William shakespeare's representation of empire : revision of some classic postcolonial theories

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Universite Mouloud MAMMERI Tizi-Ouzou


This research seeks to explore William Shakespeare’s representation of the so-called British Empire and its relations with the other European powers and the World of Islam, with a special emphasis on the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Morocco.Five of Shakespeare’s Mediterranean plays are used for illustration, most notably The Merchant of Venice (1596), Othello (1603),Antony and Cleopatra(1607), Cymbeline (1609-10)and The Tempest (1611). Taking its theoretical bearings from the new historicist and postcolonial approaches developed by literary scholars such as Stephen Greenblatt and Edward Said, the research argued that the issues of imperial relationships in Shakespeare are not solely centred on the transatlantic colony of Virginia, but also extended to the Mediterranean basin wherein Britain had much more trade and diplomatic activity, during Shakespeare’s time. This activity also created a cosmopolitan zone of contact, wherein peple of the orient elbowed people from the West, which inevitably gave rise to a pre-modern form of orientalism reflected in Shakespeare’s Mediterranean plays. Postcolonial reactions and responses to the colonial advocates promoted the idea of dominance and subordination of the post-colonial world and put the latter at the mercy of the colonial power. Hence, Orientalist or Postcolonial theories are discarded rather than appealed to in this study. The reason is that my research reversed these traditional beliefs as well as the roles of both the West and the East by questioning the Western supremacy mainly the English by focusing on the fact that it was the East, not the West, that had the power in both the sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries when it comes to the political and military matters. Here, I am fully aware that the main players on the political and military scene at that time were the Ottomans, the French, the Portuguese and the Spaniards. I am also conscious about how the West used to think, and still does, of the Orient as the inferior “Other”. In this research, I have argued that at a time when the English were not well known enough to the Turks and the Arabs, the former had to identify themselves as French instead. According to some historical records, I can say that it is less logical to speak of the English as a colonizing imperial as the other Western European powers like the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the French who dominated trans-Atlantic trade and the New World riches as the Bard of Avon implied it in his plays. Therefore, I can confirm that in my research, I tried to give evidence that Shakespeare is no longer an advertiser of the colonial enterprise (spirit of the empire) but he is one of its victims.


287f. ; 30cm. + CD Rom


Empire britannique, Monde islamique, Théorie postcoloniale, Shakespeare : pièces