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William Shakespeare and Islam

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

His works including 38 plays, 154 sonnets (poems) and two long narrative poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than any other playwright.

Shakespeare refers to Muslims, Islam and the Islamic world –
Prophet ‘Mahomet’, Morocco, Barbary, Constantinople, Moors, Turks, Ottomites, Sultans, Saracens, Paynims, Moriscos – at least 141 times, in 21 different plays. More frequently than he refers to Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

“All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

Merchant of Venice:
The Prince of Morocco says “All that glitters is not gold.”
‘A tawny moor’ all in white says, “Mislike me not for my complexion”.
‘Sultan Solyman’ is also mentioned, referring to Suleman the magnificent, Ottoman Sultan.

King Henry VI
“Was Mahomet inspired with a dove?”
“This be Damascus…”

King Richard III
“What, think you we are Turks or infidels?”

The Comedy of Errors
“That’s cover’d o’er with Turkish tapestry.”

King John
“Richard, that robb’d the lion of his heart and fought the holy wars in Palestine.”

The Taming of the Shrew
“Fine linen, Turkey cushions bost with pearl.”

King Richard II
“Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross; against black pagans, Turks and Saracens.”

King Henry IV
“What say’st thou to a hare, or the melancholy of a Moor-ditch?”
“And every word a lie, duer paid to the hearer than the Turk’s Tribute.”
“This is the English, not the Turkish court.”

King Henry V
“Like the Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth.”
“Compound a boy, half French, half English, that shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard?”

“If the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me.”

Othello is a Moor
“The Ottomites reverend and gracious.”
“Valiant Othello we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman.”
“These moors are unchangeable in their wills.”
“Drop tears as fast as the Arabian Trees; their medicinable gum.”

Antony and Cleopatra
“O Anthony! O thou Arabian bird.”

“I would my son were in Arabia, and thy tribe before him.”

King Henry VIII
“They made Britain India.”

The Phoenix and the Turtle
“Let the bird of loudest lay; on the sole Arabian tree; herald sad and trumpet be; to whose sound chaste wings obey.”

  1589  /  History  /  Last Updated November 10, 2013 by Muslim Museum  /  Tags: , ,