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TRT World declared that there would be no Shakespeare without Islam, this is how they are wrong

"The Comedy of Errors is set in Ephesus, a Roman city in pre-Islamic Turkey, and Pericles is set in the city of Tyre, located in pre-Islamic Lebanon. About half of Antony and Cleopatra takes place in pre-Islamic Egypt," notes Caschetta when he asserts that William Shakespeare was not even remotely 'Islamo-curious'.

Recently, conjectures about supposed Islamic references in Shakespeare’s works have been made by commentators from the Middle East. This includes the latest assertion by Turkish state media portal TRT World, in which a commentator Nadia Khan absurdly claimed in her latest piece “The centrality of the Muslim world to Shakespeare’s work” that there would have been ‘no Shakespeare’ were it not for Islam.

Earlier in 1989, Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi claimed that Shakespeare was an Arab by origin whose real name was “Sheikh Zabir.” Kadir Mısıroğlu, a Turkish writer has earlier claimed in an interview that the original name of the English Playwright is “Sheikh Pir” and he was secretly a Muslim.

American Conservative Magazine, National Review has published a rebuttal to the Islamist claims of appropriating Shakespeare as an ‘Arab’ or a ‘Muslim’. AJ Caschetta, a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology has written has presented a watertight argument against the recent claims of Shakespeare having a Muslim influence on him.

What the TRT World piece by Nadia Khan claims

In the article published in TRT World, Nadia Khan makes the case that Shakespeare was ‘closely connected’ to the Islamic world through his extensive body of work. Khan presents an argument from history that while during Queen Elizabeth I’s regime England’s political and trade alliance grew with the Ottoman and Morrocan Empire, “the influence of Muslim culture on England was immense and this penetrated into literature and theatre,” she claims.

Nadia Khan claims that in the 16th century before Shakespeare entered the commercial drama scene in England, there were many plays which depicted Islamic characters and were set in the Arabic world as a backdrop. “Yet, Shakespeare’s connection to the Muslim world has been minimised in the past few centuries,” Khan argues. She makes the case that the West’s interaction with Islam is not a recent phenomenon marked by migrations, but a historical fact backed by England’s trade with the Arabs.

The growing ties of the English with the Islamic traders, businessmen or slaves are said to have impacted the English theatre culturally and eventually inspired Shakespeare according to Nadia Khan. She bases her arguments by quoting Mathew Dimmock, Professor of Early Modern Studies (English) at the University of Sussex who says, “Without Islam, there would be no Shakespeare. Without Tudor and Jacobean England’s rich and complex engagement with Islamic cultures, the plays written by William Shakespeare would be very different, if they existed at all.”

Nadia Khan has also claimed that a character from Shakespeare’s Othello, who is described as a ‘Moor’ from Venice, was a Muslim. She argues than ‘Moor’ did not just refer to a person with a darker skin tone but a Muslim, Arab or a Turk in 16th-century England. Dimmock also states, while talking to TRT World that Shakespeare included around 150 references to Islamic motifs in his 21 plays and has referred to Prophet Muhammad as ‘Mahomet’ in his works.

Caschetta’s factual rebuttal to Islamic influences on Shakespeare

AJ Caschetta in his piece in the National Review has debunked every argument presented by the Islamic side. He says that had Shakespeare been remotely inspired by Islam, he would have at least used the word ‘Islam’, or related words like Alcoran (an English word used to refer to the Quran) in his works.

Caschetta notes while Shakespeare has indeed used ‘Mahomet’ only once in all of his plays, at the same time, he’s referred to Jesus or Jesu, 25 times, referred to Christ 9 times while there were 796 references to “God,” but no references to “Allah” in all of his compiled works. He argued that had the legendary English Playwright been remotely interested in Islam, he would have added Muslim central characters in his plays.

However, only one Muslim character who has a minor presence appears in all of Shakespeare’s plays is that of a Moor. Also, none of Shakespeare’s plays were set in the Muslim World. Hence, the argument that Shakespeare would not have been possible without Islam is far from the truth.

The Comedy of Errors is set in Ephesus, a Roman city in pre-Islamic Turkey, and Pericles is set in the city of Tyre, located in pre-Islamic Lebanon. About half of Antony and Cleopatra takes place in pre-Islamic Egypt,” notes Caschetta when he asserts that William Shakespeare was not even remotely ‘Islamo-curious’.

Caschetta debunks the myth of the cultural influence of Islam on Medieval England. He notes that Islamic theatre was far less developed than European drama, during Shakespeare’s time. While Mathew Dimmock has claimed a certain 150 references to Islamic Motifs in Shakespearean literature, he could not produce the list of the same when contacted with details. The only references which were ‘Islamic’ in nature were loose, including Turkish tapestry and cushions which find a presence in Comedy of errors.

While no Muslims enter on stage in his plays, Dimmocks list of Islamic references is nothing but an exaggeration, Caschetta notes. He finally concludes by saying, that writers like Dimmock are rescuing Shakespeare by linking him to Islam, in the age of Wokeness. “The entire canon of Western literature is under assault. Some want to diversify it by adding “marginalized” or “underrepresented” authors, while others want to eliminate it altogether,” he notes.

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