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date: 29 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay pursues the multiple and contradictory meanings of the signifier ‘Tartar’ in Elizabethan drama by parsing how its classical and historical referents were mapped onto the ‘trouble’ associated with gendered and racialized embodiment in the period, which was further mapped onto the early Anglo–Islamic encounter. It focuses on the imbricated series of cultural performances that constituted the 1594–5 Christmas revels at Gray’s Inn, subsequently published as the Gesta Grayorum: the semi-parodic allegory of the Prince of Purpoole and ‘an Ambassador from the mighty Emperor of Russia and Moscovy’; the madcap premier of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors; and the Masque ofProteus, with Queen Elizabeth in the audience. In assessing the patriarchal web of empire indexed by the Gesta Grayorum, this essay foregrounds the fraught historical embodiment of subaltern women from the Islamic world in Elizabethan England and their neglected, albeit constitutive role in its literature, including Shakespeare’s plays.

Keywords: Comedy of Errors, Elizabeth I, Queen (r. 1558–1603), Gesta Grayorum, Gray’s Inn Revels (1594–5) (see also Inns of Court), Ippolyta the Tartarian (see also ‘Tartar girl’), Lucy Negro

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