A is for Other: Arabs, Race and Enslavement on the Early Modern English Stage

Master Thesis


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This paper seeks to contribute to the postcolonial shifts being undertaken in early modern literary studies, which explore developing racial and colonial identities in this historical period. In particular, this thesis considers the representation and racialisation of the Arab subject on the English stage at a time when the Ottomans, who, as I argue,form a part of this Arab identity, are superseding England in economic, cultural and intellectual production. Considering overlapping categories of religion, skin-¬‐colour, class, and nationality used to describe Mohammedan-¬‐Ottoman-¬‐Turk-¬‐Moor-¬‐type identities, this paper moves away from readings of suchfiguresas Islamic-¬‐Othersand argues instead for an Arab identity: a racial otherness that categorises this figure,rather than a purely religious one. Considering representations of what I contend to be a racial Arab in Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great, Robert Greene’s The Tragical Reign of Selimus, Robert Daborne’s A Christian Turned Turk, and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, this paper aims to illustrate how the Arab is racialised through of notions of power and enslavement aligned to early modern versions of this other. To this end, this dissertationhopes to test the anachronisms of the label Arab thus responding to a call made by early modern race scholars Kim Hall and Peter Erikson to bring historical identities of racial otherness into conversation with contemporary counterpart(s).