No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

#100: Three Turk Plays -- Daniel Vitkus (ed)

Actually only read two of these -- Massinger's "The Renegado" and Daborne's "A Christian Turned Turk" -- as "Selimus", the tale of an especially unpleasant Sultan, wasn't really relevant to my quest for information on the experience of European renegades in Barbary.

"The Renegado" tells the tale of two Europeans -- the renegade Grimaldi (who, after being betrayed by his perfidious master, redeems himself by switching sides again) and Vitelli, a Venetian gentleman who pretends to be a shopkeeper and falls in love with the niece of the Ottoman Emperor. There are some eunuch jokes.

"A Christian Turned Turk" is much more fun. It's a dramatised history of Captain Ward, an oyster-boy turned pirate who (in 1606) converted to Islam for love of a woman. The play tells the tale of his entanglements with a French merchant and his fiancee, his friendship and falling-out with fellow pirate Dansiker, and his eventual disgrace and death. There is something in this play to offend everyone: Jews, Muslims, women, merchants and pirates.

I don't think I'd recommend either of these plays for sound plot, stageability or deathless verse: but they're an interesting insight into how European renegades did business with, and within, the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries: they gave me an idea of how these renegades might've regarded themselves, and been regarded by others, and of how the issue of apostasy was approached. Vitkus' edition is valuable for its extensive footnotes and excellent introduction, which discusses Othello and The Jew of Malta, amongst other plays of the period that dealt with the English experience abroad.

There is also an excellent tip on how to fake a public circumcision.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

No comments:

Post a Comment