The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0588  Friday, 23 June 2006

From: 		Cary DiPietro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 23 Jun 2006 00:37:22 +0900
Subject: 	RE: Shakespeare and Islam

A brief search through the SHAKSPER archives shows that little 
discussion has been given over to Shakespeare's possible encounters with 
Islam, though the question has come up in the context of Othello's 
Moorish identity.  Emily Bartel's 'Making More of the Moor' (SQ, 1990) 
would seem to be the definitive word on this subject as it draws out 
Shakespeare's Moors through early modern texts such as Hakluyt's 
_Principal Navigations_, and Shakespeare's possible engagements with 
such cultural discourses.

I also have Nicholas Moschovakis' more recent article on religious 
pieties in _Titus_, which situates Shakespeare's treatment of excessive 
violence in the context of Reformation and post-Reformation 
Protestant/Catholic antipathies.  As he goes on to discuss how 
Shakespeare potentially attacks 'pretexts for religious violence', he 
describes Aaron as 'more than just a Machiavellian atheist; he also 
incarnates the unsettling consequences of widening religious and 
cultural divisions in early modern society.'  Moschovakis, however, 
stops short of discussing Aaron's Moor status in great detail.

The question I'm posing is obviously very topical in light of current 
global rifts (and especially in the context of _Titus Andronicus_ and 
piously motivated revenge killings), but I wonder how Shakespeare's 
possible resistance to religious pretexts for violence intersects with 
his characterization of Aaron as a Moor and with Shakespeare's possible 
encounters with or understanding of Islam, especially in the early to 
mid-1590s?  I also wonder how Edward Said's argument about Orientalism 
as an enabling discourse of European colonialism might be read back to a 
play such as _Titus_ and in light of the play's own treatment of Roman 

I'll pose these questions to the list, but I'll also gladly entertain 
any suggestions for source materials offlist.

Cary DiPietro

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