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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Islam, as a set of religious tenets and practices, was not a preoccupation of the eighteenth-century British stage; but the century saw a wide array of plays with Muslim characters, subjects and settings. Representing Islam on the London stage was often either an occasion to explore the limits of monarchical governance or an opportunity to stage highly sexualized spectacles of musical theatre. In plays and operas such as Rowe’s Tamerlane, Handel’s Tamerlano, and Hill’s Zara the question of hospitality becomes a central locus for dramatic conflict and for allegory. In later comic pieces it is possible to discern a highly charged political undercurrent to what appear to be superficial excuses for ethnic humour and musical entertainment. This chapter demonstrates how Bickerstaff’s The Sultan and Dibdin’s The Seraglio refashion some of the concerns of the early tragedies to address the political crisis activated by the rebellion of the American colonies.

Keywords: race, empire, Islam, Handel, Nicholas Rowe, Aaron Hill, Bickerstaff, monarchy, politics

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