinsically internal state. As Julia Reinhard Lupton explains, “Once spiritualized, [God’s covenant] can also be infinitely extended: No longer the singular badge of Jewish men, this new...

  7. Chapter 2 Recycled Models: Catholic Martyrdom and Embodied Resistance to Conversion in The Virgin Martyr and Other Red Bull Plays
    (pp. 73-120)

    As my discussions of The Comedy of Errors and Othello illustrate, in the decades surrounding the start of the seventeenth century the popular stage participated in testing the limits of Pauline universalism. Shakespeare’s plays explore the implications of an understanding of conversion that both eludes outward marking and overcomes all previous physical and cultural distinctions. Responding to an unstable contemporary religious climate in which commercial and imperial developments also threatened conversions from Christianity, Shakespeare falls back on bodily distinctions to anchor religious differences and to register conversion’s embodied effects. This chapter turns to a slightly later time period – the...

  8. Chapter 3 Engendering Faith: Sexual Defilement and Spiritual Redemption in The Renegado
    (pp. 121-151)

    If the plays discussed in the previous chapter suggest certain strategies for resisting conversion to Islam through their depictions of martyrdom in ancient pagan settings, then Philip Massinger’s The Renegado (c.1624) imports these models of resistance into its contemporary North African setting. What may at first appear a disjunctive authorization of seemingly Catholic objects, ceremonies, and figures in a play about Christian-Muslim encounter makes more sense when one considers the empowering template of resistance established by contemporary martyr plays. In the face of Islam – a threat of conversion understood to involve embodied, sexual, and reproductive consequences – Catholicism’s material,...

  9. Chapter 4 ″Reforming″ the Knights of Malta: Male Chastity and Temperance in Five Early Modern Plays
    (pp. 152-207)

    While heralded as heroic figures for their crusades against Muslim imperialism during the Middle Ages, the Knights of Malta had fallen into disrepute by the mid-sixteenth century. Up until the Reformation, this pan-European religious and military order had received substantial support from the English crown, but in 1540 King Henry VIII dissolved the Order in England, and outlawed their customary apparel with its distinctive Maltese cross.¹ As a Catholic Order the Knights’ allegiance was to the pope, not the king, and in addition to this their increasing association with piracy and other lawless behavior made them identifiable with the loathsome...

  10. 5 Epilogue: Turning Miscegenation into Tragicomedy (Or Not): Robert Greene′s Orlando Furioso
    (pp. 208-222)

    Robert Greene’s 1591 English stage adaptation of Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1516, rev. 1532) converts a sprawling and digressive epic romance into a unified plot centered on interfaith sexual union. Following just one of Ariosto’s many interwoven storylines, Greene’s play focuses on the rivalry among international suitors for the beautiful pagan princess, Angelica. In adapting this story for the stage, Greene crucially reverses the concluding events as presented in his source. In Ariosto’s version, Angelica willingly marries the Saracen warrior Medor, sending his Christian rival Orlando into a fit of temporary madness, which he overcomes through the therapeutic slaughter of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 223-258)
  12. Index
    (pp. 259-264)