The Arab/Turkish/Islamic influence in Shakespeare
In the book ‘What Islam did for us’ Tim Wallace Murphy states, (P.215) “European culture owes an immense and immeasurable debt to the world of Islam.” Elsewhere he states, (ibid) “We in the West owe a debt to the Muslim world that can never be repaid.”
Merchant of Venice
King Henry the Sixth Part one
At the end of scene two
“Was Mahomet inspired with a dove?”
King Richard the Third
“What, think you we are Turks or infidels?”
After Richard ordered the execution of another person. A response due to misrepresentation of the Ottoman empire.
Has a character called Aaron but this more likely to be a follower of the Jewish tradition and the play is set in Rome and not in the authors time.
The Comedy of Errors
Act four Scene 1
“That’s cover’d o’er with Turkish tapestry.”
A possible reference to a tapestry made by the Ottomans and this indicates to a luxury item of cloth. Tapestry was a mode of communication and in British history none was more famous than the Bayeux tapestry.
Act 2 Scene 1
“Richard, that robb’d the lion of his heart and fought the holy wars in Palestine.”
More war propaganda.
The Taming of the Shrew
Act 2 Scene 1
“Fine linen, Turkey cushions bost with pearl.”
More proof of trade between England and the Ottoman Empire.
King Richard the Second
Act 4 Scene 1
“Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross; against black pagans, Turks and Saracens.”
More Crusader vigour as well as racism.
King Henry the fourth Part one
Act 1 Scene 2
“What say’st thou to a hare, or the melancholy of a Moor-ditch?”
A ditch that used to surround the city of London.
King Henry the Fourth Part two
Act 2 Scene 3
“And every word a lie, duer paid to the hearer than the Turk’s Tribute.”
Act 5 scene 3
“This is the English, not the Turkish court.”
Two references which are unclear.
King Henry the Fifth
Act 1 scene 2
“Like the Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth.”
A reference to the play Bajazet which is about the Ottoman Sultan Bayezud I 1360-1403.
Act 5 scene 2
“Compound a boy, half French, half English, that shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard?”
The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople modern day Istanbul still ringing in their ears.
Also reference to the beard which is interesting because beards were common place in England, at the time.
Act 3 Scene 2
“If the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me.”
He is described as a moor most likely he was a Muslim yet he fights against the Ottomans in Cyprus which even now remains disputed somewhat.
Act 1 Scene 3
“The Ottomites reverend and gracious.”
“Valiant Othello we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman.”
“These moors are unchangeable in their wills.”
Proof that the Muslims did not break their treaties.
“Drop tears as fast as the Arabian Trees; their medicinable gum.”
Maybe gum tree or even Miswak tree?
Antony and Cleopatra
Act 3 scene 2
“O Anthony! O thou Arabian bird.”
Act 4 scene 2
“I would my son were in Arabia, and thy tribe before him.”
King Henry the eighth
Act 1 scene 1
“They made Britain India.”
In reference to their new trade route that by passed the Ottomans.
The phoenix and the turtle
“Let the bird of loudest lay; on the sole Arabian tree; herald sad and trumpet be; to whose sound chaste wings obey.”
And on that final note I bid you good morrow and good night!