This article considers the anonymous play The Tragical History, Admirable Atchievments and various events of Guy earl of Warwick and Thomas Heywood's The Four Prentices of London in the context of the generic label 'Turk plays'. I argue that both plays indicate their engagement with the Tamburlaine phenomenon, not only in their verse style and interest in stage spectacle but particularly in the ways in which both plays draw on the theatre's interest in and depiction of Islamic powers, either Turkish or Persian. To capitalize on the success of Marlowe's play and others like it, dramatists such as Heywood and the author of The Tragical History turned to medieval history and romance narratives for heroes whose stories they could dramatize. The careers of both Guy of Warwick and Godfrey of Bouillon involve a crusade or pilgrimage to the holy land and violent encounters with Saracen forces in Jerusalem. The Elizabethan dramatization of these two stories creates a palimpsest as English conceptions of Anglo-Ottoman relations in the sixteenth century are superimposed on the medieval depiction of English or European crusaders and their Saracen enemies. This palimpsestic effect is revealing in a number of ways. First, the adaptation of the story of Guy of Warwick for the stage permits insights into the repertorial strategies employed by dramatists and theatre companies as they strove to satisfy audience demand. Second, the apparently simplistic depictions of Anglo-Islamic relations in both The Tragical History and The Four Prentices of London point up the gap between the clear binarisms presented in each of the plays and the more complex relationship between England and the Ottoman empire at the end of the sixteenth century.
Annaliese Connolly is lecturer in English at Sheffield Hallam University. Her publications include 'Peele's David and Bethsabe: Reconsidering the Drama of the Long 1590s', Early Modern Literary Studies (2007) and 'Evaluating Virginity: A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Iconography of Marriage', in Goddesses and Queens: The iconography of Elizabeth I (Manchester University Press, 2007).
'Guy of Warwick, Godfrey of Bouillon, and Elizabethan Repertory'.
12.2 (2009): 207-22 (paper). Article 11.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/earlytheatre/vol12/iss2/11