University of Sussex
Maksudoğlu, Münire Zeyneb.pdf (3.24 MB)

Rethinking the early modern English sultanic plays through the lens of the Anglo-Ottoman diplomacy

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posted on 2024-06-10, 10:54 authored by Munire Zeyneb MaksudogluMunire Zeyneb Maksudoglu

This thesis reevaluates the trajectory of what are often termed ‘Turk plays’ in early modern English drama in relation to the trajectory of Anglo-Ottoman relations. English drama of this period witnessed a flourishing of plays featuring or pertaining to Turks. Four of them: the two parts of Tamburlaine the Great, The Tragical Reign of Selimus, and Amurath, The Courageous Turk, which roughly correspond to the beginning, the rise and the decline of the ‘Turk play’ trend are closely analysed and contextualised in each chapter. On the diplomatic front the corresponding period oversaw an unprecedented political entanglement with the Ottoman Empire. This created a frequent royal correspondence, whose readership was not confined to the palace walls.

Working together with a rich and partly unexplored archive of incoming royal epistolary material this thesis examines these four Turk plays in tandem with diplomacy and in relation to other ‘Turk plays’. When analysed through the lens of diplomacy anachronistic elements in the two parts of Tamburlaine (Chapter 1) reveal an extraordinary specificity with regards to Anglo-Ottoman relations, informing public awareness about England’s relations with the Ottomans in ways that have not previously been recognised. This overlapping of style, theme and motifs between diplomatic letters and the plays also reveal that these two worlds interacted in surprising ways. The following play, Selimus (Chapter 2), reflects the closest and most entangled political moment between the countries by creating an Ottoman interiority and entertaining a possible union of faith. Amurath (Chapter 3) which was staged during the brief revival of the ‘Turk play’ trend in the Jacobean period illustrates the legacy of Elizabethan examples and the shift from martial to sensual in a subtle but significant way, as the diplomatic correspondence came to a near halt with the accession of James I.

This thesis concludes that Anglo-Ottoman political relations helped create an eco-system in which cultural products such as ‘Turk plays’ could flourish; and that Early Modern international diplomacy should be part of any analysis of transnational encounters.


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  • English Theses

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  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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Matthew Dimmock

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