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

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

Matthew Birchwood


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Exploration of the ways in which Islam manifested itself in the writings of the seventeenth century.
`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.


September 2007
4 black and white illustrations
210 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Renaissance Literature
ISBN: 9781843841272
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
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Table of Contents

Cultural Encounters between England and Islam in the Seventeenth Century: A Topography
Framing `an English Alchoran': The Famous Tragedie of Charles I and the first English translation of the Qur'an
Orienting the Monarch: Tyranny and Tragedy in Robert Baron's Mirza and John Denham's The Sophy
Turning to the Turk: Collaboration and Conversion in William Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes
Toleration, Trade and English Mahometanism in the Aftermath of Restoration
Plotting the Succession: Exclusion, Oates and the News from Vienna
Conclusion: `If we ourselves, would from our selves exam'ne us'


This book has the virtue of presenting a compelling counter-narrative to Edward Said's monolithic interpretation of the East, contributing to ongoing scholarly research about the figurative centrality of Islam in the English literature and culture of the early modern period. (...) A well-written book that combines historically-informed close readings of key texts with original research. (...) Undoubtedly, (the author's) pioneering scholarship will be of lasting importance for those who are interested in understanding the reception of Islam in mid and late seventeenth-century drama and culture, a timely topic that has been up to now poorly conceived and too often neglected. SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY NEWS
A very useful study of English drama and its allusions to the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. JOURNAL OF ISLAMIC STUDIES
A valuable contribution to the ongoing reassessment of the political and cultural relations between early modern Western Europe and the Islamic Orient. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY Convincingly demonstrates how writers of this period engaged the "Turk" in ways that were distinct and dynamic. JOURNAL OF BRITISH HISTORY

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