The Mediterranean World and the ‘Turk’ in Shakespeare’s Representation of the British Empire

Author: Houria Halil

Keywords: British Empire, endogamy, exogamy, Mediterranean world, political alliances, representation, Shakespeare’s plays, ‘Turk’

DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/f4q7c

This research explores Shakespeare’s representation of the so-called British Empire in its contact with other jostling empires, most notably the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean. To this end, four of Shakespeare’s Mediterranean plays Othello, the Moor of Venice (1603), The Merchant of Venice (1596), The Tempest (1611), and Cymbeline (1611) are taken understudy. By considering the Postcolonial historicist approach developed by literary scholars such as Stephen Greenblatt and Edward Said, the research argues that the issues of imperial relationships in Shakespeare are not solely centered on the transatlantic colony of Virginia, but it was also extended to the Mediterranean basin. The latter, during Tudor England and, later, Stuart Britain had much more trade and diplomatic activity than on the Atlantic seaboard. This economic activity created a cosmopolitan zone of contact wherein people of the Orient elbowed people from the West. This encounter gave rise to a pre-modern form of Orientalism, which is reflected in Shakespeare’s celebration of marital-cum-political endogamous relationships in his four plays mentioned earlier.