10. The Politics of Mediterranean Marriage in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton

Kat Lecky

[print edition page number: 203]

A long-running legend recounts how a sultan’s daughter boarded a merchant ship to pursue the English crusader Gilbert Becket after his release from an eastern Mediterranean prison. Accounts paint her as the quintessential romance heroine:

O wonderful beyond measure both the courage and the love of this woman in undertaking such difficulties and hardships! She did not hesitate, though she was of such noble birth and possessed such great wealth, irrevocably to forsake all; she did not fear, though frail and delicate, to undergo the dangers of poverty; nor did she hesitate to face alone the innumerable perils of a vast extent of country and of a stormy sea, so long as she might seek for one man . . . though she had no assurance of his being alive or of her being able to find him, and still less assurance of his marrying her.[1]

The Saracen princess is the feminine agent shaping this Mediterranean romance, which is staged in terms of economic risk.[2] Her gamble pays off: she marries her knight and gives birth to a child who would grow up to be Thomas Becket, one of the most famous saints in English history.

This legend appeared in five different sources within 100 years of Becket’s death and circulated steadily in both manuscript and print through the nineteenth century.[3] The myth about Becket’s Saracen mother proliferated in an[204] English nation whose economy relied heavily upon this sea.[4] Becket’s cross-cultural parentage fashioned him into an incarnation of England’s intimate encounters with this foreign world.[5] His cosmopolitan body proved that the English could enter into productive unions with Mediterranean trading partners despite their geographical estrangement. At a time when England’s financial viability depended on its tenuous ties to this maritime economy — and when its denizens’ economic adventures could easily lead to violence and enslavement — the romance of cross-cultural marriage offered a manageable metaphor for thinking through the complex diplomacies of trans-Mediterranean relations.

Helen Cooper explains, “almost all romances are narratives either of courtship leading to marriage, or of the trials that part a loving married couple.”[6] This essay explores how some representative English authors used romance to negotiate their nation’s dependence on (and alienation from) the Mediterranean culture that dominated the premodern western world. Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, Shakespeare’s Othello, and Milton’s Samson Agonistes all use romantic marriage to make sense of a fluid Mediterranean economy that blended mercantilism with piracy, slavery, and imperialism. In each text the marriage performs in microcosm the dramas of trade and conquest playing out between the yoked societies of the Christian West and the Muslim East. In each text the wife embodies the ambiguity of these cross-cultural contacts: she is the open vessel that drifts between the poles of equity and subjugation, transnationalism and imperialism, profit and loss. She is the agent of the oikos, the household economy that is the foundation of the political.[7] In this way the wife is also the ship of state, the embodiment of a nation that in its relationship to foreign states oscillates between a merchant vessel and a slave ship.[8] Despite their generic and contextual differences,[205] Chaucer’s, Shakespeare’s, and Milton’s texts share one of the structuring tropes of English romance: its emphases on the subjective interiority and transformational agency of the desiring female protagonist.[9] The foreign bride has the power to erase geographical and economic difference, while the foreign husband widens cultural schisms. Productivity depends upon feminine mobility; masculine wanderings engender nothing but loss.

The texts of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton are examples of an English literary tradition that seeks to understand England’s place on this international stage.[10] Medieval and early modern romances often explore their nation’s shifting role in Mediterranean power relations through the trope of the foreign bride. The literary progression from Chaucer’s text to those of Shakespeare and Milton mirrors England’s historical progression. In Chaucer’s day, the late medieval nation was dependent upon but marginal to the Mediterranean economy; in Shakespeare’s time, post-Elizabethan England emerged as a naval power in its own right after its defeat of the Spanish Armada; and by Milton’s era, the seventeenth-century empire aggressively dominated the sea. As historical England transforms its Mediterranean role from subservient to domineering, it ceases to identify with the wife to align with the husband. Consequently, the fecund potential of cross-cultural romance in Chaucer’s Tale is reduced to a lost possibility in Shakespeare’s Othello, while in Milton’s Samson it is no more than a barren cipher. Chaucer’s romance turns tragic in Shakespeare’s before becoming irrelevant in Milton’s, as England hardens against its neighbors.

Shakespeare’s and Milton’s devaluation of romance is itself part of a greater shift marking the difference between English literature of the Middle Ages and that of the Renaissance. Cooper notes the labile quality of romance, which presents itself through a set of “family resemblances” with the capacity to adapt to the genre’s changing times and places, while Barbara Fuchs emphasizes romance’s voracious opportunism, in its ability to adapt to and even cannibalize other genres.[11] These traits enabled romance to dominate English literature for more[206] than 500 years.[12] Part of this genre’s power derived from its talents for simultaneously reflecting and reshaping the world outside its readers’ horizons. Robert Rouse traces in the later English Middle Ages a romance geography within which a nation’s churches and cities are connected by international trade routes.[13] As protagonists move through this multifaceted landscape, they mesh religious and political affiliations with mercantile interests. In this way, late medieval romance stages an economy that undermines even as it reinforces state- and faith-generated boundaries. Romance’s hold over the English imagination lessened in tandem with the post-Reformation rise of an epic literature that celebrated national and religious separatism. Claire Jowitt points out that although romances fueled by “the desire for material wealth” continued to be popular in early modernity, they were “clearly secondary to the patriotic motive and desire for glory” that molded epics.[14] Rather than remaining the primary way in which English authors and audiences mapped their nation’s imaginary and pragmatic links to the world, romance became in early modernity the mercantile-minded relation of the noble epic form.

Chaucer’s Boat:
Constance as Open Mediterranean Vessel

Chaucer’s The Man of Law’s Tale is an example of medieval English romance at the height of its generic supremacy, and the text stages its transnational Mediterranean romance by recounting the story of a seafaring Roman princess’s two cross-cultural weddings.[15] David Wallace states that Chaucer’s explorations of marriage take place in conjunction with the author’s interrogations into other social and political institutions, and Custance’s alliances play out within a framework yoking international mercantile trade with religious difference and imperial violence.[16] In his prologue, the Man of Law foregrounds the importance of[207] the Tale’s economic element by attributing his story to a traveling merchant.[17] He contrasts his condemnation of the failed dynastic marriages of the scheming Aeneas, Theseus, and Jason with his encomium on “riche marchauntz” whose sea travels have granted them the knowledge of “al th’estaat / Of regnes” (ll. 122–129).[18] Susan Phillips notes that Chaucer’s romance “celebrates merchants rather than magic,” and this is true in the Tale’s favoring of the pragmatics of conjugal economies over dynastic mystifications: Custance’s first marriage fails because of its inherent imperialism and hierarchical structure, while her second succeeds as a result of the partners’ equity and desire for common profit.[19]

Over the past few decades, critics have read Custance as a vessel rather than an agent: for instance, Geraldine Heng notes that Custance’s “very emptiness and availability” invite the author and his audience to look past her at broader questions of nation and empire.[20] Carolyn Dinshaw argues that Custance’s marriages dictate “the dynamics of The Man of Law’s Tale” and are themselves dictated by Gayle Rubin’s theory of marriage as the traffic in women.[21] The ideology of the dynastic, masculinist model of marriage is indeed at work in this text; however, this version coexists with the presence of its romance double, which hinges upon the woman’s active choice of her spouse.[22] Chaucer places the two in tension within Custance’s marriages, setting them against each other in order to draw out the dialectic of coverture and consent, endogamy and exogamy, and enslavement and equity. Her first marriage to the sultan is beset by imperialism, endogamy, and hierarchy, while her second marriage is at base a microcosm of the system of Mediterranean trade.[23] Throughout the tale Custance is a vessel; but as the boat of romance towing the ship of state, she is not passive. Her romance adventures — consisting in part of five sea crossings that total more[208] than eight years in duration — juxtapose drift with choice, and openness with agency.

At the core of Chaucer’s romance are Custance’s marriages, which reflect the contradictory nature of the late medieval English marriage contract.[24] It was a feudal system that subjected the wife to her spouse; as a metaphor of the social contract, it promoted the ruler’s subjugation of those he ruled. At the same time, consent was considered crucial to marriage, and the law privileged the woman’s choice.[25] This feminine-oriented mode of “companionate” marriage ensured that wives were not mere commodities subsumed under the legal fiction of coverture.[26] Martha Howell explains that companionate marriage rose to prominence with the rise in movable wealth in the later Middle Ages.[27] The economic advantages of this equitable union appealed to a mercantile class whose wealth was easily gained or lost: in a companionate marriage, husband and wife were “partners in life” who would “combine energies to preserve what they had and secure what they did not.”[28] This transactional union “appropriated the language of love and sexual desire and . . . attached to it friendship, cooperation, mutuality, and morality” to define the companionate ideal.[29]

Simon Gaunt notes the “strict exogamy” promoted by this model, in contrast with the “feudal” model of marriage that relied on “endogamy . . . and family control of the choice of marriage partner.”[30] In other words, miscegenation promised lucrative rewards: Valerie Forman points out that in some early modern tragicomedies incest is a “localized and insular economy” overcome through exogamy, which is “an idealized fantasy of the abundance that comes with incorporating others into a world of economic exchange.”[31] In companionate marriage, the personal becomes the political through an embrace of the foreign. Furthermore, the couple’s interest in accumulating goods in common translates into the social macrocosm as a drive towards the common good. What is “common” in this system is not divided along cultural or national lines; rather, companionate marriage gathers alien and native together under a shared purpose. Of course,[209] this cosmopolitan model of wedded bliss, which played out in innumerable late medieval romances that centered on the feminine protagonist’s desires, existed in tandem with the earlier model that reinforced patriarchal hierarchies and social stasis. In romance, this feudal model emerges as a microcosm of imperial lust that vies for supremacy over its amiable mercantile counterpart.

