“Consorting With The Base Arabian"; The Tragedie Of Mariam, Fair Queene of Jewry (1613), from discursive ambivalence to orientalist benevolence

Through discussing issues related to the play's subgenre(s) and especially alterity, I will present what I see as the ambivalent discourses at work in The Tragedy of Mariam which make it almost impossible to come up with a conclusive verdict on the subversiveness or conservatism of the text which, by and large, has dominated its critical reception. This stands in stark opposition to what some would call, not without truth, as the play's orientalist discourse. The latter can be traced in several textual instances, but notably in the stereotypical representation of the Arabian Silleus, the exotic and erotic lover/seducer of the play's anti-heroine Salome, which, I will argue, does not only reminisce of medieval anti-Saracen rhetoric, but equally it coalesces early modern literary and non-literary demonization of the Moors. I propose it is always legitimate to question the applicability of Edward Said's theory to the medieval and early modern encounters between the Islamic Orient and the West. This is especially true when it is a fact that, and in great part the Orient was conquering not conquered, Said's strong argument that the West, in its search for self-definition, has constructed Arabs/Muslims as the ultimate Other par excellence–exotic, lustful, carnal, cruel, cunning, irrational, and emotional-- is still valid for those interested in exploring what they strongly see as medieval and early modern discourses of Orientalism. The Tragedy of Mariam, I will argue, is not an exception


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