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Staging Islam in England: Drama and Culture, 1640-1685

Staging Islam in England: Drama and Culture, 1640-1685

Matthew Birchwood
Volume: 21
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 210
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81qxv
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  • Book Info
    Staging Islam in England: Drama and Culture, 1640-1685
    Book Description:

    `This stimulating book will be welcomed by historians, literary scholars, and anyone interested in the history of the English fascination with Islam and the cultural exoticism associated with the East.' PROFESSOR GERALD MACLEAN. Transmitted via the mechanisms of trade and diplomacy and reflected through stage and press, England's cultural encounters with Islam - its peoples, its history, its territories - were fundamental to the ways in which the nation constructed itself through all the tribulations of the seventeenth century; a preoccupation with Islam permeated religious, political, diplomatic and commercial discourses to a degree that has not been recognised by standard accounts of the period. This book traces engagement with Islam in English political and dramatic life from the inauguration of the Long Parliament until the death of Charles II. It explores the reception and representation of Islam in a wide range of English writings of the period, employing close textual and historical research to trace the development of the 'Turk' from the archetype of cruelty and treachery to the complex and often contradictory figure of mid-century discourse. Throughout, it argues that Islam provided a repository of meanings ripe for transposition to Revolutionary and Restoration England, a process that transfigured the 'East' through the lens of English politics and vice-versa.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-597-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    In a poem composed in 1676 two horses debate the political climate of the day, denouncing the government of Charles II both in terms of a legacy of Stuart tyranny and an anticipated betrayal at the hands of the Catholic James:

    [W.] Though the father and son be different rods, Between the two scourges we find little odds... One of the two tyrants must still be our case Under all that shall reign of the false Scottish race.

    C. De Witt and Cromwell had each a brave soul: I freely declare, I am for old Noll.

    W. Though his government...

  6. Chapter 1 CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN ENGLAND AND ISLAM IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY: A TOPOGRAPHY
    (pp. 21-51)

    WHEN NEWS OF THE death of James I reached the sublime Porte, Sultan Murad IV formally conveyed his condolences to the English residency there in what Sir Thomas Roe describes as ‘a civility and honour never formerly used to any Christian prince’.¹ Roe, English ambassador at Constantinople between 1621 and 1628, had adroitly managed English affairs, renegotiating a favourable trade agreement (the so-called ‘capitulations’), and winning the gratitude of the Levant Company and the esteem of his Ottoman hosts. Notwithstanding the celebrated (and chiefly rhetorical) zeal of his sovereign against the ‘infidel Turk’,² Roe had overseen a period of mutually...

  7. Chapter 2 FRAMING ‘AN ENGLISH ALCHORAN’: THE FAMOUS TRAGEDIE OF CHARLES I AND THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE QUR’AN
    (pp. 52-68)

    WRITTEN IN THE WAKE of the execution of King Charles I, The Famous Tragedie reconstructs the events of the Second Civil War, from the death throes of royalist military resistance at the Siege of Colchester (June–August 1648), up until the moment of regicide. The publisher and bookseller George Thomason, also an assiduous collector of contemporary publications, added the pamphlet play to his collection on 26 May 1649, barely four months after the king’s death, allowing the date of publication to be pinpointed with relative accuracy. The topicality of the action points to the dual status of The Famous Tragedie,...

  8. Chapter 3 ORIENTING THE MONARCH: TYRANNY AND TRAGEDY IN ROBERT BARON’S MIRZA AND JOHN DENHAM’S THE SOPHY
    (pp. 69-95)

    HISTORICAL TYRANTS HAD long been stock villains of English drama, and a particular fascination with Oriental tyrants of one kind or another may be traced back to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and beyond.¹ As Rebecca Bushnell has noted, the early seventeenth century witnessed a spate of tyrant plays that points to contemporary anxiety at the projection of James’ absolutist prerogative:

    In representing tyranny, tragedy thus more often confuses rather than supports the antithesis between king and tyrant. On one level, tyrant tragedy brings out the contradictions at the heart of the Humanist formulation of the tyrant’s theatricality. In his acting the tyrant...

  9. Chapter 4 TURNING TO THE TURK: COLLABORATION AND CONVERSION IN WILLIAM DAVENANT’S THE SIEGE OF RHODES
    (pp. 96-128)

    WHETHER MEDIATED ON STAGE, from the pulpit or via the polemical press, one of the most abiding preoccupations of English treatments of Islam in the period was conversion. From the sixteenth century onwards, stories of Englishmen who had ‘turned Turk’ abounded, fuelled by the growing depredations of the Barbary corsairs in the Mediterranean where English shipping plied the routes of the burgeoning Levant trade. Long-held misgivings about the threat of further Ottoman encroachment in Europe were overlaid with what was, from an English point of view, the more immediate and tangible peril of piracy and potential captivity. Moreover, from the...

  10. Chapter 5 TOLERATION, TRADE AND ENGLISH MAHOMETANISM IN THE AFTERMATH OF RESTORATION
    (pp. 129-155)

    IN THE LATE 1650s, William Davenant’s experimental opera had reintroduced public theatre to Protectorate Britain and, in its revised and augmented form, would inaugurate the strand of heroic drama which, taken up by Dryden and his imitators, dominated the stage for the next twenty years. The Siege of Rhodes had portrayed an Ottoman sultan seemingly rehabilitated, reconciled with his Christian enemies in a final display of honourable co-existence. This ‘Christian Turk’ appeared to embody the spirit of the earliest years of the Restoration, representative of the redemptive possibilities that a return to monarchy seemed to proffer in the early 1660s....

  11. Chapter 6 PLOTTING THE SUCCESSION: EXCLUSION, OATES AND THE NEWS FROM VIENNA
    (pp. 156-181)

    FOR THE YEAR 1670, the Calendar of State Papers reports the circulation of a pamphlet, instigating,

    ‘all gentlemen, apprentices, and journeymen inhabitants of London and the suburbs, acquainting them that we are impoverished by foreign nations, especially by the French trading with England, and that we are also in fear of our lives’, and calling upon them to procure arms, and meet in Moorfields between 8 and 9 p.m. of May-day, it being resolved to suffer it no longer; ending, ‘So God save the King and all the royal family. Procure what arms you can, for we are resolved to...

  12. CONCLUSION: ‘IF WE OUR SELVES, WOULD FROM OUR SELVES EXAM’NE US’
    (pp. 182-186)

    Appearing in 1640 and riven with unanswered questions, Lithgow’s poem expressed the endemic spiritual and moral uncertainty that troubled many private consciences in that decade and would dramatically shape public life for the remainder of the century. In the same year as the poem, Charles’ abortive attempts to impose a religious settlement on the Scottish Church through military force had fatally exposed the breach between the English king and his Parliament, stretching bonds of loyalty and tradition beyond breaking point. The war and revolution that followed irrevocably altered the face of the nation, transforming not only its social, political and...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 187-196)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 197-200)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-203)