From Cyrus to Abbas: staging Persia in Early Modern England

Masood, Hafiz Abid (2012) From Cyrus to Abbas: staging Persia in Early Modern England. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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This thesis considers the different ways Persia was perceived in early modern England. Persia, understudied in recent scholarship, played an important role in the early modern English imagination, both as a classical civilization and as a counterweight to the Ottoman threat to Christendom. This classical heritage and anti-Ottomanism, when intersected with a Persian Muslim identity, resulted in a complex phenomenon. This thesis is an attempt to understand the various cross currents that constructed this complex image. Chapter One discusses English interest in classical Persian themes in the wake of Renaissance humanism. It focuses on three classical ‘Persian’ plays featuring Achaemenid Kings; Cambyses, Darius and Cyrus, and investigates how classical Persia became a focus of interest for Elizabethan playwrights. Chapter Two moves to the wars between the Ottomans and Safavids and how they fascinated many English writers of the time. Paying specific attention to Usumcasane in Marlowe’s Tambulaine plays, the chapter suggests the significance of Persian references in the play and offers a new interpretation of the notorious Qur’an burning scene. Chapter Three analyses John Thomas Minadoi’s Historie of Warres betweene the Turkes and the Persians and shows the significance of Christian knowledge of schism in Islam for Catholic-Protestant debates. Chapter Four concentrates on the representation of Persia in Romance texts from late Elizabethan England and shows that despite being hailed as an anti-Ottoman power, Persia’s anti-Christian Islamic identity, which was also suggested by Minadoi, becomes manifest in the alliance of ‘Sultan’ and ‘Sophy’ against the Crusaders. Chapter Five combines two crucial moments in Anglo-Persian encounters: Jenkinson’s trading mission and the ‘travailes” of the Sherley brothers. Through an analysis of the play The Travailes of the Three English Brothers, the argument of the chapter is that it represents the cumulative experience of Englishmen in Persia in the early modern period.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0621 Drama
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2012 11:01
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50

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