Contexts

Historical Contexts: Turks & the Ottoman Empire

Baubles for Bell-Metal: English Anxieties about Trade and Traffic in The Three Ladies of London

Fatima Farida Ebrahim

Abstract: The contrast between Turkey and London, the two geographic locations of the play, and its relevance to the historical moment demonstrates how the English flounder in the new trade system, while the Turks flourish. Through several key themes – hospitality, immigrants and foreign merchants, moneylending, and justice – Wilson contrasts Turkey and London so that Turkey appears in a more positive, favourable light wheras London is faltering, unstable, and morally and economically weak. Considering that Wilson wrote the play just after the Turkey Company was established, when Queen Elizabeth I and Sultan Murad III agreed upon formal trading 'capitulations' in 1580, I argue that Three Ladies responds to these mercantile shifts by demonstrating an English anxiety and struggle in establishing itself within this new global partnership. My reading of the play shifts the focus to the English inability to manage the incoming foreign merchants and alien immigrants in this new economic system, especially as compared to the thriving Ottoman Empire.

Citation: Ebrahim, Fatima Farida, ‘Baubles for Bell-Metal: English Anxieties about Trade and Traffic in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/FatimaEbrahim.htm.

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Turks, Trade, and Turning

Anders Ingram

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.

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The Poetry and Prosody of Robert Wilson

Jeremy Lopez

Abstract: What is the purpose of modernizing, or even reviving at all, a play like Three Ladies of London? The play is a fascinating precursor or model for The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice, as well as a vital hinge between civic and liturgical drama on the one hand and commercial drama on the other. But it is also a period piece, specifically preoccupied with the London of the 1580s, and obviously of great potential to be dreadfully dull to a modern audience. I will engage this problem by discussing the sound, structure, and historical (or trans-historical) significance of the play's ‘fourteener’ verse, which I think is the most fundamental marker of difference any modern production and audience must deal with.

Citation: Lopez, Jeremy, ‘The Poetry and Prosody of Robert Wilson’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/JeremyLopez.htm.

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Religious Tolerance in Wilson and Marlowe

Mathew R. Martin

Abstract: This paper considers the figure of the tolerant Turk in Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London and Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays and The Jew of Malta. Through this figure, Wilson’s and Marlowe’s plays temporarily countenance a notion that early modern culture found as dangerous as sodomy, witchcraft, and atheism: religious tolerance. Although limited by the play’s other concerns, Wilson’s Judge of Turkey demonstrates a religious tolerance that goes beyond demonizing stereotypes of the Turk. Vehicles for more extended explorations of religious tolerance, Marlowe’s Orcanes and Calymath uphold respect for or toleration of religious difference as the basis for constructive international politics. Nonetheless, in the Tamburlaine plays and in The Jew of Malta, the tolerant Turk is only temporarily successful, and the plays conclude with the re-establishment of religious intolerance as the status quo.

Citation: Martin, Mathew R., ‘Religious Tolerance in Wilson and Marlowe’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/MathewMartin.htm.

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‘Consider the lamentable cry of the poor’: Foreign Parasites, English Usurers, and Economic Crisis in The Three Ladies of London

Daniel Vitkus

Abstract: The paper will show how The Three Ladies of London builds on the traditional moral drama of medieval and Tudor England, with its religious condemnation of covetousness and other vices, by invoking a new kind of moral panic inspired by the emergence and expansion in London of financial activity that undertook speculation in foreign trade and benefitted a new class of parasitical financial ‘dealers’ at home. The paper’s analysis of the play will refer to the late Tudor socio-economic crisis, and to the alarm caused by the decline of traditional forms of charity and patron-client relations that were being replaced by a new capitalist trade network reaching from London to Venice and on to Constantinople. The paper will show how the connection between domestic and foreign economies was imagined, and what these representations of a new dependence on invasive and parasitic foreigners had to do with the realities of class tension, poverty, and usurious lending in London itself.

Citation: Vitkus, Daniel, ‘“Consider the lamentable cry of the poor”: Foreign Parasite, English Usurers, and Economic Crisis in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/DanielVitkus.htm.

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