Custance’s first marriage places the imperial and companionate models in dialogue but ultimately falls on the side of domination and enslavement. Her father, the emperor of Rome, arranges her match to the Muslim sultan of Syria. He negotiates this marriage

by tretys and embassadrie,
And by the popes mediacioun,
And al the chirche, and al the chivalrie,
That in destruccioun of mawmettrie,
And in encrees of Cristes lawe deere,
They been acorded. (233–238)

The terms are simple: the sultan will convert himself and his people, and in return he will receive Custance along with a quantity of gold. Economics and faith work hand in hand to cement the terms of the marriage contract.[32] The fantasy of equity dominates the language of this treaty, in which “This same accord was sworn on eyther syde” (244). Nevertheless, this union grounds itself in imperial claims on the part of the Roman church and state, which seeks to expand its influence in the East. Although the match furthers the financial and spiritual interests of both parties, it is not companionate: the emperor’s motives are imperialist while the sultan’s are selfish; Custance has no choice but to follow her father’s bidding; and the Tale’s analogues begin with incest.[33] Although this marriage appropriates the discourse of the free trade agreements circulating among various nations doing business in the Mediterranean, it exemplifies the law of dynastic exchange.

Chaucer reveals the feudal, imperialist underpinnings of this cross-cultural union by highlighting women’s reactions against it. As Custance sails across the Mediterranean to meet her betrothed, she rails against the unfairness of being sent “unto the Barbre nacioun” (281). Susan Nakley notices that the image Custance paints of Syrian barbarity belies the sophisticated arguments the sultaness forwards to persuade her lieges to kill the converts.[34] Nakley notes that the sultan’s mother calls for a “newly reformed and redeemed Islamic community” that will emerge when the sultan’s mother, the sultaness, reverses her son’s “decadent[210] abandonment of his nation’s faith for private satisfaction.”[35] The sultan’s precipitous conversion to Christianity in return for personal gratification, paired with the emperor’s trade of his daughter for land in the eastern Mediterranean, creates within this marriage a dynamic fueled by the desire for private gain rather than common good. Custance’s cultural bias against the Syrians reveals that she too participates in this system of endogamy and violent empire. Although the sultaness advocates the common good rather than the interests of a few, it is a good that includes only her native community and not its immigrants. The sultaness chooses social endogamy: she slaughters her son to keep out foreign influence. This marriage is personal, and so are the feminine rejections of it.

As a result of its exclusivity, the union of Custance and the sultan borrows from the discourse of the Mediterranean slave trade — an antagonistic economy that traded in prisoners of international wars or religious conflicts such as the Crusades.[36] The narrator claims that Custance is “bounden under subjeccioun” to her new spouse — a view to which she herself subscribes when she mourns that “Wommen are born to thraldom and penance, / And to been under mannes governance” (270; 286–287). The images of enslavement that stem from this vertical model of marriage dominate the sultaness’ discourse as well. When she appeals to her subjects to help overthrow her son, she paints his decision to marry as an act of abasement. The sultaness explains that if the Syrians accept the “newe lawe” of Custance’s Rome, they are agreeing to a life of “thraldom to oure bodies and penance” (337–338). The sultan’s enforced conversion of his people to Christianity is essentially the imposition of foreign imperium. With his tyrannical act, the Islamic leader exposes himself as a slave of the Roman emperor. The political and religious aspects of this conversion are inseparable and contribute equally to the enthrallment of the Muslim nation by a Christian aggressor. The sultaness stages her usurpation of Syria as a democratic act: she asks if her people will support her, and “They sworen and assenten, every man” (344). Nonetheless, the sultaness’ version of common good excludes transnational accommodation: its rejection of miscegenation places Syria in conflict with a large portion of the Mediterranean world.

Custance’s second marriage stands in sharp contrast to the first. Set adrift by her mother-in-law after her husband’s death, for over five years she follows a major shipping route between the Middle East and western Europe as she drifts from the coast of Syria through the Strait of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic to the North Sea. Finally she lands on the shores of Northumberland, where she naturalizes willingly into the community. Custance’s change in attitude is striking: rather than continuing to lament her personal losses, she “thanketh Goddes[211] sonde” and refuses to divulge her past to her new compatriots (523). Like Gilbert Becket’s Saracen princess, she puts aside her former claims to wealth and gambles on her new romance adventure. Nationless and without official status as either the daughter of a Roman emperor or the widow of a Syrian sultan, Custance makes a fresh start on English soil. She retains her Christian and Roman identity (she communicates with the natives in a “maner Latyn corrupt”) but blends into her adoptive body politic to “serve and plese” her townspeople, who accept the foreign woman as one of their own (519; 531). Custance’s performance of cultural accommodation leads to her companionate marriage to Alla, the king of Northumberland, who marries her and converts to Christianity for her sake.

Of course this marriage also contains elements of its hierarchical counterpart, again exemplified in the response of Custance’s mother-in-law Donegild, who denounces her son’s spouse and tries to cleanse her body politic of foreignness by placing her son’s alien bride and their child in the same rudderless boat that brought her to England’s shores.[37] This time Custance and her son are adrift in the Mediterranean for another five years before being rescued by Romans returning home from killing the sultaness. Meanwhile, Alla counters his mother’s attempt at social endogamy with matricide — a definitive, if disturbing, rejection of the feudal model of marriage — and finds his wife and son safe in Rome. Their reunion spurs Custance’s final two Mediterranean journeys: she returns to England with Alla, and after his death a year later she sails back to Rome.[38]

The nexus of adaptation and accommodation that defines the union of Custance and Alla engenders a cosmopolitan model of a transnational social contract that connects England with Rome on equal terms and also invokes the would-be Muslim conversion of her first spouse through her second husband’s strikingly Islamic name. Their union thus embodies companionate marriage while mimicking the medieval Mediterranean’s thriving mercantile economy. In the Middle Ages, English merchants participated in a transnational system so complex that it required intense and sustained collaboration among numerous trading companies spanning the sea.[39] For instance, the textile industry brought together merchants from the Brabant, Egypt, England, Flanders, France, Italy, the Levant, and the Magreb: a length of wool or silk was usually the result of the transfer of “industrial raw materials, half-finished and finished products . . . over long distances.”[40] Cities throughout the Mediterranean hosted branches of international mercantile companies, whose members often lived in “virtual [212] free-trade areas” while enjoying a degree of “individual or collective privileges” that governments granted to stimulate the economy.[41] This system promoted exogamy in addition to economic gain: in England these business incentives for foreign merchants “consisted primarily in tax reductions or exemptions and in citizenship or burgess rights in cities or the status of denizens.”[42] The accommodative nature of this maritime trade produced international goods for an international clientele, while producing cosmopolitan Mediterranean citizens with affiliations in multiple states.[43]

The marriage of Custance and Alla participates in this equitable, adaptive economy, and its consummation produces Mauricius, who becomes the half-English emperor of Rome. He is the cosmopolitan product of Custance’s willingness to sexually accommodate Alla:

For though that wives been ful holy thinges,
They moste take in pacience at night
Swich maner necessaries as been plesinges
To folk that han ywedded hem with ringes,
And leye a lite hir holinesse aside
As for the time — it may no bet bitide. (709–714)

Chaucer explains that Custance, like all wives, is a “ful holy thinge.” Her integrity is marked by her adherence to that ideal of self-sufficiency which allows her to be a vessel brimming with virtue, which opens for the common good. Custance, like a vase full of the wine of divine grace, needs to remove her stopper —
to “leye a lite hir holinesse aside” — so that she may pour out some of her sacramental libation for her conjoined bodies politic. Custance’s accommodation is not a breach but a reinforcement: her liquidity, represented in her son Mauricius, joins England with Christianity and Rome with Englishness.

