Representations of Islam and Muslims in early modern English drama from Marlowe to Massinger

Abu-Baker, Mohamed Hassan (1997) Representations of Islam and Muslims in early modern English drama from Marlowe to Massinger. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The representation of Islam and Muslims in early modern English drama draws heavily on the Christian polemical tradition established in the Middle Ages. That polemic was the product of hostility and hatred and consequently sought to construct Islam as the negation of Christianity; the Prophet Muhammad as an impostor, an evil sensualist, an Antichrist; Muslims as violent and barbaric. The whole Islamic world was seen as the fearful enemy which had to be checked and ultimately destroyed. It was in this spirit of religious hostility that imaginative Christian European narratives, from the Middle Ages on, deliberately sacrificed accuracy for the sake of constructing a negative image of Islam and Muslims that was relevant to the polemical purposes of their representations. Two outstanding themes emerge from these representations; namely that the Islamic East was the realm of lascivious sensuality and inherent violence. Early modem English dramatists, from Marlowe to Massinger, readily employed these themes. Nevertheless, some authors, like Marlowe, were imaginative enough to transcend the limitations of a crudely hostile representation of Islam and Muslims by using them as means to question the foundations of Christian culture, or to articulate their individual positions, or both. Other authors, like Peele, Kyd, and Massinger, used representations of Muslims as analogues for the divisive conflicts within the body of Christendom and as instruments of propaganda in the continuing war between rival Christian sects. Fulke Greville, on the other hand, deployed the Islamic setting and Muslim characters as instruments to raise his concerns about the moral and philosophical issues pertaining to the question of the relationship between tyrannical order and democratic anarchy in the fallen state of spiritual depravity. In general, however, representations of Islam and Muslims in early modern English drama tended to reinforce the Christians' perceptions of their own cultural and moral superiority. They also served to confirm for the Christians their long-established preconceptions. The long history of conflict between the two religions helped to keep these perceptions and preconceptions firmly embedded in the theatrical productions of Renaissance England.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Robert Maslen
Keywords: Theater history
Date of Award: 1997
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1997-71290
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 10:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71290

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