Schism and Irenicism in Jacobean England: Imagining Unity through Islamic Encounter
This thesis seeks to demonstrate that in the years surrounding the reign of James I of England (1603-1625), there existed in English society an underlying yearning for religious concord that came to expression in the encounter with Islam. In dramatic works such as William Percy’s Mahomet and His Heaven (1601), John Day, Thomas Rowley, and George Wilkins’s The Travels of the Three English Brothers (1607), and Phillip Massinger’s The Renegado (1625), I locate diverse representations of Islam that led to distinct imaginings of unity for English society. In following the arch of James’s reign, this project analyzes how early modern dramatic writers used these representations to negotiate the religious divisions between Protestants and Catholics in the wake of the Reformation. It makes the case that the encounter with Islam provided a platform to imagine possibilities for harmonious relationships between different denominations and, by doing so, helped to move English society in a direction toward religious toleration.
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