Article Title

Political Allegory in Late Elizabethan and Early Jacobean "Turk" Plays: Lust's Dominion and The Turke


Claire Jowitt


Though English travelers in Islamic countries might describe with some admiration and envy the imperial achievements of the Ottoman empire, by contrast early modern drama, pageants and masques tended to emphasize negative characteristics: “Turks” were tyrannical and cruel, “Moors” were lascivious and violent. As a result cultural historians and literary critics have read literary representations as playing an important role in the shaping of an anti-Muslim national consciousness. This essay, however, suggests that this dominant view of early modern Turk plays only provides us with a partial understanding of the significance of these cultural documents. Lust's Dominion and John Mason's The Turke are both plays that portray Islamic men in negative ways, and clearly they should be seen as contributing to contemporary popular fears and anxieties about Muslims. However, to read these plays merely as expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment is to neglect central aspects of their significance since the plays’ Islamic villains and the activities in Christian courts that prove to be corrupt also must refer to domestic English political issues. In what follows, the two closely related early modern English “Turk” plays, Lust's Dominion and The Turke, are read against the context of the politics of the culture within which they were produced.

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