As Custance adapts to her transnational union, she creates with her husband an individual in whom the bloodlines of Rome and England mingle seamlessly in equitable proportion.[44] This mingling is significant not least because of England’s own status as “other” within the international Mediterranean economy.[45] Custance’s and Alla’s marriage exemplifies the societal ideal of an equal union between distinct nations all invested in the flourishing system of intellectual, religious, political, and economic exchange that characterizes the medieval Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Custance’s decisions, pivotal to this couple’s success, reflect Chaucer’s England’s newly established House of Commons, which granted[213] representative agency to the burghers who ruled over local affairs. This extension of governmental power to the merchant class granted legitimacy to those traditionally marginalized by the feudal system.[46] In Chaucer’s day, those formerly excluded from political influence could now help steer their nation’s course. In his Tale, the author translates this mercantile figure of governance — who is eccentric to the Crown and invested in a commonwealth fueled by economic prosperity — into the seafaring Custance, the abandoned woman who forges a valuable new history for a Christian England shaped by the exchange of cultures, faiths, and communitarian ideals throughout the Mediterranean.

Reforming English Romance:
Early Modern Mediterranean Mutations

But what happens when these medieval emphases on individual and marginal agency come into contact with an ever more centralized state vying for supremacy in the Mediterranean? Shakespeare and Milton each explore the increasing futility of viewing the space of the sea as the ground of cross-cultural romance in an early modern English nation that, over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, comes to define itself as an empire. This ideological shift necessitates a rejection of companionate models of cross-cultural unions in favor of an imperial system that subjugates the foreign into colonial service. As epic becomes the overriding literary and ontological mode of England’s relationship to the world, the once-potent romance genre fissures into a vehicle of lost promise. Like Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton fix this medieval possibility of Mediterranean relations in the microcosm of cross-cultural marriage; but for Shakespeare the promise is fleeting, and Milton forecloses its possibilities.

Nevertheless, the seafaring bride is one of the major medieval tropes retained by Renaissance romances. David Quint explains that “the boat of romance,” which emphasizes mercantile exploration, signals a “romance adventure” that is “an individualistic alternative to the collective epic mission” that Quint identifies with militant nationalism.[47] Laura Doyle connects this individualism with community: the boat signifies at once a freedom from national boundaries and the shelter for a transnational intersubjectivity.[48] “Open-ended and potentially[214] endless,” the boat’s journey disrupts the teleological force of epic imperialism and charts new possibilities of a culture’s relationship to others.[49] The tension between singularity and collectivity resonates in a Mediterranean world in which, as Molly Greene explains, “territorial identity — that is, the claims of sovereigns over their subjects — had come to coexist uneasily with an older tradition of personal law that followed an individual across the sea.”[50] The boat of romance plays into the ambiguities of the Mediterranean’s inherently transnational economy: for instance, Quint explains that in early modern England the merchant could be read as a romance adventurer who “shows as much if not more valor, courage, and patriotism” as the soldier, which suggests that “trading exploits, rather than martial ones, are the source of England’s national glory.”[51] Literary representations of this unstable financial system that simultaneously effaced and reinforced national boundaries turned to the genre of romance to perform the economics of this superfluid identity.

For these writers and others, the foreign bride adrift on the sea is seductive because her meanderings offer an alternative course to the imperial maneuvering dominating the early modern Mediterranean. Although Levant trade continued to foster cosmopolitanism by bringing immigrants to England while inspiring English merchants to convert to Islam or “turn Turk,” piracy and slavery dominated the basin.[52] Human trafficking was part of the cost of doing business in the Mediterranean: legions of merchants were captured by pirates at sea and sold as slaves.[53] During the seventeenth century, the numbers of those captured reached such epidemic proportions that their captivity narratives offer the most complete picture of England’s early modern Muslim encounters.[54] Slavers and pirates regularly “pillaged the coasts of France, Flanders, England, Ireland, and even Iceland.”[55] Accounts of savage English raids on Muslim-held territories circulated in the eastern Mediterranean.[56] Nabil Matar explains, “slave trading, privateering, and piracy were carried out by Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Christians, and Christians against their Protestant or Catholic adversaries and even, among the undiscriminating English, against Orthodox Christians as well.”[57] Jewish slaves and slavers were also involved.[58] Salvatore Bono estimates that “from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century . . . a total of five million” slaves were sold in the Mediterranean.[59] England had a share in this industry: Fuchs observes that the seventeenth-century nation turned to “piracy as a central strategy for negotiating its imperial, military, and cultural belatedness.”[60] English slavers sold “Turks” and “Moors,” and English pirates plundered Mediterranean cargoes and crews.[61] This xenophobic counterpoint to the system of collaborative transnational trade operated via enslavement and imperialism, and like its equitable counterpart bled into the literature of the times.

Shakespeare’s Ships: Mediterranean Marriage and the Intercultural Macrocosm

In his portrayal of Othello’s and Desdemona’s Mediterranean marriage, Shakespeare highlights this cosmopolitan model of equitable trade relations that connects personal accommodation with transnational growth, before drowning it in the darker undercurrents of slavery and violence.[62] Shakespeare also explores the superfluidity of identity that derives from the transnational Mediterranean economy: Dennis Austin Britton points out that when reading Shakespeare’s Othello “we need to consider not only Othello’s difference but also his belonging” in Venice.[63] As Eric Griffin notes, Othello speaks to an English nation that defines itself fundamentally not by its insularity but by its intersections with other Mediterranean cultures.[64] Shakespeare, like Chaucer, dramatizes those intersections as a cross-cultural romance.[65] Like Chaucer’s Custance, Desdemona is also a seafaring vessel: Iago describes her as “a land carrack,” or rich galleon, that[216] Othello has pirated away from her father, Brabantio.[66] Desdemona’s value lies in her status as a noble Venetian citizen, and their secret wedding allows Othello to naturalize himself forcibly, if incompletely, into the body politic. Othello’s covert seizure parallels the impending Turkish invasion of the Venetian colony of Cyprus and also mirrors the anxieties about enslavement that were a real concern for Elizabethan merchants who traded in the Mediterranean during Shakespeare’s time. The microcosm of their marriage reveals the troubled relationship between the Venetians and the Turks. Although Desdemona initiates this union, their companionate marriage is on shaky ground: Iago wonders if Desdemona will “prove lawful prize” for Othello (I.ii.61). The ambiguity of Venetian law reflects a society with isolationist tendencies: Othello and Desdemona face a community that at once depends upon and excludes foreigners. When xenophobia wars with cosmopolitanism, personal and societal relations suffer alike.

The general conflates with the particular through Othello’s perceived act of piracy. Desdemona’s father protests against his daughter’s marriage with the assertion,

The Duke himself,
Or any of my brothers of the state,
Cannot but feel this wrong as ‘twere their own.
For if such actions may have passage free,
Bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be. (I.ii.119–123)

Brabantio describes this unauthorized match as a microcosm of the mutual aggression between the Venetians and the Turks.[67] The course of the relationship between these antagonistic states flows in accord with the dynamics of this marriage, which is defined by the Venetians as an instance of piracy leading to slavery. Here Brabantio frames his protest with the metaphor of sea travel: if Othello’s seizure of the feminine “sea carrack” has “passage free,” then the Venetians will become slaves rather than masters within the international Mediterranean economy. This sentiment echoes that of Chaucer’s sultaness: as Brabantio splits native and foreign into a binary division ruled by imbalances of power, he denounces miscegenation while sanctioning cultural endogamy.

Othello and Desdemona’s marriage stands in the crosshairs of this cross-cultural antagonism. Shakespeare emphasizes this point with the Ottoman invasion[217] of Venetian-held Cyprus, which never actually comes to fruition. Instead, the battle for cultural supremacy plays out within the parameters of their union and ends in their marriage bed. Shakespeare yokes the macrocosm with the microcosm by placing Othello and Desdemona at the site of the would-be invasion. The author also defines their marriage as an example of Mediterranean romance by foregrounding Desdemona’s agency and influence. She insists on accompanying Othello to Cyprus, despite his wish that she remain behind. She avows,

That I [did] love the Moor to live with him
My downright violence and storm of fortunes
May trumpet to the world . . .
And to his honors and his valiant parts
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. (I.iii. 283–285; 288–289)

Cooper explains that the trope of “the woman who focuses all her newly awakened desire on the man she chooses to be her husband” is the crucial element in situating a Shakespearean work as a romance.[68] It is also the essential aspect of a companionate marriage. Desdemona chooses Othello of her own volition and stakes herself and her “fortunes” on her new partner. However, she also paints her love with the colors of war, while referring to her spouse as “the Moor.” Desdemona internalizes the vexed relationship between her society and its outsiders by adopting its combativeness along with its descriptor of Othello’s difference. Desdemona’s native diet of Venetian imperialism tilts the scales of her marriage towards its hierarchical counterpart and sets the tragic course of their union.

