Article Title

Anti-Semitism, Surrogacy, and the Invocation of Mohammed in the Play of the Sacrament


Scholars have made little of the strange habit of Jewish characters who invoke Mohammed in early modern drama. Christian playwrights of the period, we have assumed, merely project the common European practice of calling out to Jesus and the saints to Muslims, incorrectly inferring that the Prophet of Islam was the god of the Muslims, and they compound this error by placing the trumped-up blasphemy in the mouths of their fictitious Jews. When seen within the complex history of both the collision and collusion of early modern Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures, however, this phenomenon may indicate a more complicated process of surrogacy and erasure, a cultural practice that strategically blurs certain distinctions among particular groups and exacerbates others to revise fundamental, defining narratives of social origin and unity. Contextualized within a tradition of medieval anti-Semitism, the invocation of Mohammed by Jewish characters in þe Play of þe Conuersyon of Ser Jonathas þe Jewe by Myracle of þe Blyssed Sacrament (or the Play of the Sacrament as it is also known) may be evidence that, even in the official absence of actual Jews, distant sources of social tension could cause anti-Jewish feelings to erupt violently. Using models of surrogation and erasure, this article surveys and analyzes and a century’s worth of research on this unusual play, and uncovers some unexplored connections to real historical events, to offer new historic approaches to the relationships between medieval Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.