Abstract: The act of ‘Turning Turk’, or rather the dissembling threat of such apostasy, is central to one of the sub plots of The Three Ladies of London. However, this sub plot is itself notably short on details of either its Turkish setting or Islam in general. At this relatively early stage of the English North African and Levantine trades (the 1580s) literary portrayals of Islam were notably less detailed than they became in the following decades. This essay will contextualize the subplot involving Gerontus, Mercadorus, and the Judge, by exploring contemporary ideas of ‘Turning Turk’, and reflections of trade with Barbary and Turkey in the play. I will argue that the drive of the apostasy narrative is to demonize - by contrast with the comparatively virtuous Islamic and Jewish characters – the Italian Catholic Mercadorus as ‘worse than a Turk’, a common trope in early modern polemical writing.
Citation: Ingram, Anders, ‘Turks, Trade, and Turning’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/AndersIngram.htm.
Abstract: The Three Ladies of London critiques Catholicism not just by associating it with non-English, obviously immoral characters like the Italian Mercadorus but also by linking it to corrupt figures within the English church like the Vice Simony, who favours the priest Peter Pleaseman who has studied in continental colleges over the Protestant preacher Sincerity. As such, Wilson's play bridges mid-sixteenth-century Protestant morality plays and 1580s Protestant print polemic. Recognizing connections to both earlier and later anti-Catholic discourse suggests how many of Wilson's characters might have been presented onstage. More significantly, this relationship between Three Ladies and more explicitly polemical works calls into question arguments that characterize the religious ideology and politics of the Queen's Men as ‘moderate’.
Citation: Kelly, Erin, ‘Anti-Catholicism and Protestant Polemic in Robert Wilson’s Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/ErinKelly.htm.