Nevertheless, during Othello’s and Desdemona’s journey to Cyprus, romance derails the tragic narrative to reveal alternate possibilities for the cross-cultural couple and their conjoined societies. This intrusion takes the form of the romance trope of a storm so powerful that it destroys the Turkish fleet and throws the Venetians’ ships into confusion. Cassio’s story of Desdemona’s sea voyage casts her as the heroine: he exclaims that the

Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds
The guttered rocks and congregated sands . . .
As having sense of beauty, do omit
Their mortal natures, letting go safely by
The divine Desdemona. (II.i.75–76; 78–80)

The Mediterranean itself ensures the heroine’s safety, caring for Desdemona as it did for Custance when she was in danger. The seascape offers itself as a model of pacifism and accommodation, as the storm renounces its typically deadly nature to allow the romance adventurer’s safe passage. This peaceful interlude in the midst of the rush to war causes Othello to exclaim that “If after every tempest[218] come such calms / May the winds blow till they have wakened death” (II.i.201–202). Othello welcomes the stasis of death at this moment because he recognizes that now he is “most happy” (II.i.206). This episode uses the generic qualities of romance to slow down the tragedy and make a space within which to contemplate a different ending. Nonetheless, the moment’s openness closes when the Venetians in Cyprus return to the business of creating strife.

Shakespeare describes this inimical power structure with terms borrowed from the Mediterranean slave trade. Othello explains that he is himself a victim of this economic system: he was “sold to slavery” and later ransomed in order to fight as a Venetian mercenary (I.iii.160).[69] Othello’s freedom from enslavement is therefore illusory and ultimately short-lived: after he murders Desdemona, he reviles himself as a “cursed, cursed slave” (V.ii.327). Othello’s admissions of thralldom, which come at the beginning and again at the end of the tragedy, frame Shakespeare’s narrative. They reveal that, in effect, the Moor has been the victim of the Mediterranean slave trade throughout the course of the play, not least because of his indenture to the Venetian state. Othello’s status as a hired hand who snatches the valuable commodity of Venetian citizenship through his seizure of Desdemona also reveals the indiscernible line separating the self-interested acts of a renegade pirate from the imperialist acts of a state-sponsored privateer. The personal is indistinguishable from the general, and the drama of servitude unfolds simultaneously on individual and collective levels to highlight their symbiotic, intersubjective nature.

Othello’s enslavement derives in part from his religious affiliations. Although racism is a driving force in this tragedy — Ben Saunders argues that Othello is early proof of the fact that “the central metaphors of racist discourse make waste of humanity” — Julia Reinhard Lupton points out that Othello is also “a Muslim-turned-Christian” who is more threatening to Elizabethans because he is “more likely to go renegade” than a “barbarian” would.[70] Lupton suggests that for Shakespeare’s audiences, “religious difference is more powerfully felt, or at least more deeply theorized, than racial difference” due to Elizabethans’ familiarity with Mediterranean slavery.[71] These audiences could not have failed to notice the evocation of an array of Mediterranean locales — Florence, Verona, and Venice in Italy; the Barbary coast of North Africa; Cyprus, Rhodes, and Turkey to[219] the east — joined by Iago’s praise of England over its neighboring trading centers of Denmark, Germany, and Holland.[72] Text reflects reality: all of these places come together in the play’s discursive structure, as they did within the early modern Mediterranean economic system. They all condense in Othello, who is, in Roderigo’s words, the “extravagant and wheeling stranger / Of here and everywhere” (I.i.151–152). As the companionate marriage erodes, Othello transforms from an exemplar of cosmopolitanism to the metonym of the Ottoman empire’s imperial aggression.[73]

The dissolution of Othello’s and Desdemona’s cross-cultural union evokes the breakdown of their conjoined bodies politic and stages a concurrent decomposition of their social stature. In the latter stages of Othello’s transformation into the stereotypical “Turk,” Lodovico sees him and wonders, “Is this the noble Moor, whom our full senate / Call all in all sufficient?” (IV.i.296–297).[74] His loss of integrity is so profound that it is physically apparent. Othello has become unrecognizable, and his changed body betrays his dissolution from cosmopolitan citizen to imperial caricature. This corporal decay is antithetical to the accumulative process embodied in Thomas Becket and Chaucer’s Mauricius: they accrue transcultural value, while Othello loses cultural value to the extent that he reviles himself as a “dog” as he commits suicide (V.ii.416). Othello’s double extinction of their wedded bodies marks the extinguishing of their union’s potential to engender their own cosmopolitan son — a promise evoked in Othello’s vow to Desdemona that “The profit’s yet to come ‘twixt me and you’” (II.iii.10). Desdemona’s body similarly loses its worth as a vehicle of cosmopolitanism: although she maintains that she has “preserve[d] this vessel” for Othello with her chastity, its value has depreciated within the imperialist system (IV.ii.96). Unlike Custance, the chaste “vessel” who engenders cross-cultural connections with her procreative body, Desdemona’s generative potential is turned to dust. These are the consequences of empire: the imperial mode smothers the possibility of transnational miscegenation.

Othello’s imperialist turn reveals itself most fully when he resolves to kill Desdemona: at this moment, he divulges that

. . . Like to the Pontic Sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont,[220]
Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love. (III.iii.514–519)

Othello defines himself as the current that runs from the Black Sea, which borders Turkey to the north, through the Dardanelles and into the Aegean Sea, which is a part of the Mediterranean. In his mission to destroy Desdemona, the rich Venetian vessel whom he has captured at the beginning of the play, Othello’s course follows the likely route of an Ottoman invasion of western Europe. His plan is a microcosmic version of the Muslim conquest of Christian Mediterranean lands — a prospect feared by Elizabethans. When this drama of the religious antagonism between economically interdependent nations draws to its inevitable conclusion — when, in short, Othello murders Desdemona in their marriage bed — he declares, “Here is my journey’s end, here is my butt / And very sea-mark of my utmost sail” (V.ii.318–319). Throughout this tragedy, Shakespeare describes their union by using the seafaring metaphors of this complex transnational culture. The will to power driving both partners in this marriage dramatizes the frequently antagonistic relationship among early modern Christians and Muslims profiting from their cross-cultural encounters. Here the tragic outcome is also an economic failure: rather than profiting from their adherence to imperialism, the Venetians suffer the catastrophic loss of both Desdemona (one of their most prominent citizens) and Othello (their best general).[75]

Milton’s Wreck: Marital Differences and Anglo-Mediterranean Incompatibility

In Samson Agonistes Milton also taps into this long-running discourse on the profits and pitfalls that stem from England’s reliance on Mediterranean trade, painting a grim picture of the consequences of its failure as cosmopolitanism degrades into imperialism. Like Chaucer and Shakespeare, he explores this transnational economic system through the metaphor of the cross-cultural marriage between Samson and Dalila. In Milton’s text, their debate centers on the nature of their marriage: Samson defines it in masculinist, power-centered terms while Dalila argues that the hero should embrace their union as companionate.[76] Their wedded status is a Miltonic creation found neither in the biblical Judges[221] account nor in other versions of this story, and Milton’s revision of the tale highlights the continued importance during this time of the marriage contract as a synecdoche of transnational social contracts.[77] Critics have often noted the intersections of private and common concerns in this text: for example, Derek Wood and Stella Revard see Dalila as a political leader who works actively to further the interests of her Philistine body politic.[78] Meanwhile, scholars read Samson variously as either a Christian or Hebraic hero or as a Middle Eastern terrorist.[79] Victoria Kahn explains that Milton redefines Dalila as Samson’s wife rather than his concubine to highlight the overtly political nature of their marriage as a microcosm of the problematics of nationhood vis-à-vis international law.[80] Holly Sypniewski and Anne MacMaster assert that the dialogue between Samson and Dalila highlights their identical yet antithetical beliefs that their actions are divinely sanctioned, and they assert that at the end the reader is left to decide which “individual or state acts in accordance with the will of God.”[81] For Sypniewski and MacMaster, Milton’s Dalila is “the foreign wife” who is “a sympathetic character with compelling arguments of her own,” and their article foregrounds Milton’s “cultural relativism.”[82] This essay augments these views by suggesting that Milton situates that relativism within the early modern Mediterranean, where competing cultural systems circulated along with economic trade. As these interrelated yet distinct communities negotiated fiscally with each other, their concurrent negotiations about faith and nationhood informed one another intimately, often towards different and even inconsistent ends. In Samson, these cultural divergences clash within Samson’s and Dalila’s argument about her motives for betraying her spouse. In Milton’s text, Dalila, as the ship of[222] the Philistine state, is simultaneously merchant vessel and slaver: she welcomes her alien husband into her body politic before chaining him to the service of her people and their god.

