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Reviews241 Daniel J.Vitkus, ed. Three TurkPlaysfrom EarlyModern England: Selimus, A Christian Turned Turk, and The Renegado. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Pp. 358. $49.50. Using texts held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Daniel J. Vitkus presents modernized (in spelling and stage directions) editions of three seventeenm-century plays. An introduction (1-53), numerous maps and illustrations , and an appendix of some related materials dealing with EnglishMuslim relations round out the volume. All three "Turk" plays present Muslim characters, either in tiieir pursuits in their homelands (Selimus, attributed to Robert Greene) or in interactions with English subjects (Robert Daborne, A Christian Turned Turk, and Philip Massinger, The Renegado). Vitkus deserves praise for making available these minor plays as well as for providing a lucid analytical introduction. Vitlcus makes two arguments in his introduction. One is the familiar claim that Christians demonized Muslims, associated them with Jews (the Koran was once believed by Christians to have derived from the Old Testament, but not the New), criticized them as slaveholders, and yet yearned for what were perceived as Muslim wealth and sexual freedom. The other is a newer claim, based on the three plays at hand, that in the seventeenth-century English mind the tiireat ofIslam leaped from theborders ofChristendom to the minds and hearts of Englishmen and Englishwomen. The English came to fear the Turk within, came to fear the convert to Islam—die renegado or runagado—and yet to be fascinated by him or her too. In Vitkus's words, "The complexity and instability of early modern identity is [sic] inscribed in the Turk plays printed in this volume. In these texts the question of identity is a vexed one" (44). From one to the other, the plays progress toward"a more complicated, multiplex sense of cultural vertigo" (45). According to Vitkus, these issues of identity and culture came to the fore in the seventeenth century because many Englishmen, as sailors , privateers, and pirates, were encountering Muslims at the same time as their identities and their affiliation to English culture were being stretched and tested by their travels and their interactions with non-Christian peoples. This is almost certainly accurate. Vitkus could have added that English setdement in the New World involved the same fear of the Turk within. He mentions Captain John Smith (of New World fame) and Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (procolonizationist propoganda), but does not follow the story into the Americas, where itwas playing out as well. Explorers, settlers, and slaves followed hard on the heels ofthe sailors, privateers, and pirates. For one instance, in 1699 an Englishman, James Gillam, gained fame in New England and in imperial circles as a convert to Islam. Gillam was supposed to have murdered his captain in his sleep at sea, then influenced the crew of the 242Comparative Drama Mocha, a ship ofthe East India Company,"to turn pirates"plundering the "Red Sea and the Seas of India." After stopping at several points in the American colonies, Gillam was jailed in Boston. One ready explanation of Gillam's villainy was that he had "served the Mogul, turned Mahommedan and was circumcised ." The governor ofthe Massachusetts Bay Colony had Gillam examined by "a surgeon and a Jew"; both declared that he was circumcised, though "not after the manner ofthe Jews." In discussing conversion as it is portrayed in the plays,Vitkus notes that Englishmen were sometimes uninformed about the nature of circumcision, even confusing it with castration. Incidents like this one in 1699 confirm Vitkus's claim that a fear of conversion to Islam and the unsetdement ofEnglish identity—Gillam killed his captain, misled a company ofsailors, put his body to the knife—was a part ofthe experience ofthe English as they spread into new areas in the seventeenth century, whether for trade, piracy, or settlement. John Saillant Western Michigan University Egil Tornqvist. Ibsen, Strindberg and the Intimate Theatre: Studies in TV Presentation. Film Culture in Transition Series. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999. Pp. 240. $49.50. Although cultural critics have explored television production, they generally have ignored the special circumstances of adapting stage plays, even though this is one ofthe oldest methods ofproducing television drama. Egil Tornqvist takes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 241-242
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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