Daniel Vitkus. Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570-1630. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 244pp. ISBN 0 312 29452 2.
Sheffield Hallam University
Duxfield, Andrew. "Review of Daniel Vitkus, Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570-1630." Early Modern Literary Studies 12.3 (January, 2007) 13.1-5 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/12-3/revvitk.htm>.
a complex matrix in which "turning" was common and in which Christians, Muslims, and renegades worked cooperatively and shifted identities as they negotiated for places in the multicultural Mediterranean's violent marketplace. (113)Similarly, trade takes place in an environment wherein one may not be able to distinguish a pirate, a privateer, a merchant or a renegade. The chapter goes on to discuss contemporary drama's registering of anxiety concerning the effects of increased contact with Islam on a national level; England itself, through increased exposure to and reliance upon trade relations with Mediterranean Muslims, is, in a sense, "turning Turk".
In these three plays, religious and racial affiliations are unstable, giving the audience a sense of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian identities as interchangeable roles in a Machiavellian marketplace where identity was a slippery matter indeed, and where, from an English perspective, various forms of foreignness (or religious difference) were blurred, or in some cases, indistinguishable. (195)This emphasis on the fluidity of intercultural relations in the early modern Mediterranean is synonymous with the overall project of Turning Turk. Throughout the work, Vitkus goes to great lengths to deconstruct reductive preconceptions regarding the cultural dynamics of the region, and England's place within it. The result is a fascinating and enlightening work that convincingly demonstrates the complexity of foreign encounter conducted through trade as opposed to empire building, and illustrates the equally complex process of the London stage both absorbing and creating contemporary attitudes to these encounters. In Turning Turk: English Theater and the Early Modern Mediterranean, 1570-1630, Vitkus provides essential reading to those with an interest in the meeting of early modern cultures.