Milton’s text begins after Dalila’s betrayal and delves into the social repercussions of a failed cross-cultural marriage. Samson concentrates on the consequences of Dalila’s decree that “to the public good / Private respects must yield.”[83] Rather than viewing personal and political interests as identical — a basic principle of companionate marriage — here the individual is antithetical to the communal. As in Chaucer’s and Shakespeare’s texts, this dissolution of a trans-Mediterranean body politic marks itself upon the bodies of Samson and Dalila. Samson brings together East and West, Occident and Orient, and Hebrew, proto-Christian and Muslim/pagan worlds: his identity reflects the hybrid cosmopolitan identity of the early modern Mediterranean citizen. However, the hero who, like Becket, once embodied cosmopolitanism is degraded into “a common workhorse” (“Argument”). We find him “Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,” and hear about his exploits in Chalybean Pontus, Ascalon, Hebron, Ramath-lechi, Timna, Eshtaol, and Zora in quick succession (41). These place names constitute a catalogue of international port cities along the shores of the Pontic and eastern Mediterranean seas that Samson navigated as the Israelites’ champion. Now his physical transformation is so profound that his father does not recognize him: when Manoa approaches, he muses, “O miserable change! is this the man, / That invincible Samson, far renown’d?” (340–341). Like Othello, the degradation imprints itself on Samson after this once free-wheeling stranger has foundered upon his foreign marriage. He mourns that he, “like a foolish Pilot have shipwreck’t / My Vessel trusted to me from above, / Gloriously rigg’d” (198–200). Samson’s maritime metaphor foregrounds the tenuous nature of this Mediterranean seascape: Samson’s imprudent guidance of his body as the microcosm of the Israelite ship of state has made him a slave in foreign lands.

Whereas Samson is a pilot, Dalila (like Custance and Desdemona) is described as a Mediterranean merchant ship. When the Chorus sees her approaching, they wonder

But who is this, what thing of Sea or Land?
Female of sex it seems,
That so bedeckt, ornate, and gay,
Comes this way sailing
Like a stately Ship
Of Tarsus, bound for th’ Isles
Of Javan or Gadire
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails fill’d, and streamers waving,[223]
Courted by all the winds that hold them play,
An Amber scent of odorous perfume
Her harbinger, a damsel train behind. (710–721)

This passage, redolent of Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra in another of his Mediterranean romances, clusters nautical and economic signifiers to describe Dalila. Adorned with the trappings of a prosperous merchant vessel of an ambiguously Spanish, Turkish, or Lebanese provenance sailing for either the Greek islands or Spanish Cadiz, Dalila embodies the entwined elements of “Sea” and “Land” that comprise the topography of Mediterranean trade relations. Her deliberate course charts the separate yet interconnected states within this cultural geography. Definitively and richly feminine, Dalila heads a caravan of exotic women while being courted by the tradewinds fueling transnational exchange. She is the personification of the lucrative promise of this Mediterranean economic system.

Their ensuing argument reveals Dalila’s complicity in Samson’s enslavement. She admits that she was the agent of his capture and confinement, and her discourse glides quickly from requests for Samson’s forgiveness to conflicting justifications of her deed. First she claims that she enslaved him out of “the jealousy of love,” before abruptly changing course to assert that she was influenced by “all the bonds of civil Duty” to her nation (791; 853). Her rhetorical fluidity highlights her ambiguous role. As the embodiment of the boat of romance and the Philistine ship of state, Dalila drifts between the opposing poles of equity and imperialism in her relationship to her foreign husband. Her shifting characteristics follow her fluctuating allegiances to her spouse and her nation.

Nevertheless, now Dalila claims she is visiting Samson out of “conjugal affection” (739). She asks him for a second chance and invites him back into their nuptial home:

I to the Lords will intercede, not doubting
Thir favourable ear, that I may fetch thee
From forth this loathsom prison-house, to abide
With me, where my redoubl’d love and care
With nursing diligence, to me glad office,
May ever tend about thee to old age. (920–925)

However, Samson reads her offer to reconcile their loving bond as another grab for sovereignty, in which he would live “in perfect thralldom” to her (946). Once Dalila despairs of any reunion between herself and her spouse, she exclaims,

I see thou art implacable, more deaf
To prayers, than winds and seas, yet winds to seas
Are reconcil’d at length, and Sea to Shore:[224]
Thy anger, unappeasable, still rages,
Eternal tempest never to be calm’d. (960–964)

Dalila defines their marriage as an unfit model of Mediterranean romance, and she abandons her efforts to reunite with him in companionate marriage. The Mediterranean offers a conciliatory model of accommodation — one in which storms rage occasionally, but ultimately ebb and leave in their place a living, adaptive ecosystem in which the elements of wind, sea, land, and sky exist in symbiosis. Though the marriage of Samson and Dalila appears throughout Milton’s text as a seafaring metaphor of this transnational ecosystem, the falsehood of these comparisons emerges in Samson’s refusal to naturalize into his adoptive home. Cosmopolitanism fails in both its microcosmic and macrocosmic forms, and the tragedy runs its inevitable course towards the general destruction of Philistines and Danites alike in the temple of Dagon, the Mediterranean sea-god. When peaceful negotiations break down, everyone suffers the consequent violence.

The message remains consistent in Chaucer’s, Shakespeare’s, and Milton’s texts: cross-cultural unions have the potential to engender citizens with multinational interests, who maintain their former alliances while embracing their new community. The historical circumstances dictating cross-cultural exchange shift, of course. For instance, the Rome of Shakespeare and Milton is no longer the sympathetic second home it can be for Chaucer, and the Reformation throws another divisive element into the already vexed relationship among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.[84] Despite these contextual differences, the romances of The Man of Law’s Tale, Othello, and Samson Agonistes all stage the possibilities of a cosmopolitan model of citizenship that re-energizes national identities while forging productive cross-cultural connections.[85] Companionate marriages, like successful multinational trade relationships, stage a horizontal politics of shared agency that respects difference and allows diversity to thrive. These unions contrast the asymmetrical divisions of imperialism with transnationalism, miscegenation, and naturalization. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton all tap into romance as the business model of Mediterranean trade — a system of exchange that is mutually lucrative when it privileges the equity of the cultures enmeshed in these cross-cultural encounters, rather than fighting for individual or national supremacy.[225]


Abulafia, David. “Gli italiani fuori d’Italia.” In Commerce and Conquest in the Mediterranean, 1100–1500, ed. David Abulafia, 261–86. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Variorum, 1993.

———. Mediterranean Encounters: Economic, Religious, Political, 100–1550. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Variorum, 2000.

———. “The Role of Trade in Muslim-Christian Contact during the Middle Ages.” In The Arab Influence in Medieval Europe, ed. Dionisius A. Agius and Richard Hitchcock, 1–24. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 1994.

Archer, John Michael. Citizen Shakespeare: Freemen and Aliens in the Language of the Plays. New York: Palgrave, 2005.

Arnold, Oliver. The Third Citizen: Shakespeare’s Theater and the Early Modern House of Commons. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Backman, Clifford. Worlds of Medieval Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Balibar, Étienne. We, The People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship. Translated by James Swenson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Barlow, Gania. “A Thrifty Tale: Narrative Authority and Competing Values of the Man of Law’s Tale.” The Chaucer Review 44, no. 4 (2010): 397–420.

Bartels, Emily. Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Blake, John. The Sea Chart: The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts. London: Conway Maritime Press, 2004.

Boerth, Robert. “The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World on the Stage of Marlowe and Shakespeare.” Journal of Theater and Drama 2 (1996): 35–58.

Bono, Salvatore. “Slave Histories and Memoirs in the Mediterranean: A Study of the Sources (Sixteenth–Eighteenth Centuries).” Translated by Sarah Barrett. In Trade and Cultural Exchange in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Braudel’s Maritime Legacy, ed. Maria Fusaro, Colin Heywood, and Mohamed Salah Omri, 97–116. London: Taurus, 2010.

Boyarin, Daniel. “Othello’s Penis: Or, Islam in the Closet.” In Shakesqueer: A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. Madhavi Menon, 254–62. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vols. 1–2. Translated by Siân Reynolds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Britton, Dennis Austin. “Re-Turning Othello: Transformative and Restorative Romance.” ELH 78 (Spring 2011): 27–50.

Brown, Pamela Allen. Better a Shrew than a Sheep: Women, Drama, and the Culture of Jest in Early Modern England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Brown, Paul Alonzo. The Development of the Legend of Thomas Becket. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930.

Burrow, Colin. Epic Romance: Homer to Milton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Burton, Jonathan. “Emplotting the Early Modern Mediterranean.” In Remapping the Mediterranean World in Early Modern English Writings, ed. Goran V. Stanivukovic, 21–40. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Calkin, Siobhain Bly. Saracens and the Making of English Identity: The Auchinleck Manuscript. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Cantor, Paul A. “The Shores of Hybridity: Shakespeare and the Mediterranean.” Literature Compass 3, no. 4 (July 2006): 896–913.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Man of Law’s Tale.” In The Riverside Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Chaplin, Gregory. “‘One Flesh, One Heart, One Soul’: Renaissance Friendship and Miltonic Marriage.” Modern Philology 99 (2001): 266–92.

