Early Modern English Drama and the Islamic World. 'In th'armor of a Pagan knight': Romance and Anachronism East of England in Book V of The Faerie Queene and Tamburlaine

Justin Kolb, Linda McJannet (contributing editor)

Abstract


In Book V of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, the knight Artegall turns Turk, donning 'th'armor of a Pagan knight' to infiltrate the court of the Souldan, allowing his fellow knight Arthur to defeat the tyrant with a mirrored shield, destroying him through an act of mimesis. Using this passage as a departure point, I argue that anachronism and mimesis, making the Muslim other a figure in a transhistorical drama and appropriating aspects of his identity for one's own self-fashioning, were central to the construction of both the Turk and the Englishman in Elizabethan literature. I explore this dynamic in The Faerie Queene and Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine, with a glance at the historical hybrid hero Scanderbeg's role in the English literary imagination. The incorporation of Muslim figures into the romance space constructed by these texts highlights the hopes and anxieties attending cross-cultural contact and the commensurability of human beings, and the double-sided capacity of the English to become like those with whom they trafficked.


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