Chiat, Marilyn J., and Kathryn L. Reyerson, eds. The Medieval Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Contacts. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press, 1988.

Chism, Christine. Alliterative Revivals. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Clayton, Tom, Susan Brock, and Vicente Forés, eds. Shakespeare and the Mediterranean: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress, Valencia 2001. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004.

Collinson, Patrick. “The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 69, no. 2 (1987): 394–424.

Constable, Olivia R. “Muslim Spain and Mediterranean Slavery: The Medieval Slave Trade as an Aspect of Muslim-Christian Relations.” In Christendom and Its Discontents: Exclusion, Persecution, and Rebellion, 1000–1500, ed. Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl, 264–84. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Cooper, Helen. The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Cox, Rosanna. “Neo-Roman Terms of Slavery in Samson Agonistes.” Milton Quarterly 44, no. 1 (March 2010): 1–22.

Cressy, David. Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Crewe, Jonathan. “Believing the Impossible: Aethiopika and Critical Romance.” Modern Philology 106, no. 4 (May 2009): 601–16.

Daileader, Celia. Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-Racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Davis, Kathleen. “Time Behind the Veil: The Media, the Middle Ages, and Orientalism Now.” In The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, 105–22. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

Davis, Robert. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500–1800. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

———. “The Geography of Slaving in the Early Modern Mediterranean, 1500–1800.” JMEMS 37, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 57–74.

Delany, Sheila. The Naked Text: Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Dinshaw, Carolyn. Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

———. “New Approaches to Chaucer.” In The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. Piero Boitani and Jill Mann, 270–89. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Dolan, Frances. Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Donahue, Charles. Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages: Arguments About Marriage in Five Courts. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Doody, Margaret Anne. The True Story of the Novel. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

Doyle, Laura. “Toward a Philosophy of Transnationalism.” Journal of Transnational American Studies 1, no. 1 (2009): 1–30.

Field, Rosalind, Philippa Hardman, and Michelle Sweeney, eds. Christianity and Romance in Medieval England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Finucci, Valeria, ed. Special issue: “Mapping the Mediterranean.” JMEMS 37, no. 1 (Winter 2007).

Fish, Stanley. “Wanting a Supplement: The Question of Interpretation in Milton’s Early Prose,” In Politics, Poetics, and Hermeneutics in Milton’s Prose, ed. David Loewenstein and James Grantham Turner, 41–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Fleet, Kate. European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State: The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Fletcher, Anthony. Gender, Sex, and Subordination in England 1500–1800. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Forman, Valerie. Tragicomic Redemptions: Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Fuchs, Barbara. “Faithless Empires: Pirates, Renegadoes, and the English Nation,” ELH 67, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 45–69.

———. Mimesis and Empire: The New World, Islam, and European Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

———. The Poetics of Piracy: Emulating Spain in English Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

———. Romance. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Gaunt, Simon. Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Goitein, S. D. A. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. 6 vols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967–1993.

Greene, Molly. Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Griffin, Eric. English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain: Ethnopoetics and Empire. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Hardman, Phillipa, ed. The Matter of Identity in Medieval Romance. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Brewer, 2003.

Harris, Barbara J. English Aristocratic Women, 1450–1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Harris, William, ed. Rethinking the Mediterranean. London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Hausknecht, Gina. “The Gender of Civic Virtue.” In Milton and Gender, ed. Catherine Gimelli Martin, 19–33. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Heffernan, Carol F. “Mercantilism and Faith in the Eastern Mediterranean: Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, Boccaccio’s Decameron 5,2, and Gower’s Tale of Constance.” In The Orient in Chaucer and Medieval Romance, ed. Carol Falvo Heffernan, 23–44. Cambridge: Brewer, 2003.

Hendrix, Laurel L. “‘Pennance profytable’: The Currency of Custance in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale.Exemplaria 6 (1994): 141–66.

Heng, Geraldine. Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Heywood, Colin. “The English in the Mediterranean, 1600–1630: A Post-Braudelian Perspective on the ‘Northern Invasion.’” In Trade and Cultural Exchange in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Braudel’s Maritime Legacy, ed. Maria Fusaro, Colin Heywood, and Mohamed-Salah Omri, 23–44. London: Tauris, 2010.

Honig, Bonnie. Democracy and the Foreigner. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Horden, Peregrine, and Nicholas Purcell, eds. The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Howell, Martha C. Commerce before Capitalism in Europe, 1300–1600. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

———. “The Properties of Marriage in Late Medieval Europe: Commercial Wealth and the Creation of Modern Marriage.” In Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Isabel Davis, Miriam Muller, and Sarah Rees Jones, 17–61. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003.

Hume, Cathy. “The Medieval Marriage Market and Human Suffering: The Man of Law’s Tale.” In Chaucer and the Cultures of Love and Marriage, ed. Cathy Hume, 107–26. Cambridge: Brewer, 2012.

Jacoby, David. “The Migration of Merchants and Craftsmen: A Mediterranean Perspective.” In Trade, Commodities and Shipping in the Medieval Mediterranean, ed. David Jacoby, 533–60. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Variorum, 1997.

Jordan, Constance. “The Household and the State: Transformations in the Representation of an Analogy from Aristotle to James I.” Modern Language Quarterly 54, no. 3 (September 1993): 307–26.

Jowitt, Claire. The Culture of Piracy, 1580–1630: English Literature and Seaborne Crime. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010.

Kahn, Victoria. “Disappointed Nationalism: Milton in the Context of Seventeenth-Century Debates about the Nation-State.” In Early Modern Nationalism and Milton’s England, ed. David Loewenstein and Paul Stevens, 249–72. Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

———. “Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract.” Renaissance Quarterly 50, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 526–66.

Kelly, Henry Ansgar. “Jews and Saracens in Chaucer’s England: A Review of the Evidence.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 27 (2005): 129–69.

Kennedy, Kathleen E. Maintenance, Meed, and Marriage in Medieval English Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Keyt, David. “Plato and the Ship of State.” In The Blackwell Guide to Plato’s Republic, ed. Gerasimos Santas, 189–213. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

Kipling, Gordon. Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

Kizilov, Mikhail. “Slave Trade in the Early Modern Crimea from the Perspective of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources.” Journal of Early Modern History 11 (2007): 1–31.

Labreche, Ben. “Espousing Liberty: The Gender of Liberalism and the Politics of Miltonic Divorce.” ELH 77, no. 4 (Winter 2010): 969–94.

Lavezzo, Kathy. Angels on the Edge of the World: Geography, Literature and English Community, 1000–1534. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006.

———. “Complex Identities: Selves and Others.” In The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in England, ed. Elaine Treharne and Greg Walker, 434–56. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

———, ed. Imagining a Medieval English Nation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Lezra, Jacques. “Translated Turks on the Early Modern Stage.” In Transnational Exchange in Early Modern Theater, ed. Robert Henke and Eric Nicholson, 159–80. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

Little, Arthur. Shakespeare Jungle Fever: National-Imperial Re-Visions of Race, Rape, and Sacrifice. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Lupton, Julia Reinhard. Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

———. “Rights, Commandments, and the Literature of Citizenship.” Modern Language Quarterly 66, no. 1 (March 2005): 21–54.

Marcus, Leah. “Provincializing the Reformation.” PMLA 126, no. 2 (March 2011): 432–39.

Martin, Catherine Gimelli. “Dalila, Misogyny, and Milton’s Christian Liberty of Divorce.” In Milton and Gender, ed. Catherine Gimelli Martin, 53–76. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Matar, Nabil. “Introduction: England and Mediterranean Captivity, 1577–1704.” In Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England, ed. Daniel J. Vitkus, 1–52. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

———. Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

McCarthy, Conor. Marriage in Medieval England: Law, Literature and Practice. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004.

Milton, John. Samson Agonistes. John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose. Edited by Merritt Y. Hughes. New York: Macmillan, 1957.

Nakley, Susan. “Sovereignty Matters: Anachronism, Chaucer’s Britain, and England’s Future’s Past.” Chaucer Review 44, no. 4 (2010): 368–96.

Neill, Michael. “Unproper Beds: Race, Adultery, and the Hideous in Othello.” Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 383–412.

Netzloff, Mark. “The English Colleges and the English Nation: Allen, Persons, Verstegan, and Diasporic Nationalism.” In Catholic Culture in Early Modern England, ed. Ronald Corthell, Frances E. Dolan, Christopher Highley, and Arthur Marotti, 236–60. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

Newman, Karen. “‘And wash the Ethiop white’: Femininity and the Monstrous in Othello.” In Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology, ed. Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O’Connor, 143–62. London: Methuen, 1987.

Niccoli, Ottavia. “Images of Society.” In Early Modern History and the Social Sciences: Testing the Limits of Braudel’s Mediterranean, ed. John A. Marino, 101–22. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2002.

Nolan, Maura. “‘Aquiteth yow now’: The Man of Law’s Introduction.” In The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England, ed. Emily Steiner and Candace Barrington, 136–53. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.

Nyquist, Mary. “The Genesis of Gendered Subjectivity in the Divorce Tracts and in Paradise Lost.” In Re-Membering Milton, ed. Mary Nyquist and Margaret W. Ferguson, 99–127. New York: Methuen, 1987.

Orkin, Martin. “Othello and the ‘plain face’ of Racism,” Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987): 166–88.

Orlin, Lena Cowen, ed. Othello: New Casebooks. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Parker, Grant. “Mapping the Mediterranean.” JMEMS 37, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 1–8.

Parker, Patricia. Inescapable Romance: Studies in the Poetics of a Mode. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Peltonen, Markku. “Rhetoric and Citizenship in the Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I.” In The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England: Essays in Response to Patrick Collinson, ed. John F. McDiarmid, 109–28. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

Perry, Curtis, and John Watkins, eds. Shakespeare and the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Phillips, Susan. “Chaucer’s Language Lessons.” The Chaucer Review 46, no. 1–2 (2011): 39–59.

Piterberg, Gabriel, Teofilo F. Ruiz, and Geoffrey Symcox, eds. Braudel Revisited: The Mediterranean World, 1600–1800. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

Quint, David. “The Boat of Romance and Renaissance Epic.” In Romance: Generic Transformations from Chretien de Troyes to Cervantes, ed. Kevin Brownlee and Maria Scordilis Brownlee, 178–202. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1985.

———. “Tasso, Milton, and the Boat of Romance.” In Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton, ed. David Quint, 248–67. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

———, ed. Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form From Virgil to Milton. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Revard, Stella P. “Dalila as a Euripidean Heroine.” Papers on Language and Literature 23 (1987): 291–302.

Robertson, Elizabeth. “The ‘Elvyssh’ Power of Constance: Christian Feminism in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Man of Law’s Tale.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 23 (2001): 143–80.

Robinson, Benedict. Islam and Early Modern English Literature: The Politics of Romance from Spenser to Milton. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Rosenblatt, Jason P. “Milton, Natural Law, and Toleration.” In Milton and Toleration, ed. Sharon Achinstein and Elizabeth Sauer, 126–43. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Rotman, Youval. Byzantine Slavery and the Mediterranean World. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Rouse, Robert. “Walking (between) the Lines: Romance as Itinerary/Map.” In Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts, ed. Rhiannon Purdie and Michael Cichon, 135–47. Cambridge: Brewer, 2011.

Rubin, Gayle. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” In Toward an Anthropology of Women, ed. Rayna Reiter, 157–210. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.

Salvatore, Armando. “From Tension to Dialogue? The Mediterranean between European Civilization and the Muslim World.” In Civilizational Dialogue and World Order: The Other Politics of Cultures, Religions, and Civilizations in International Relations, ed. Michális S. Michael and Fabio Petito, 217–38. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Saunders, Ben. “Iago’s Clyster: Purgation, Anality, and the Civilizing Process.” Shakespeare Quarterly 55, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 148–76.

Saunders, Corinne, ed. A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Schibanoff, Susan. “Worlds Apart: Orientalism, Antifeminism, and Heresy in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale.” Exemplaria 8, no. 1 (1996): 59–96.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1993.

Skura, Meredith Anne. “Reading Othello’s Skin: Contexts and Pretexts.” Philological Quarterly 87, no. 3/4 (Summer 2008): 299–335.

Slights, Camille Wells. “Slaves and Subjects in Othello.” Shakespeare Quarterly 48, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 377–90.

Stanivukovic, Goran V. Remapping the Mediterranean World in Early Modern English Writings. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Sypniewski, Holly M., and Anne MacMaster. “Double Motivation and the Ambiguity of ‘Ungodly Deeds’: Euripides’s Medea and Milton’s Samson Agonistes.Milton Quarterly 44, no. 3 (October 2010): 145–67.

Tinniswood, Adrian. Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean. New York: Riverhead, 2010.

Thompson, Norma. The Ship of State: Statecraft and Politics from Ancient Greece to Democratic America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Vitkus, Daniel. “Adventuring Heroes in the Mediterranean: Mapping the Boundaries of Anglo-Islamic Exchange on the Early Modern Stage.” JMEMS 37, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 75–96.

———. Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570–1630. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Wall, Alison. “For Love, Money, or Politics? A Clandestine Marriage and the Elizabethan Court of Arches.” Historical Journal 38, no. 3 (1995): 511–33.

Wallace, David. Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Winkler, John. “The Invention of Romance.” In The Search for the Ancient Novel, ed. James Tatum, 23–37. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Wood, Derek N. C. Exiled from Light: Divine Law, Morality, and Violence in Milton’s Samson Agonistes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.

Wrightson, Keith. English Society, 1580–1680. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

  1. From the Later Quadrilogus, the earliest known source of this legend. Cited in and translated by Paul Brown, The Development of the Legend of Thomas Becket, 30. 
  2. Crewe (“Believing the Impossible,” 12) defines “the chaste, charismatic, patient heroine as the central, animating figure of romance.” 
  3. The first accounts are found in the Later Quadrilogus, Brompton’s chronicle, Grim’s Life, London, British Library Harley MS 978, and London, British Library Cotton MS Julius D 6. It emerges in texts such as the South English Legendary, Mirk’s Festial, the Legenda Aurea and Caxton’s Golden Legend, Capgrave’s and Tynemouth’s Nova Legenda Angliae, Challoner’s Briannia Sancta, and Dickens’ A Child’s History of England. For the transmission history, see Paul Brown, The Development of the Legend of Thomas Becket, 28–50; bibliography on 278–87. 
  4. On the Mediterranean’s cultural, economic, and literary impact on England, see Lavezzo, Angels on the Edge of the World; Robinson, Islam and Early Modern English Literature; and Stanivukovic, Remapping the Mediterranean World
  5. Abulafia, Mediterranean Encounters; Fuchs, Mimesis and Empire; W. Harris, Rethinking the Mediterranean; Finucci, “Special issue: Mapping the Mediterranean”; Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea. The seminal study remains Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (vols. 1–2). See also Piterberg, Ruiz, and Symcox, Braudel Revisited
  6. Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 28. See also Winkler, “The Invention of Romance.” 
  7. Jordan, “The Household and the State”; Kahn, “Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract”; Lupton, “Rights, Commandments, and the Literature of Citizenship”; Thompson, The Ship of State
  8. Keyt (“Plato and the Ship of State,” 201) explains that Plato “takes a normal merchant ship, steered and captained by a competent, or ‘true,’ steersman, to be an image of an ideal city . . . [T]he owner of a well-run ship . . . has not forgotten that his goal is to make a profit by transporting goods from one port to another.” Niccoli (“Images of Society,” 112) recounts that the “long history” of the metaphor of the ship of state also has ties to the Christian Church as the “ship of salvation.” 
  9. Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 19. Cooper explains that the romance genre is at base about “women’s sexuality,” which “is centrally regarded as positive, to the point where it is one of the key factors that enables the restoration of social and providential order” (220). 
  10. Salvatore (“From Tension to Dialogue?” 221) explains that all of Europe defined itself in relation to the Mediterranean while “find[ing] itself outside of the civilizational ‘axis’ that supports the fundamentals of its purported politico-cultural legacy” located in Greece and Jerusalem. England was, of course, at the far margins of a European world negotiating the strategic space of the Mediterranean. 
  11. Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 9; Fuchs, Romance
  12. For the generic distinctions of medieval and early modern romance, see Chism, Alliterative Revivals; Doody, The True Story of the Novel; Field, Hardman, and Sweeney, Christianity and Romance in Medieval England; Frye, Anatomy of Criticism; Hardman, The Matter of Identity in Medieval Romance; Heng, Empire of Magic; P. Parker, Inescapable Romance; and C. Saunders, A Companion to Romance
  13. Rouse, “Walking (between) the Lines.” 
  14. Jowitt, The Culture of Piracy, 82. 
  15. Chaucer, The Man of Law’s Tale, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Robinson, 87–104. Line citations follow in the text. 
  16. Wallace, Chaucerian Polity. Hendrix links religious and economic profit in “‘Pennance profytable.’” 
  17. In response to the critical view that the narrator is suspect, Barlow (“A Thrifty Tale,” 339) argues that the Man of Law’s unreliability opens a liminal space “in which alternative forms of value and authority can interact and come into conflict, bearing with them the potential to change the balance of power.” The cultural bias of Chaucer’s pilgrim sets a critical distance between the legal-minded speaker and his romance-loving audience, and it allows a hermeneutics of suspicion to flourish in the gap. See also Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, 88–112; Nolan, “‘Aquiteth yow now’”; Robertson, “The ‘Elvyssh’ Power of Constance”; and Schibanoff, “Worlds Apart.” 
  18. Delaney (The Naked Text, esp. 165–71) recounts how Chaucer developed firsthand knowledge of Mediterranean politics in his role for the English court. 
  19. Phillips, “Chaucer’s Language Lessons,” 52. 
  20. K. Davis, “Time Behind the Veil”; Heng, Empire of Magic, 191; Schibanoff, “Worlds Apart.” 
  21. Dinshaw, “New Approaches to Chaucer,” 278. 
  22. Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 218–68. 
  23. As Honig points out (Democracy and the Foreigner, 89–90), “marriage in general [is] . . . always a site at which all sorts of goods and services are exchanged, including citizenship, legal residence status, money, companionship, and sex.” 
  24. Pamela Brown, Better a Shrew Than a Sheep; Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death; Dolan, Marriage and Violence; Fletcher, Gender, Sex, and Subordination in England; Hume, “The Medieval Marriage Market and Human Suffering”; Wall, “For Love, Money, or Politics?”; Wrightson, English Society
  25. Donahue, Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages; McCarthy, Marriage in Medieval England
  26. Kennedy, Maintenance, Meed, and Marriage in Medieval English Literature
  27. Howell, Commerce Before Capitalism in Europe; B. Harris, English Aristocratic Women
  28. Howell, “The Properties of Marriage in Late Medieval Europe,” 61. 
  29. Howell, “The Properties of Marriage in Late Medieval Europe,” 61. 
  30. Gaunt, Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature, 74. 
  31. Forman, Tragicomic Redemptions, 66–67. 
  32. Heffernan, “Mercantilism and Faith in the Eastern Mediterranean.” 
  33. Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics; Heng, Empire of Magic, 400–401 n. 35. 
  34. Nakley, “Sovereignty Matters,” 383–87. 
  35. Nakley, “Sovereignty Matters,” 388. 
  36. Fleet, European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State, 37–58; Constable, “Muslim Spain and Mediterranean Slavery”; Rotman, Byzantine Slavery and the Mediterranean World, 57–68. 
  37. Unlike the democratically minded sultaness, Donegild is “ful of tirannye” and makes no claims to act for the common good (696). 
  38. Dinshaw (Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, 101–02) points out that Custance’s return to Rome after Alla’s death places her back into an endogamous relationship with her father. 
  39. Abulafia, “The Role of Trade in Muslim-Christian Contact during the Middle Ages.”
  40. Jacoby, “The Migration of Merchants and Craftsmen,” 545.
  41. Jacoby, “The Migration of Merchants and Craftsmen,” 547.
  42. Jacoby, “The Migration of Merchants and Craftsmen,” 549.
  43. Kelly, “Jews and Saracens in Chaucer’s England.”
  44. Lavezzo, Angels on the Edge of the World, 102. 
  45. Lavezzo, “Complex Identities,” 450. Lavezzo also stresses the essential role that England’s “others” play in the formation of medieval Englishness (453). 
  46. Backman, Worlds of Medieval Europe, 288. 
  47. Quint, “Tasso, Milton, and the Boat of Romance,” 252. See also Quint, “The Boat of Romance and Renaissance Epic.” 
  48. Doyle (“Toward a Philosophy of Transnationalism,” 3) notes how “the transnational and the intersubjective [work] together” to stage an interconnectedness that resists hegemonic boundaries. She explains, “Nations do exist, but as transnations or internations; they share a ‘tilted’ structure of orientation to other nations that is dialectical and dyadic yet also multiple and circumferential or horizontal” (12). 
  49. Quint, “Tasso,” 249. 
  50. Greene, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants, 10. Her evocation of the Mediterranean as a “friendly sea” relies on Goitein, A Mediterranean Society
  51. Quint, “Tasso,” 266. 
  52. Vitkus, Turning Turk
  53. Greene, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants. Burton (“Emplotting the Early Modern Mediterranean,” 21–40) highlights the multiple power structures driving this economy. 
  54. Matar, “Introduction,” 6. 
  55. R. Davis, “The Geography of Slaving in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” 67. Also see R. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters.
  56. Matar, “Introduction,” 1–52.
  57. [215] Matar, “Introduction,” 7.
  58. Kizilov, “Slave Trade in the Early Modern Crimea.”
  59. Bono, “Slave Histories and Memoirs in the Mediterranean.”
  60. Fuchs, The Poetics of Piracy, 8. See also Fuchs, “Faithless Empires.” 
  61. Heywood, “The English in the Mediterranean”; Matar, Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery
  62. For Shakespeare and citizenship, see Archer, Citizen Shakespeare; Arnold, The Third Citizen; and Lupton, Citizen-Saints, whose reading of Othello inspires mine. See also Collinson, “The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I”; and Peltonen, “Rhetoric and Citizenship in the Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I.” 
  63. Britton, “Re-Turning Othello,” 27. 
  64. Griffin, English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain, 168–206. See also Bartels, Speaking of the Moor
  65. Recent studies focusing on Shakespeare’s works within a Mediterranean context are Boerth, “The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World on the Stage of Marlowe and Shakespeare”; Cantor, “The Shores of Hybridity”; Clayton, Brock, and Forés, Shakespeare and the Mediterranean; and Stanivukovic, Remapping the Mediterranean World. For Shakespeare’s indebtedness to late medieval English literature and culture, see Perry and Watkins, Shakespeare and the Middle Ages
  66. William Shakespeare, Othello, I.ii.60. Citations follow in the text. See also Orlin, Othello: New Casebooks, especially the essays by Lynda Boose, Alan Sinfield, Michael Bristol, Harry Berger, Jr., and Elizabeth Hanson. 
  67. Greene (Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants) highlights the aggression and atrocities against Muslims as well as Orthodox Christians by Catholic pirates in the eastern Mediterranean during the seventeenth century. 
  68. Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 218. 
  69. Slights (“Slaves and Subjects in Othello,” 388) argues that “the early modern English fascination with and occlusion of slavery register the fear that a developing concept of individual autonomy could lead to isolation, that an ideal of freedom . . . could lead to its opposite.” 
  70. B. Saunders, “Iago’s Clyster”; Lupton, Citizen-Saints, 106. For racism in Othello, see Little, Shakespeare Jungle Fever; Neill, “Unproper Beds; Newman, “‘And wash the Ethiop white’”; Orkin, “Othello and the ‘plain face’ of Racism”; and Skura, “Reading Othello’s Skin.” See also Boyarin, “Othello’s Penis.” 
  71. Lupton, Citizen-Saints, 106. 
  72. Mediterranean references are found in I.i.21, I.i.30, I.i.119, I.i.125, II.i.29, and II.iii.79–91. 
  73. Robinson (Islam and Early Modern English Literature) traces this early modern anxiety about Ottoman aggression in numerous English texts written during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
  74. Lezra, “Translated Turks on the Early Modern Stage,” esp. 166–69. 
  75. Marcus (“Provincializing the Reformation,” 436) emphasizes the ambiguity of Othello’s position within his adoptive state even at the end of the tragedy: “With Othello’s suicide, Venice is saved from internal contamination by Islam, but the city-state is hugely diminished in the process, having lost its most talented military leader.” 
  76. For analyses of the tension between patriarchal and companionate visions of marriage in Milton’s divorce tracts and Paradise Lost, see Chaplin, “‘One Flesh, One Heart, One Soul’”; Fish, “Wanting a Supplement”; Hausknecht, “The Gender of Civic Virtue”; Nyquist, “The Genesis of Gendered Subjectivity in the Divorce Tracts and in Paradise Lost”; and Rosenblatt, “Milton, Natural Law, and Toleration.” 
  77. Labreche (“Espousing Liberty,” 970) finds that Milton defines “the private household as a source of authority distinct from — and potentially in competition with — that of the state” in the divorce tracts, Areopagitica, and The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Labreche explains that although Milton believed in marriage hierarchies, he proposed that this relationship be inverted when the wife’s “wisdom” exceeded that of her spouse (982). 
  78. Revard, “Dalila as a Euripidean Heroine”; Wood, Exiled from Light
  79. Cox (“Neo-Roman Terms of Slavery in Samson Agonistes,” 1) adds yet another Mediterranean dimension to these identifiers: she sees Samson working through a “neo-Roman understanding of . . . citizenship.” She notes that Samson “employs the same discourses of marriage and divorce and slavery and liberty that Milton was using in the divorce tracts and his other prose works” (2). 
  80. Kahn, “Disappointed Nationalism.” 
  81. Sypniewski and MacMaster, “Double Motivation and the Ambiguity of ‘Ungodly Deeds,’” 147. 
  82. Sypniewski and MacMaster, “Double Motivation and the Ambiguity of ‘Ungodly Deeds,’” 154. 
  83. Milton, Samson Agonistes, ll. 867–868. Line numbers follow in the text. 
  84. For a qualification, see Netzloff, “The English Colleges and the English Nation.” 
  85. Balibar, We, The People of Europe? 

About the Author


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Gender in the Premodern Mediterranean Copyright © 2023 by Kat Lecky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Share This Book